As part of its plan to up Cambodia’s soldier count, the Ministry of Defence is recruiting 620 university students.
The candidates from the 2014-2015 academic year are to be volunteers with no criminal backgrounds, according to an official announcement. The recruitment drive spans the month of December.
“The General Command of the Royal Armed Forces of Cambodia, the general secretariat of the Ministry of Defence … and concerned institutions must implement this announcement from the date of signature,” the announcement read.
The move is part of a plan to increase Cambodia’s army by 1,050 troops next year.
According to an announcement from the Council of Ministers signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen in September, 700 troops will be added to Infantry Brigade 70 while another 350 will go to the General Command’s Bodyguard Unit.
Officials have previously stated that the national budget for 2015 would put a heavy emphasis on defence, a move that has encountered resistance from the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, who decry the lack of funds in other key sectors.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said the government decided to recruit more soldiers to ensure societal security and replace soldiers at the retirement age.
“If they say the recruitment is a power grab, they should look at the law again,” Siphan said. “Soldiers belong to the nation and those who criticise that are lacking responsibility.”
Chan Soveth, senior investigator at rights group Adhoc, conceded the government “has to improve the security of society” but disputed that more soldiers needed to be recruited to do so.
“It would not be required … because some officers do not fulfil their own duties and perform other jobs, but their names are still on the payrolls,” Soveth said.
“We should divert the budget to the ministries of health or education at the moment.”
Minister of Defence Tea Banh could not be reached.