THE SUMMER DAILY
Tuesday, June 19, 1 973
PHNOM PENH (Al) - Phantom soldiers in the Cambodian army
are disappearing, but top Western diplomats say officers are still col-
lecting U.S.-financed salaries for perhaps 40,000 nonexistent troops.
The Cambodian high command launched a massive housecleaning
after Information Minister Kim Reth disclosed several months ago
that there were 100,000 phantom soldiers on the military payroll.
THERE IS NO DOUBT the campaign has paid some dividends:
The military payroll has been chopped from a high of 309,000 in De-
cember to 254,000 in March; more than a third of the Cambodian mili-
tary units have been disbanded, and a dozen officers who collected
the salaries of phantom soldiers have been arrested.
But there is wide discrepancy on how far the search for phantom
soldiers has come and how far it has to go.
Maj. Gen. Sosthene Fernandez, chief of staff of the Cambodian
army, said in a recent interview that there were only 20,000 phantoms
at the highpoint "and now they're all finished."
BUT A TOP WESTERN DIPLOMAT said: "There is a real phan-
tom problem. There has been a worse one, but it is still a serious
problem-perhaps the most serious problem the Khmers face." Khmers
is the local name for the Cambodians.
The Americans readily admit that progress in eradicating phantoms
has been made, but diplomatic sources said the United States is still
pressuring the Cambodians to move thousands of additional nonexist-
ent soldiers from the payroll.
After Information Minister Reth's disclosure, Congress put intense
pressure on U. S. Embassy officials in Phnom Penh to clean out the
phantoms since part of their salaries are indirectly paid by the Amer-
AS PART OF ITS economic aid program to Cambodia, the U. S.
government sells a wide variety of products, including petroleum,
rice, iron and steel items, chemicals, sugar and fertilizer to local im-
porters and allows them to pay in local currency.
That local currency is put into a joint account and allocated by
agreement between the U.S. and Cambodian governments. In recent
years, both governments have agreed to spend almost the entire amount
for military pay and allowances.
W stern economic experts said that in 1972 this fond amounted
.to 8.9 billion riels, about $45 million, which paid the salaries of 35 to
50 per cent of the soldiers in the Krner army, fighting insurgents
bbacked by North Vietnam and the Viet Cong.
'There is a real problem in deternining the exact number of than-
toms on the payroll. Until very recently, the Cambodian military kept
AP Photo no centralized records and followed the 19th Century French system
of Ang Son, 16 where the battalion commander was responsible for recruiting and
lie in the road paying his men.
nd the ambush The system left ample room for payroll padding which was be-
toward Phnom nevolently tolerated until 1970 when there were fewer than 30,000 men
tizational prob- in the Cambodian armed forces. But after the war began and tens of
of nationalist thousands of volunteers took up arms, it became more and more
difficult to tolerate the growing rank of phantoms.
A Cambodian soldier crosses a road near the scene of a recent ambush at the towni
miles south of Phnom Penh. Bodies of two Cambodian troopers killed in the ambushI
and their destroyed jeep is in the foreground. Enemy troops had infiltrated the town a
initiated daylong fighting which left parts of Ang Son in ruins and sent civilians fleeing
Penh. Payroll padding by Cambodian battalion commanders is only one of the organ
lems the royal government forces have suffered in their long battle to rid the country
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