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Mfone workers paid, a little

Former employees of the failed company Mfone protest in front of the Ministry of Social Affairs in Phnom Penh in April.
Former employees of the failed company Mfone protest in front of the Ministry of Social Affairs in April. HENG CHIVOAN

Mfone workers paid, a little

After months of protests, more than 1,000 former Mfone employees yesterday received just 10 per cent of the $4.4 million they were demanding in compensation after the telecom company filed for bankruptcy in January.

Employees, naturally, remain unsatisfied, wanting to be paid in full.

Court-appointed administrator Ouk Ry, entrusted with the sale of Mfone’s assets, said he sold enough items to date to pay former employees $440,000.

“The other 90 per cent, we will provide to them when we sell [the rest of] our assets,” he said, adding that he had not yet paid other creditors claiming dues.

Former Mfone staff in Phnom Penh received compensation first, while employees in the provinces would receive their 10 per cent in the next three days.

“The most important thing to sell is the huge assets, that is the company’s towers, then we will provide enough money for them,” he said.

Yesterday’s decision follows protests earlier this year by hundreds of former Mfone employees in front of the company’s former headquarters on Monivong Boulevard. In April, they took their protest to the Thai and Singapore embassies to apply pressure on the Mfone’s holding company, Shenington Investments, and the parent company, Thaicom.

“As I know, [Ouk Ry] sold only generators and batteries; next time they will sell wire or towers,” engineering manager Bang Vuthy, one of the employees' representatives, said.

Meas Rabith from Phnom Penh, who worked at the company’s call centre, said he had served Mfone for nearly three years. He said he received $280 in the latest deal, a fraction of the nearly $3,000 he claims. He has been unemployed since the telecom went bankrupt.

Mfone is estimated to have accrued more than $160 million in debt before it went bankrupt. Creditors include Norwegian-owned electronics firm Eltek Valere and Chinese telecoms equipment provider Huawei Technologies.

Kouy Thunna, representative and lawyer for Eltek, a company that Mfone originally owed more than $2 million, said that with interest the figure was closer to $5 million. He added that Ry’s decision to make piecemeal payments yesterday was incorrect.

“For my idea, Ouk Ry should reserve all the money in one account in order to spend that money on all creditors,” he said. “I will meet with my client [Eltek] to discuss whether or not to file a lawsuit to court to confiscate the money and have it reserved in one account.”

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