As the rice-growing season approaches, thousands of demobilized soldiers are still
awaiting their promised compensation package six months after leaving the armed forces.
Without the cash and equipment, they are unable to provide for their families.
Former Captain Sath Som On, from Pong Ro commune in Kampong Thom, is one of 15,000
soldiers discharged last year. He said none had received their final payout package,
and was worried his would not arrive before the start of the planting season.
"Now we wait like the bamboo stem waits to fill with rain," he said. "I
don't know which day the rain will come, just as I don't know which day the second
kit will come in to my hands."
The government announced last October its donor-backed plan to cut 31,500 soldiers
over three years. Svay Soun, 54, from Kongpisey district, Kampong Speu, was discharged
"Since I left the army, no one has come to see me," he said. "I don't
even know who to ask about it."
Soun lived in the jungle for a time after he was demobilized, then went home, where
he has no land, to wait for his kit to turn up.
"I cannot move anywhere else, because my address is in this village. So I will
have to wait until I receive the motorbike and sewing machine I was promised,"
On complained the ex-soldiers were trapped, unable to leave for work outside the
village in case they missed the government delivery. Life, he said, was very hard.
Chou Ros, 54, from Dong village in Kampong Thom province, said he could not support
Khieu Chhen, deputy secretary-general of the Council for the Demobilization of Armed
Forces, said the government had always planned to distribute the kits six months
after the soldiers left.
"The government has not ignored this and I hope the kits will start to be distributed
in June," said Chhen. "But it could be later than that if the procedure
of transferring money is delayed."
Ros said he felt cheated. "Before I was demobilized I told my wife to find some
land for rice and to look for a cow to buy," said the former soldier, who like
others expected $1,200. "In fact I received only a small amount of money with
which I can't do anything."
On was angry so much money was deducted from his first payout, such as $30 for a
"We have lost too much money. Those soldiers without brains will feel nothing,
but we have brains and what they did to us was bad. They have cheated us."
A report from NGO Working Group for Weapons' Reduction (WGWR) noted all the ex-soldiers
it interviewed were dissatisfied with the kits provided by donors at the demobilization
ceremony. They said poor material quality meant the items would not last.
Neb Sinthay, executive coordinator of WGWR, said the government and provincial authorities
should ask NGOs to assist.
"This issue is so important that they must show interest in helping them improve
their lives," he said. "If we ignore it, society will have to deal with