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
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
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.