Lieutenant-General Khem Sophoan, CMAC's new director-general
WO DAYS past a key deadline imposed by foreign donors for a series of internal reforms
demanded of the Cambodian Mine Action Center [CMAC], its new Director-General, Lieutenant-General
Khem Sophoan, admits that CMAC is still unable to fulfill at least two key donor
demands necessary to guarantee continued funding to the troubled demining agency
CMAC's inability to satisfy demands outlined in the "Draft Donor Framework for
Normalization of Relations with CMAC" presented to CMAC by its main foreign
donors on August 4, make the possibility of a shutdown of CMAC operations at the
end of October due to a shortage of funds appear increasingly likely.
The bluntly-worded document dictates a resumption of donor funding to cover November
and December 1999 dependent upon "...the completion of all immediate and the
majority of short-term (by Aug 31, 1999) tasks."
Foreign donors, who provide 95% of CMAC's operating budget, have frozen funding in
recent months in the wake of a succession of scandals revealing widespread financial
and operational irregularities, mismanagement and fraud.
CMAC currently has only enough funds to continue demining operations and pay employee
salaries until the end of October.
The impending shutdown, considered highly unlikely just weeks ago, has sparked fears
within CMAC that the agency's employees will respond to an expected freeze in monthly
salaries by looting CMAC equipment.
"We're afraid [a lack of funds] will create a situation similar to what occurred
when UNTAC pulled out and people stole everything they could get their hands on,"
one senior CMAC source explained.
The source added that CMAC management was already at work on a contingency plan to
help protect CMAC property such as computers and vehicles from being stolen by angry
While CMAC Director-General Khem Sophoan refused to confirm management apprehension
over a possible employee backlash to CMAC's funding crisis, he concedes that CMAC
was encountering difficulties meeting the donor demands.
"Mismanagement of [CMAC] operations in Demining Unit 3 (DU3) in Kampot, mismanagement
in [CMAC's] financial system and human resources issues are the biggest problems
we face," Sophoan said in reference to the donors demands on Monday.
The problems in DU3 stem from the discovery by CMAC's Quality Assurance Technical
Advisor, Stefan Carlsson, in July that DU3 had "contract demined" for Khmer
Rouge commander Chouk Rin and other non-humanitarian beneficiaries.
Resolution of the irregularities in DU3 was one of the demands that donors listed
as requiring "immediate" resolution.
Sophoan acknowledges that CMAC's efforts to vindicate DU3 of wrongdoing have so far
failed, in spite of a CMAC-sponsored junket to disputed minefields in Kampot two
weeks ago designed to allay donor concerns.
However, Sophoan verified that CMAC had abided by a related "immediate"
donor demand that the DU3 manager be "appropriately sanctioned" by confirming
that the DU3 manager, assistant manager and operations officer had all been "temporarily
"We think it's mismanagement, not corruption," Sophoan said of the behavior
of the suspended trio. "They didn't follow the CMAC Integrated Work Plan."
Another "immediate" demand that remains unfulfilled is the donor requirement
that CMAC provide "immediate cooperation ... by releasing requested information"
to the accounting firm KPMG.
KPMG is currently performing a detailed audit of all CMAC finances, but has been
repeatedly stymied by a lack of necessary documentation from CMAC.
According to Sophoan, emergency meetings were planned on Aug 30 and 31 to brainstorm
measures to provide KPMG with the paperwork they require. However, it appeared unlikely
that CMAC would be able to supply KPMG with the required data before the donor-imposed
The implications of a CMAC shutdown apparently already have donors backpedaling from
their original demands.
A diplomatic representative of one of the demining agency's main foreign donors denied
that the donors had presented CMAC with demands, preferring to refer to the Donor
Framework document as "a helpful guide to CMAC".
"It's not up to the donors to give [CMAC] an ultimatum," the source told
the Post. "It's not a case of 'You don't do this, there'll be this sanction'."
The source refused to specify how successfully CMAC had complied with the immediate
and short-term demands spelled out in the "Donor Framework".
"I don't think that's a useful exercise [to monitor CMAC's compliance with donor
demands]," the source said. "There may well be good reasons for one or
two [demands not met] ... we have to look at the broad basis, not just the dot/point."