Cambodian Mine Action Center workers laid off last year will be rehired in mid-January after two months of unemployment, center officials said Monday.
In November, the government’s troubled de-mining agency temporarily terminated 1,937 employees, or nearly 70 percent of its workforce, after spending its $13 million budget.
More than 1,600 CMAC employees will be rehired after donors provide funding, said Khem Sophoan, the center’s director-general. He said workers who were old or who performed poorly would not be rehired.
Khem Sophoan said field directors would be rehired after an examination and interview in order to find knowledgeable and well-behaved candidates to fill these positions.
“We want to have people qualified to do the work,” he said. He said that under the former administration, some field directors were chosen without any testing.
The agency has been in a financial crisis since some donors froze or pulled funding after evidence of severe fiscal mismanagement came to light in 1999.
About 90 percent of the center’s funds come from foreign donors, including Japan, Australia, and Britain.
In the past, Prime Minister Hun Sen has threatened to pull center staff and effectively cripple Cambodia’s largest de-mining agency if donors were not more forthcoming with money. That led both donors and center officials to accuse the government of using de-mining as a political weapon.
While two other demining agencies operate inside Cambodia, the center completes the highest volume of mine clearing.
Some donors have injected small amounts of money into demining operations to keep the agency open through a months-long reform process demanded by the international community, but its expected operating budget of around $5 million is only half of what CMAC received in previous years, indicating lingering concerns over the agency’s management.