Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Kampot demining scandal won't go away

Kampot demining scandal won't go away

Kampot demining scandal won't go away

FOUR months since the leak of an internal report by CMAC Quality Assurance Technical

Advisor Stefan Carlsson detailing "contract demining" and massive operational

mismanagement by Demining Unit Three (DU3) in Kampot, donor demands that CMAC come

clean on the scandal remain unanswered.

A published statement by Ieng Mouly released to the media at a Sep 29 press conference

indicated that CMAC's newest strategy in coming to grips with the scandal was to

attempt to spread the blame for the criminal actions of demining platoons in Kampot.

"...If there is no active involvement of the host government ... the problem

for land use can surface at any moment in any mine-affected country," Mouly

wrote of the furor which was caused by evidence that DU3 platoons demined land for

wealthy and powerful interests in Kampot and former Khmer Rouge commander Chouk Rin.

An explanation of what went wrong in DU3 and punishment of those suspected of criminal

intent in the scandal has been a key demand of the Donor Framework for Normalization

of Relations with CMAC presented to CMAC on Aug 4. Fulfillment of the demands was

described by donors at the time as essential in guaranteeing continued funding for

CMAC.

A representative of one of CMAC's major foreign donors told the Post that efforts

to date by CMAC to explain what happened in DU3 have not been sufficient.

"The findings of Stefan Carlsson's report still stand," the source said.

"Attempts by CMAC to refute the report have not been successful."

At the Sep 29 CMAC press conference, Ieng Mouly announced that the task of providing

an explanation satisfactory to donors regarding the shortcomings in DU3 had fallen

to the National Assembly's Ministry of Inspection.

"We need an independent body to check to verify [DU3 operations]," Mouly

said. "We've referred to the inspection team of the government to do the checking."

Mouly's decision to involve a government organization to investigate DU3 follows

the rejection by the environmental watchdog organization Global Witness of CMAC Director

General Khem Sophoan's invitation to lead a DU3 investigation.

Global Witness Director Patrick Alley linked his decision not to become involved

to structural problems within the demining organization.

"Even if we were to resolve the facts relating to Kampot, there appears to be

no guarantee that similar situations do not already exist in other provinces, or

would be prevented in the future, without substantial restructuring of CMAC,"

Alley told the Post by email. "...There is at least a possibility that Kampot

is merely the tip of the iceberg and that other [similar] scandals will emerge in

the future."

Alley's warning is echoed by an embassy official of one of CMAC's major foreign donors.

"DU3 may well not be the only place with these kinds of problems," the

source said. "[Donors] want to find out if other demining units had similar

problems by investigating other areas [where CMAC operates]."

However, a highly-placed CMAC official suggested that the magnitude of the DU3 scandal

required the skills and resources of criminal investigators rather than government

inspectors.

"The information CMAC has about DU3 should be put in the hands of a solicitor,"

the source said bluntly. "Professionals should go out and find the wrongdoers."

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