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New academy, minus founder and equipment

New academy, minus founder and equipment

THE Preah Sihanouk Raj Academy has been revived under a new name, minus its founder,

Thach Bunroeun, and the air conditioners, generator, video recorder, motorbike and

other equipment he took with him.

The Center for Advanced Study, based in the same premises, was opened by a group

of senior staff last week after Bunroeun had dissolved the academy Mar 19.

The ownership of the former academy's assets are in question, after Bunroeun removed

some before he left. He has since gone abroad.

Days before he closed the academy, Bunroeun - embroiled in a management struggle

with his senior staff - pasted dozens of notices to desks, chairs, banisters, walls

and elsewhere in the academy. The notices said the property belonged to the academy

and should not be removed without his consent.

A day or two after he shut the academy, according to senior staff, Bunroeun took

away a number of items: two airconditioner units, a generator, motorcycle, voltage

regulator, facsimile machine, video recorder, two telephones and some glasses and

dishes.

The management of the new center - who have taken over the academy's other assets

- believe the equipment taken by Bunroeun had been purchased with donors' funds.

But they could not prove that.

Pen Dareth, vice-president of the former academy and the new center, said that records

of the purchase of the items could not be found.

Dareth believed the equipment had been bought with money from the Asia Foundation

- which gave the academy about $200,000 in its first two years - or from private

donations.

He doubted - but could not disprove - that Bunroeun had paid for the gear out of

his own pocket.

Dareth said he had "heard" that the items - with an estimated replacement

value of $8,000-10,000 - had since been sold by Bunroeun.

Dareth said the matter had not been reported to police. It had been left in the hands

of Truong Mealy, who helped Bunroeun to found the academy in 1993 and was a key fund-raiser

for it, to try to resolve.

"Truong Mealy advised us that the property did not belong to any one person,

but to the institution," said Dareth.

Mealy, the former head of King Norodom Sihanouk's Cabinet and currently Cambodia's

Ambassador to Japan, has been appointed acting chairman of the new center and is

expected to pay a trip to Cambodia soon.

Bunroeun, who holds the rank of Ambassador in the King's Cabinet, could not be contacted

for comment. His father-in-law, Mam Sophana, said this week that Bunroeun had left

for the United States, where he was likely to stay for 6-12 months.

The academy collapsed, amid a power struggle sparked by Bunroeun's sacking of academy

president Everett Kleinjans, after the King revoked approval for it to bear his name.

Kleinjans, an American now on a trip home, has been appointed president of the new

center, with Dareth as vice-president. Academy financial comptroller Kim Sumarith

and foreign academics William Collins and Peter Gyallay-Pap remain at the center.

Dareth said four support staff - a driver, secretary, maid and messenger - had left

the academy; the remaining staff had stayed.

Sixteen people, including several Ministers, National Assembly members and academics,

have been invited to make-up a governing board to oversee the new center.

The former academy did not have such a board, which allegedly contributed to confusion

over who had ultimate control over the academy.

Dareth said the center had applied for government recognition as an NGO set up to

conduct research projects and train young Cambodian scholars.

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