Mfone Parent Firm to Consider Workers’ Demands

The company behind defunct mobile operator Mfone has told its former employees that it will consider covering millions of dollars allegedly owed to them in severance payments.

For the third day running Wednesday, more than 100 former employees—who are unconvinced by assurances of a court appointed administrator and the company, Shenington Investments, that they are trying to address their complaints—staged a protest at Mfone’s shuttered offices in Phnom Penh.

The former employees have vowed to keep protesting until they are paid the $4.44 million to which they say they are entitled in severance cash after Mfone de­clared bankruptcy in January.

In response to a May 13 letter from employees asking for a loan to cover their losses, Singapore-based Shenington Investments—a subsidiary of Thailand’s Thai­Com—wrote, “we are in principle open to exploring how we can assist in such [a] request.”

The letter from Shenington Investments, dated May 22 and obtained Wednesday, is signed by the company’s managing director Chutidej Printhitipa, and says that any assistance by the company would have to be in line with laws and approved by the administrator and the Cambodian courts.

It also says the company had been working “to find an acceptable path to assisting in your request, which will include, among other matters, verifying the amounts being claimed by the Mfone employees.”

On Wednesday, the employees marched about 1 km from Mfone’s old office on Monivong Boulevard to a new office in Chamkar Mon district’s Boeng Keng Kang 3 commune, which has been rented by the administrator trying to offload Mfone’s assets and pay back debtors who claim they are owed a total of more than $160 million.

Administrator Ouk Ry met with the employees and discus­sed the possibility of a loan from ThaiCom and Shenington Investments, which would be paid back when the assets are sold.

Mr. Ry said later he had discussed with both companies loaning money to compensate the workers, but noted such a plan would need guarantees from the government, the court, the administrator and all the other creditors.

“I am not sure that the two companies are able to give a loan to pay the employees,” he said.

One of the protesters, Nhim Vannak, 30, a former technician for Mfone, said he was not convinced.

“This is a trick of the administrator to delay the solution,” he said.

© 2013, All rights reserved.