Nearly nine months after factional fighting erupted in Phnom Penh, leaving burned-out factories, smashed auto dealerships and gas stations without pumps, local businesses are still waiting for their compensation claims to be met.
And it’s not clear when the long process might end. When asked how long it might take for the procedures to be finalized, Finance Minister Keat Chhon pleaded for patience.
“When a plane crashes, how long does it take an insurance company to act?” he said Monday. “We need time.”
The report on claims for compensation from the fighting last July, which totaled an estimated $50 million, has been submitted to the Council of Ministers, according to several government officials who helped evaluate claims.
The government already has paid small amounts to residents who lost homes or other possessions, they said.
But Council of Ministers Undersecretary of State Boeun Eu said a few companies have yet to be informed about the committee’s decision on their claims. And he did not know when the Council of Ministers will make a final decision.
For some of the investors who have filed compensation claims with the government, the process has been a frustrating one.
“Nothing’s happened,” said a representative of petroleum giant Caltex, who declined to give his name.
“We keep calling and they say wait,” he said. “We don’t know what is going on. At least they should send a letter.”
Caltex property damaged during the clashes included a $200,000 supermarket and a $500,000 gas station on Pochentong Road. The representative said the committee has evaluated and reduced Caltex’s claim, but he would not give any figures.
Others are not pleased that the values of their claims have been reduced. Shell, which saw its depot near Pochentong Airport damaged and a gas station in the city looted, was told the station would be excluded because it was not in the firefight, a company representative said.
“Why can they not protect that also?” Ba Biravith asked.
Since almost immediately after the fighting, the government has vowed to compensate companies, and investors and businessmen have speculated how the government will be able to afford to pay.
Information and Interior Ministry officials all but ruled out that any compensation will come in cash. The government, explained government spokesman Khieu Kanharith, will “help” the companies, and the help will come in the form of things such as tax breaks and exemptions.
Boeun Eu said, “If the government were to pay cash, maybe there would not be enough to compensate everyone.”
Officials downplayed the impact the delays might have on potential investors. Sok Chenda, the secretary-general for the Council of Development for Cambodia, said it would have absolutely no effect.
“I would remind you that it is normally not the government’s duty to compensate when something happens,” he said, emphasizing that Cambodia’s investment law does not require the government to pay compensation in such a situation.
“The government would like to show goodwill and understanding about what has happened to those investors,” he said.