A senior Cambodian Mine Action Center official confirmed Tuesday that Prime Minister Hun Sen has rejected a plan to cut the agency’s staff by nearly a third in an emergency cost-cutting effort.
In a letter sent this week to CMAC officials, Hun Sen recommended that only administrative staff be eliminated, leaving demining operations intact.
Earlier this month, CMAC’s governing council announced plans to gradually reduce staff from roughly 3,000 to 2,000 and cut salaries by 20 percent. Agency Director General Khem Sophoan acknowledged that this measure—which decreases demining platoons from 60 to 40—would slow down demining.
Although praised by some donors as a practical way to deal with possible funding shortfalls, the official said Tuesday that Hun Sen has balked at the idea of cutting demining crews—an opinion that is shared by others in the donor community.
“I would have reacted the same way,” said one Western diplomat. “[CMAC’s] strengths are in the field, in its deminers.”
Wearied after months of financial cat and mouse between CMAC, the Cambodian government and donors, some in the international community see this latest measure by CMAC as an attempt to, in the words of one diplomat, “extort” more money from donors.
Khem Sophoan acknowledged Tuesday that Hun Sen’s recommendation does put some pressure on his decisions for CMAC’s future but said no final discussions have been had yet on salary or staff cuts.