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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - U.N. Comes Through With Budget Aid

U.N. Comes Through With Budget Aid

The United Nations reached an agreement on July 21 to provide budgetary aid to Cambodia's

cash-strapped new government, easing fears that the country might "slide into

war-lordism."

An initial U.S. $3 million dollars, which will go to help pay the wages of the country's

large civil service, and increasingly restive soldiers, has been deposited in the

Cambodian National Treasury.

"The intention of the monetary support was to assist in the rationalization

of the civil service, military and police structures, as well

as the training of personnel involved," UNTAC spokesman Eric Falt said.

Some Cambodian civil servants, police and members of the military have not been paid

for several months. In the last week of July, UNTAC helicopters will start ferrying

Cambodian paymasters and pay-rolls to waiting soldiers on the ground.

Falt said the money will be taken from the Cambodia Trust Fund, which is made up

of voluntary contributions from U.N. member nations.

UNTAC officials in the Mixed Military Working Group see the budget support as critical

to the success of the amalgamation of the armed forces, and the continued commitment

of the newly formed Cambodian National Army to the on-going constitutional process.

One UNTAC officer said the country was facing "a possible slide into war-lordism"

in the absence of the funds. The four factions still exercise a great deal of autonomy

in the areas under their control and UNTAC military officials said they feared that

unless the government in Phnom Penh was given the resources to take care of its people

on the ground, "the disintegration of administrative structures was possible."

Autonomy would become more pronounced and the government of Phnom Penh would end

up having little or no influence outside of the city. This is a problem that is quite

common "in third world countries," said oneUNTAC officer.

U.N. Force commander Gen. John Sanderson said recently that the U.N. "attempt

to get budgetary support has been an attempt to give [the Cambodians] the capacity

to effect administrative control over this new [military] structure. If they can't

pay them, "control will be ineffective. When it gets down to it, this is a bread

and butter issue." If the soldiers are "not looked after by those who command

them, maybe they will act in their own interests" some "may act in the

interests of the other factions."

The money has been made available to the Provisional National Government of Cambodia,

to meet its pay-roll obligations. Though as much as $30 million had been mentioned

previously as the amount necessary to tide the provisional administration over, it

appears that less than this will be ultimately available. UNTAC officials say that

depending on the success of this liquidity operation, as much as $11 million could

be made available for the government obligations in the month of August.

The June 10 agreement to form the Cambodian National Army brought three of Cambodia's

formerly warring factions together. They were fresh from the recent elections, and

the result of the meeting was to commit their forces, in advance of the emergence

of a internationally recognized government in mid-September.

Ltc Tony Whelan of the Mixed Military Working Group said that the distribution of

the money among the civil servants, the government, and the military is up to the

government itself. UNTAC has taken the role of over-sight, and has engaged in "close

consultations with the factions", he said.

The provisional government has also decided on the salary amounts to be paid. Whelan

indicated that the government had decided that in this pay period no change in pay

rates would be made. He said that this decision was made between the Finance Minister

and the Defense Minister.

The United Nations is trying to emphasize accountability. The consequence will be

that all those due pay will receive it. Ltc Whelan said that during his consultations

and planning he noted "a tremendous willingness on the part of the officials

in the government to get it right - to extend control over the money to be disbursed."

LtcWhelan said "this is a Cambodian operation, overseen by UNTAC on behalf of

the countries which have made the money available."

Soldiers will be able to collect their salary if they have appropriate identification,

and if they appear on the rosters provided to UNTAC. In the pursuit of accountability,

UNTAC has asked that proper nominal roles be produced, with names, identification

numbers and rank. Payment for specific ranks are the decision of the provisional

government, not UNTAC.

U.N. over-sight of the distribution will advance amalgamation in two ways. First,

by forcing "rationalization" of the pay-system, organizational relationships

should harden. Second, by ensuring that all soldiers get paid, it is hoped that loyalty

will flow upward, by making the system transparent it should be seen as more obviously

committed to its people. It is reported in the past that provincial military officers

with-drew the entire pay-roll and distributed it as they without central accountability.

Under U.N. over-sight, all soldiers on the rosters should be guaranteed payment.

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