"People are literally throwing themselves in front of U.N. vehicles to get compensation,"
maintains an over-worked insurance claim's officer who questions "Why should
Each day, in front of the UNTAC/SNC building, they gather early to stake their claims.
UNTAC is struggling to deal with a huge backlog of claims by people who believe the
organization has injured them in some way.
It is also accused of settling disputes in an arbitrary manner in an effort to speed
through the mountain of paperwork.
The clerk relates the details of her latest questionable claim - a man who suffered
a motorcycle accident is asking UNTAC to pay because he has "applied for a U.N.
"They're the shrewdest people I've ever met, where money's concerned,"
The man charged with determining the scale of claimant's injuries is UNTAC's chief
medical officer Dr. Col. Peter Fraps.
He says staff have been snowed under by the wealth of small claims but that each
must be taken seriously.
He gives the example of one woman who sustained light scratches to her hands after
an accident with an UNTAC vehicle and then tried to seek compensation, claiming the
injuries affected her home life.
Processing claims takes so long that a charitable fund was set up to offer immediate
relief to people involved in accidents with U.N. vehicles, irrespective of blame.
The fund was originally inspired by UNTAC chief Yashushi Akashi who appealed for
U.N. staff to dig into their own pockets to help pay off the victims. So far, according
to Fraps, more than $10,000 has been donated.
While the doctor believes the system is open to abuse he says it was introduced to
halt even worse abuses.
Thai national Kosan Yawat Sompop has handled all of the insurance claims against
UNTAC since June. He insists most are "not sincere".
Many people, he says, will claim much higher salaries than they actually receive
if they think UNTAC will pay their wages while off sick.
Even so, some people believe the U.N. is being "stingy" with its money,
especially in the case of compensation where a death is involved.
Payments of $2,000 in the case of a bread-winner's death have prompted people to
complain although some UNTAC staff privately believe such payments to be fair once
the local cost of living is taken into consideration.
Many claimants feel that they are forced to bargain with UNTAC over payments and
that each case is dealt with much in the same way as lots at an auction. But UNTAC
has its own priorities.
"Our goal is to get claims settled quickly," says one senior administrator,
because cases that drag on have a tendency to grow in financial proportion.