THE nearly 13,000 ghost soldiers discovered by the Ministry of Defense so far
appear to have been very family-minded - ministry records have now revealed that
the non-existent soldiers have sired 15,244 ghost children.
The Royal Cambodia Armed Forces (RCAF) are currently checking to see if all the soldiers
on the payroll actually exist. It has become a common practice for commanders to
inflate their staff numbers and pocket the salary.
A variation on the theme is for commanders also to claim that their ghost soldiers
have a family and claim allowances for them as well.
It is a practice that the Government wants abolished in preparation for the restructuring
of RCAF which is due to start next year.
One of the problems with the restructuring is that there are no accurate figures
on how many real people there are in RCAF - the total on the payroll is 148,000
and the Government estimates as many as 40,000 do not exist.
In an effort to wipe out the problem Prime Minister Hun Sen has said he would be
happy to grant amnesty to corrupt commanders who had inflated their staff figures
if they admitted it and took the soldiers off the books.
"I do not believe the ghost soldiers are one hundred percent finished,"
he said at a May 20 meeting at the Ministry of Defense.
"There are still more ghost soldiers that have not been reported.
"I know there are some high officials including the officials at the Ministry
of Defense that have made deals with their lower commanders to hide the ghost soldiers
in order to put cash in their pockets."
But he had a message for those commanders.
"Don't be afraid of revealing more ghost soldiers," he said.
"You will not be punished. I grant you amnesty. If you still hide [some ghost
soldiers] you will face legal action."