The Cambodian government has lodged a lawsuit against the world's largest telecoms
company AT&T and two smaller firms in an action to recover more than $8 million
Lam Phu An, secretary of state at the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPT),
hoped the court would hear the case at the end of September.
"We submitted it last month," he said. "There is $8 million outstanding,
excluding interest and other costs. [AT&T] must take responsibility."
The case, which will be heard by the New York Supreme Court, cites breaches of contract,
good faith and fair dealing as grounds for the action. The complaint has also been
lodged against two Chilean telecoms firms, Globus and Chilesat.
The court docket notes that the ministry entered into an agreement with AT&T
in 1992. Under the terms of that arrangement, AT&T paid for calls made from the
US to Cambodia. However the suit alleged that while more than 13 million call minutes
were made, AT&T paid for only 4.2 million.
The government had no luck, said Phu An, when its officials contacted AT&T to
query the discrepancy.
"AT&T initially did not disclose why there was so much traffic," he
said. "It was more then half a year before they told us."
The suit alleges that AT&T later stated the difference between the two figures
was due to transit traffic from Chile. Cambodia replied that it had not agreed to
receive any such calls via Chile, had not been informed of the move, and had not
received payment for the calls.
The lawsuit noted that AT&T's lack of disclosure about the transit traffic through
Chile was in violation of the agreement between the US firm and Cambodia.
"The Chilean companies told AT&T they had an agreement with us," said
Phu An. "But the Chilean companies had never contacted us."
In May 2000, the MPT demanded payment for the calls coming through Chile and requested
that AT&T stop directing calls through Chile. But the company did not respond,
the outstanding $8 million was not paid, and call traffic from the Chilean companies
"AT&T said it wasn't their problem and told us that we had to ask the Chilean
carriers for the money," said Phu An. Further attempts by the MPT to contact
the Chileans then failed to produce any response or payment.
Emailed requests by the Post to AT&T's public relations department went unanswered.