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Demob soldiers on

Demob soldiers on

The World Bank announced September 11 that the demobilization program was back on

track, but said the long delayed second phase would not begin until February 2003.

Prime Minister Hun Sen had earlier this month called a halt to the project blaming

the Bank for withholding funds.

The Bank saw things differently. Officials there blamed the impasse on the government's

Council for the Demobilization of Armed Forces (CDAF), which had not requested any

funds. The Bank's September 11 press release hinted at that:

"The [CDAF] told the Bank that they have prepared the request for withdrawal

of the first installment of the funds from the credit."

World Bank regional director Ian Porter said his institution and the CDAF had agreed

"on the steps needed to help ensure effective and transparent implementation

of the project".

The program aims to improve on last year's initial phase in which 15,000 armed forces

members were demobilized. Many of them were critical of delays in receiving their

reintegration packages, which are worth around $1,200 each. Allegations of corruption

and mismanagement have swirled around the $42 million program.

Efforts will now focus on finishing the initial phase by ensuring the delivery of

the reintegration packages, which include items such as motorcycles and sewing machines.

CDAF has also agreed to develop a plan to monitor and evaluate the first phase of

the project and release information on soldiers eligible for demobilization to the

Bank so the second phase can be properly evaluated. There have long been concerns

among donors that the lists from which 'soldiers' are selected are doctored.

The second phase will see another 15,000 demobilized soldiers receiving their reintegration

packages six months later.

The World Bank is loaning $18.4 million for the project. The rest will come from

the Cambodian government and overseas donors.