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Enlistment should be exclusively voluntary

Dear Editor,

A few decades ago, Cambodian civilians suffered from the civil wars, especially young Cambodian men not fit for war but forcibly conscripted by a handful of powerful leaders. As a result, millions of innocent Cambodians died, while many others – veterans and civilians alike – were maimed by landmines and infected by disease.

With regard to the article “Proposed reserve force to strengthen military” (August 2), the draft Royal decree that discusses the conscription law was passed in 2006, according to a Council of Ministers statement. The law lists a variety of prospective groups eligible for conscription, including civilians between the ages of 18 and 30.

Several years ago, the Kingdom demobilized soldiers funded by donors as hostilities ended and the country turned to internal development.

Following the flare-up over the Cambodian-Thailand border, the government began training young men from the provinces for front-line defence.

By the end of 2008, Prime Minister Hun Sen said during a ceremony at the National Education Institute that the government had enough soldiers to combat any enemy to the Kingdom, and that young people needed to go to school and keep to their studies.

The government is again talking about recruiting more soldiers as tensions begin to boil again over the border issue.

From my point of view, conscription of young people would have a huge impact on their ability to become educated and find jobs to support their families.

I am also concerned that the government would use a large part of the national budget to bolster the armed forces instead of using that money to improve education and access to healthcare.

I believe that the Kingdom should have a strong and professional military to protect our sovereignty and territorial integrity. But the Royal decree on reservists should be revised so that young Cambodians can volunteer for 18 months of service rather than being conscripted.

Tong Soprach
Phnom Penh

Send letters to: newsroom@phnompenhpost.com or PO?Box 146, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Post reserves the right to edit letters to a shorter length. The views expressed above are solely the author’s and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.

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