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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - AWOL civil servants in the gun

AWOL civil servants in the gun

G OVERNMENT departments now have the right to freeze wages or fire staff who have

been absent without leave for up to three and a half months.

Prak Sok, secretary for civil service secretariat, said that a cabinet of ministers'

meeting on Oct 11 approved the measure, seen as another way whereby the government

can prune an over-staffed civil service.

If a worker fails to report to his office after two warnings during 15 consecutive

days, his salary and retirement pension would be frozen.

The worker could still have his employment status reserved for another three months,

however his or her name would be definitely dropped from the employment list if further

notices went without response.

"We have noticed that some people have abandoned their work for five or six

months but we had no clear-cut provisions to deal with them. Now, this is the key,"

Sok said.

Because civil servants only get an average of $15 a month, many are forced into moonlighting

jobs such as moto-taxi drivers or with foreign companies or agencies.

Early this year, the government launched a head count which was regarded as a failure.

They then raised allowances for senior officials - a move seen by many as further

"encouragement" for lowly-paid subordinates to quit.

Sok said that the sub-decree also allowed state employees to apply for leave for

a up to four years to work for private firms, with their state salaries frozen.

"At least we can reduce the burden on the national budget for a period of time.

We are working step by step toward giving sufficient salaries," said Sok. He

said that if civil servants feared job instability outside, they could re-apply for

their jobs in the government two months before their leave period expires.

"Today, people want to go work for private agencies but they are afraid of losing

their status in the state employment," he said.

"But I believe that after four years people will feel confident and stable on

their jobs and won't find the need to come back."

He said without elaborating that qualified and capable staff would be encouraged

not to quit their jobs inside the government.

Meanwhile, the government demoted 425 of its 500 police generals and around one thousand

colonels, down to just 62. At a ceremony on Oct 9, Co-Premier Hun Sen asked the Ministry

of Interior to carry on the reform down to lower ranks, saying that new ranks officially

recognized would deserve no value if there were still too many majors or lieutenants.

He called on police to continue to crack down on acts of violence and especially

drugs smuggling which was becoming a threat to national security. For them to be

the real guards of national independence and territorial integrity, the police force

must be de-politicized with the duty to provide all people with security, he said.

"They [police] are the sole forces of the Royal Government protecting nation,

religion, king and all political parties, regardless of their being in the government

or opposition," Hun Sen said. "Because implementing multi-party and free

democracy does not allow any political party to use armed forces [as their own] at

all," he added.

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