D ISABLED people throughout the country gathered in an historic three-day seminar to form a new national organization to represent their views and needs.
The 116 participants in the seminar, held at Calmette hospital from Sep 7-9, formed the National Organization of Disabled People of Cambodia (NODPC).
A spokesman for Disabled People International (DPI) Foo Gaik Sim said: "During the seminar every disabled Cambodian claimed that they need both equal rights and opportunities.
"They desire to live their lives as fully as possible in their families and communities and to have equal access to education, employment and self-representation."
To help achieve these goals the disabled people elected a five-member steering committee to formulate by Dec 31 the NODPC's mission and constitution, and further develop a three year activity program and identify the implementation resources required to achieve the NODPC's goals, according to Sim.
Elected committee member Yi Veasna said: "I will try to do my best to serve disabled people and help them with their problems and needs."
She said the NODPC would meet again early next year to discuss its constitution and goals.
The seminar called for the government to establish a high level National Disability Council, with representation from all relevant government agencies and NGOs, in order to coordinate a comprehensive plan for dealing with disability issues in Cambodia.
The seminar strongly supported government moves to sign Protocol 2 of the Oct 10, 1980 Geneva Convention which prohibits or restricts the use of certain conventional weapons including land mines.
In a Sept 14 press release the DPI estimated there were 30,000 amputees in Cambodia, mostly land-mine victims which were increasing by at least 200 per month.
The seminar also appealed to the government to sign as soon as possible a proclamation declaring the equality and rights of disabled people to fully participate in society.
The Ministry of Social, Labor and Veterans' affairs, in response to the seminar, has decided to provide a well situated building in Phnom Penh for the NODPC to use as a headquarters, according to a ministry press release.