Tourism Minister and National Olympic Committee President Thong Khon donated $200 Monday to each of six Cambodian athletes and trainers heading to the Olympic Games in August.
“I just visited them and offered them my personal money,” Thong Khon said Tuesday, adding that he had instructed the NOCC to raise the stipend offered to Cambodia’s Olympic hopefuls, currently set at $50 per athlete per month for the three months prior to the games.
Cambodia’s two Olympic track and field athletes said last week they had been preparing for the games with little to no support from the NOCC.
Thong Khon confirmed Tuesday that Cambodia receives annual funding from the International Olympic Committee in Switzerland, but he referred questions about IOC funding to NOCC Secretary-General Meas Sarin, who in turn referred questions to his assistant Nhan Sok Visal, who said he did not know about funding. The IOC had not responded to requests for comment about their funding to Cambodia by press time Tuesday.
Nhan Sok Visal said some financial assistance for the country’s Olympic athletes may come from the Royal Palace and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport.
However, Education Ministry Secretary of State Bun Sok said he was unaware of any plan for the ministry to help support Olympic contenders.
Distance runner Hem Bunting said he was encouraged by the gift from Thong Khon but that this had not been official NOCC support.
“I received $200 from Excellency Thong Khon, but it was his money; it was not the money from the Olympic committee,” he said.
Swimmer Hem Thon Ponleu, who is to compete in the 50-meter freestyle, said he had been encouraged by the gift. “For me, this is enough. As a kid, I don’t spend a lot,” said the 18-year-old.
(Additional reporting by Douglas Gillison)