Top Official Goes Into Debt To Get Team to Asian Games

The secretary-general of the National Olympic Committee of Cam­bodia said Saturday he is personally borrowing money to finance Cambodia’s participation in the Asian Games next week.

With Tuesday’s departure date rapid­ly approaching and still no sign of the $70,000 promised by the Finance Ministry, Meas Sarin said he is borrowing cash to pay for the trip and hopes to be reimbursed later. He did not say how much he will pay out of his own pocket or from where he will borrow the money.

“The cash problem will be figured out later,” he said. “We will save the national reputation.”

Education Secretary of State Kea Sahorn said the Finance Ministry allocated about $70,000 to the Olympic Committee for the games about 10 days ago. Re­lease of the money has been held up over the method of payment, he said. The Finance Ministry wants to disburse payment in riel; the Olympic Committee wants US dollars.

Despite the cash problems, Meas Sarin said, the size of the delegation—62 athletes and officials—will not be reduced.

The money given to athletes, however, will be less than originally budgeted. And the delegation’s plane tickets, estimated to cost about $13,000, will be bought on credit and the airline refunded later, Kea Sahorn said.

Finance Minister Keat Chhon on Friday would neither confirm nor deny that the money would be released but he indicated he was not pleased with the government financially supporting the team. “We requested them to get money from sponsors first,” he said. “They have to knock on the doors of sponsors, not always wait for meals from [the government].”

The delegation is scheduled to leave for Bangkok on Tuesday, Meas Sarin said. The football team, which is privately sponsored by US oil giant Caltex, is to depart Monday.

(Additional re­porting by Nanaho Sawano)

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