SAM SOTHA was removed from his post as Director General of the Cambodian Mine
Action Center (CMAC) on Wednesday, finally paying the price for months of
denials and evasions in the face of the demining organization's seemingly
endless series of scandals.
In a press release issued on the afternoon of
August 4, the Chairman of CMAC's Governing Council, Ieng Mouly, announced that
the Prime Minister, Hun Sen, had agreed on August 2 to replace Sam Sotha with
the current Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the RCAF Lt. General Khem
Sophoan is well regarded in the RCAF and among donors. One donor
said that Sophoan was seen as being honest, hard-working, and having the ability
to build up teamwork; however he lacks management experience of an organization
the size of CMAC.
Sam Sotha will retain his position until the actual
signing of the sub-decree necessary to remove him, which is expected to occur
The press release also announced the removal of CMAC
Assistant Director Niem Chouleng and Director of Finance Ek
Chouleng, fingered in June for channeling more than $50,000 in
Royal Government funds to kickbacks to Ministry of Finance personnel, has been
shuffled into a "temporary" position on CMAC's Governing Council. Current CMAC
Director of Planning Oun Sang Onn is slated to temporarily fill Chouleng's
former position pending the recruitment of a permanent
Boulin has in turn been made assistant treasurer, a position
previously held by Ieng Mouly's brother, Ieng Vuthea.
announcement has long been expected and came as a surprise to no one save
perhaps Sotha himself, who last month dismissed the mounting evidence of
financial misappropriation, fraud and nepotism within CMAC as "small
Sotha's dismissal came in the wake of media leaks of increasingly
lurid details from a long-suppressed audit of Royal Government funds to CMAC by
the international accounting firm KPMG.
Exclusive media access by the
Phnom Penh Post to the entirety of the KPMG report reveal that Sam Sotha was
personally cited for numerous instances of apparently fraudulent
misappropriation of funds.
The KPMG audit report catalogues hundreds of
thousands of dollars of Royal Government funds misappropriated by CMAC
management between 1995-1998.
The scandal - and evidence of Sam Sotha's
participation in it - will likely widen following the release later this month
of a far more comprehensive KPMG audit of all funds supplied to CMAC from the
UNDP trust fund, which supplies 95% of CMAC's operating
Although the 62-page KPMG audit report was released in
mid-June, its recipients - the Cambodian Ministry of Finance and CMAC management
and foreign donors - have consistently refused to make public the audit
CMAC Director-General Sam Sotha limited his comment on the audit
report after its initial release to an admission that KPMG had discovered that
accounting records for the period from Dec 1 1993 to October 31, 1995 were
A glance at the KPMG audit report reveals good reason for
Sotha's reticence to discuss the audit result.
A few of the more
disturbing "financial irregularities" revealed in the KPMG are as follows:
- $102,177 of Royal Government funds provided to CMAC between 1995-1998 are
unaccounted for. The KPMG report notes that "...The verbal explanation from CMAC
management was that such a shortfall in funds was on account of costs incurred
for 'speeding up processing and release of funds' which we are unable to
- Out of a total of $42,077 in cash disbursements and transfers, US$38,865
"...were not supported by adequate supporting documentation .. so] the
reasonableness of the expense cannot be ascertained."
- $22,508 of Daily Subsistence Allowances (DSA) allowed to CMAC management
when traveling on CMAC business were ruled as "in excess of their entitlement".
KPMG notes that in direct contravention of CMAC guidelines, DSA was paid to
non-CMAC employees as well as to Sam Sotha while he was on official
KPMG recommended that "...$8,054 in excess of [DSA] entitlement
should be recovered from the Director General [Sam Sotha]."
largesse with Royal Government funds was apparently not limited to dodgey DSA
The justification for Sotha's claim of five days DSA for a visit
to Tokyo in last December also raised the eyebrows of KPMG
According to the audit report, "...the tickets as well as
the passports of the Director General did not indicate that he had visited Tokyo
during that period."
All in the family: the CMAC guide
By Phelim Kyne
THE KPMG audit report offers the first
substantive evidence of the extent to which nepotism governs the hiring of top
In a section of the KPMG audit report titled "Hiring of
Close Kin or Relatives", KPMG charges that "relatives and close kin of the
Chairman [Ieng Mouly], Director General [Sam Sotha] and Director of Operations
[Pan Sothy]" have been hired for the following six key positions within
- Ieng Vuthea, Assistant Treasurer (Ieng Mouly's brother; Ieng Mouly himself
has denied that the position "Assistant Treasurer" exists).
- Ouk Wathanak, Regulatory Officer (described by KPMG as Ieng Mouly's
brother-in-law, a charge that Ieng Mouly denies).
- Muth Vuthoeun, Secretary to the Governing Council.
- Chea Eang, Executive Secretary (believed to be the nephew of Sam Sotha's
- Kong Sisodeth, Receiving Inspection Officer.
- Kay Sanoun, Chief Security and Communications.
In an interview with the Post last month, Sotha deflected allegations of
nepotism by insisting that only one of his "blood relatives" was employed at
CMAC, neglecting to mention the hiring of in-laws such as Chea Eang.
Sotha's wife is also listed by KPMG as a beneficiary of CMAC hiring policies,
receiving unauthorized Royal Government funding to attend a demining conference
in Oslo in August 1997.
The "management response" that follows the KPMG
allegation justifies Mrs Sony Sam Sotha's presence in Oslo due to the fact that
"two other [participants] could not attend...[and] Mrs Sony Sam Sotha was then
advisor to the Chairman of the Governing Council ... [and] possesses a great
deal of knowledge of [the] land mines issue."
that Ieng Mouly has used CMAC positions as rewards for members of the Buddhist
Liberal Democratic Party (BLDP) of which he is president are also substantiated
by the audit report.
KPMG notes that "...key members of the Buddhist
Liberal Democratic Party are placed in key positions in CMAC, such as the
Assistant Director General (Niem Chouleng), Assistant Treasurer, and Head of
However, the "management comments" below the KPMG
allegations concede that members and staff of CMAC's Governing Council are
"political appointees...recruited on the basis of their loyalty ... confidence