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Luy Malyka is neither a typical woman nor a typical soldier, but she is proud to be both. Last year, the 26-year-old decided to leave the warmth of her home and family, and move from the modern city of Phnom Penh to train for military service at the Land Forces Institute in Kampong Speu.
Despite having a business at home and previous academic experience, Luy Malyka decided to give up her comfortable life in order to help protect her country and show people that women can do anything that men can do.
“I have loved the military since I was young, and I wanted to wear a soldier’s uniform,” she said. “I am also particularly talented when it comes to military affairs.”
She said she does not think that her desire to be a soldier will interfere with finding a husband and having a family because people’s perceptions of the world are changing, and women are being encouraged to do what they want. “Some men love strong women with a lot of responsibility,” she said.
Before entering the military training institute, all students have to pass an exam. Luy Malyka first took the exam in 2008, but she failed to get the necessary score. In 2010 she redeemed herself by taking the exam again and passing. She became one of 16 female members in her class of 171 soldiers-in-training.
During her training, Luy Malyka has faced difficulties such as homesickness, loneliness, restricted freedom and corporal punishment when she broke the rules of the training program. There were many times when she felt like she couldn’t stand the hardships anymore and wanted to quit, but she constantly reminded herself that “what men can do, I, as a female, can do as well.”
She gave some examples of her rigorous training, which required her and her classmates to live together and cooperate. They were forced to walk long distances on foot, and occasionally their destination was more than 30 kilometres away. They also queued up for their meals, standing in long lines and getting fed step by step.
“Three men dropped out because they weren’t able to adapt to the hardship and strict discipline”, she said. “The women kept up their effort until the end of the final training course.”
After nearly a year of grueling physical and psychological tests, Luy Malyka is on the verge of completing her training course. “When I finish, I will be called Master Sargeant”, she said.
She plans to continue her studies in China in a course that trains soldiers for the air force. Every student from her school has to continue their studies in focused training courses in Cambodia, Vietnam or China.
Luy Maleka has not faced threats to her life thus far, but after she completes the rest of her training, she will be one of few women in Cambodia who are putting their lives on the line to keep the Kingdom safe.