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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - UNTAC reels from claims rash

UNTAC reels from claims rash

"People are literally throwing themselves in front of U.N. vehicles to get compensation,"

maintains an over-worked insurance claim's officer who questions "Why should

UNTAC pay?"

Each day, in front of the UNTAC/SNC building, they gather early to stake their claims.

UNTAC is struggling to deal with a huge backlog of claims by people who believe the

organization has injured them in some way.

It is also accused of settling disputes in an arbitrary manner in an effort to speed

through the mountain of paperwork.

The clerk relates the details of her latest questionable claim - a man who suffered

a motorcycle accident is asking UNTAC to pay because he has "applied for a U.N.


"They're the shrewdest people I've ever met, where money's concerned,"

she said.

The man charged with determining the scale of claimant's injuries is UNTAC's chief

medical officer Dr. Col. Peter Fraps.

He says staff have been snowed under by the wealth of small claims but that each

must be taken seriously.

He gives the example of one woman who sustained light scratches to her hands after

an accident with an UNTAC vehicle and then tried to seek compensation, claiming the

injuries affected her home life.

Processing claims takes so long that a charitable fund was set up to offer immediate

relief to people involved in accidents with U.N. vehicles, irrespective of blame.

The fund was originally inspired by UNTAC chief Yashushi Akashi who appealed for

U.N. staff to dig into their own pockets to help pay off the victims. So far, according

to Fraps, more than $10,000 has been donated.

While the doctor believes the system is open to abuse he says it was introduced to

halt even worse abuses.

Thai national Kosan Yawat Sompop has handled all of the insurance claims against

UNTAC since June. He insists most are "not sincere".

Many people, he says, will claim much higher salaries than they actually receive

if they think UNTAC will pay their wages while off sick.

Even so, some people believe the U.N. is being "stingy" with its money,

especially in the case of compensation where a death is involved.

Payments of $2,000 in the case of a bread-winner's death have prompted people to

complain although some UNTAC staff privately believe such payments to be fair once

the local cost of living is taken into consideration.

Many claimants feel that they are forced to bargain with UNTAC over payments and

that each case is dealt with much in the same way as lots at an auction. But UNTAC

has its own priorities.

"Our goal is to get claims settled quickly," says one senior administrator,

because cases that drag on have a tendency to grow in financial proportion.



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