The Center for Social Development’s board of directors issued a statement Tuesday announcing that the NGO’s well-known executive director, Theary Seng, has been removed.
The announcement follows weeks of public acrimony between the CSD board and Theary Seng, who, when asked for comment Tuesday evening, replied that she remains CSD’s executive director.
“CSD will not be responsible for any related work that is involved with Ms Theary Seng after June 23,” read the statement sent to media outlets, which was signed by CSD President Vi Houi and board members Chea Vannath and Peung Yok Hiep.
“Somewhere around December 2007 she just cut off communication with the board,” Vi Houi said, explaining the board’s decision.
“She didn’t come to meetings. She didn’t make any financial reports for over a year,” he said, adding that he doubted that Theary Seng, who held the position of CSD executive director since 2006, would leave quietly.
“We expect that she will fight back and may not leave voluntarily,” he said by telephone, adding that the board tried already to deliver a termination notice May 22 but Theary Seng would not accept it.
“The last time we brought the notice to her in person, she locked herself in the office,” he said.
Contacted by telephone in Kampot province, Theary Seng directed requests for comment to CSD Executive Assistant Im Sophea. She later wrote by SMS text message, “I am still the executive director.”
Accusing the CSD board of “another sad and desperate attempt” at taking power, Im Sophea said the board of directors was illegitimate, as its term of office ended in November but the members hadn’t yet stepped down.
CSD staff, who support the executive director, are now beholden solely to the organization’s private donors, he said.
“We were responsible to the donors by ourselves,” he added, claiming that the NGO’s donors, which among others include Oxfam, The Asia Foundation, East West Management, as well as the international development agencies of Australia, Denmark, Germany and the US, also do not recognize the board.
In their earlier attempt to remove Theary Seng, Im Sophea said that she locked herself in her office because the board had brought Interior Ministry police with them when they delivered the termination letter.
“This is the second attempt,” Im Sophea said. “They tried to use the Ministry of Interior to enforce their decision, which has no meaning at all. It’s the second coup against Theary,” he said.
Contacted later Tuesday, Vi Houi confirmed that security officers accompanied a board member May 22 but only to give protection to a board representative delivering the dismissal notice.
Vi Houi also agreed that the term for the board of directors expired in November, but he said that CSD’s constitution allows for board members to extend their terms by an additional two years. CSD donors still recognize the board of directors, Vi Houi said.
“The donors recognize the board; therefore, the donors cannot bypass the board,” he said. “We hope that the donors and the public understand.”