CMAC Leadership May Change Next Week

Top donors to the nation’s largest demining organization met to discuss plans to reform it Wed­nesday, amid speculation that Prime Minister Hun Sen may agree to fire top managers at the scandal-wracked agency next week.

Embassy representatives from numerous donor countries declined to comment on the discussions, which were held at UNDP headquarters without any CMAC representatives present.

As the discussion took place, however, rumors swirled inside CMAC headquarters and in the local Khmer press that senior officials in the agency may soon be fired. When asked about the rumors, donors declined to refute them and some suggested they were true.

One diplomat would say only that “I can’t tell you anything until there is a formal announcement next week.’’

Canadian Ambassador Gordon Longmuir, who is slated to leave Cambodia on Aug 7, met with Hun Sen on Wednesday morning for a farewell interview. He acknowledged discussing CMAC, among other issues.

“I think there’s going to be some developments,’’ the ambassador said. “I think there are going to be some changes certainly in CMAC management. That along with reforms would be positive signs. Certainly there’s still a good deal of pressure among donors. [Hun Sen] understands the situation perfectly. He supports CMAC and he knows it would be a disaster if it were to go.’’

One source familiar with the situation said CMAC Chairman Ieng Mouly personally ap­proached Prime Minister Hun Sen in recent days and asked for the removal of Sam Sotha, CMAC’s director general and the man who runs the day-to-day operations of the agency.

Meanwhile, the source said, members in the National

As­sembly have launched a campaign to remove Ieng Mouly from his post. However, numerous assembly members reached by phone said they were unaware of such a campaign.

Prior to either event, another source said, Hun Sen met earlier this month with both Ieng Mouly and Sam Sotha, blamed CMAC’s problems on their infighting, and threatened to fire them both if they couldn’t solve their disagreements.

Neither Sam Sotha or Ieng Mouly could be reached Wed­nesday to confirm or discount the accounts.

CMAC is the nation’s largest demining agency and the largest donor-funded government agen­cy. However, a series of negative revelations has threatened funding. Initial audits and reports revealed the agency billed the government for $500,000 in fraudulent salaries, senior officials drew personal loans out of government funds, and ownership of 39 percent of land demined last year is in dispute, among other things.

Ieng Mouly has announced a staff shakeup and placed blame on the shoulders of Sam Sotha and two other senior managers. He said that Sam Sotha would have to make decisions in consultation with Ieng Mouly and one other supervisor.

However, donors seemed dissatisfied with the changes. Some noted that one of the people moved into a position of power was a relative of Ieng Mouly.

Jean-Claude Rogivue, the UNDP’s top country official, declined to comment Wednes­day on possible dismissals. But he said Richard Warren, the donor community’s top adviser to CMAC, would stay on at least until an audit of UNDP funds is completed in August.

Warren has come under attack in recent days from former expatriate staffers, who accused him of squashing damaging information about corruption. Warren has denied the allegations.

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