Advocates for the disabled yesterday criticised the slow implementation of Cambodia’s six-year-old disability law and urged the government to hasten the process by starting the distribution of the monthly $5 pension that people with disabilities were promised in 2011 through a separate sub-decree.
During a forum at Phnom Penh’s Cambodiana Hotel, Cambodian Disabled People’s Organisation (CDPO) executive director Ngin Saoroth said that although the government has made some strides in protecting the rights of people with disabilities, they continue to face systemic problems such as limited community rehabilitation services, financial aid and education programs.
“Our present law seems to only be on paper,” Saoroth said.
“According to the government, it has already had funding of $1.2 million per year for the pension, but how come in the last two or three years, disabled people still haven’t received the money?”
In 2009, the government enacted the Law on Protection and Promotion of Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which provides a framework for disability rights for the more than 2 million people living with a handicap in the Kingdom.
Two years later, the government issued a sub-decree that entitles seriously disabled, elderly disabled and seriously injured people living below the poverty line without full-time jobs to a 20,000 riel ($5) monthly pension.
Speaking at the forum, World Health Organization Asia-Pacific’s disability and rehabilitation team technical leader Pauline Kleinitz urged the government to “show its political will, conscience and determination” by swiftly implementing the law and increasing available services for people with disabilities.
Stronger enforcement, she said, will help increase disabled people’s access to rehabilitation services and also aid them to fully participate in society.
In response, Social Affairs Ministry Secretary of State Sem Sokha admitted that the process has been greatly hampered by financial issues, a lack of human resources and a lack of clarity in the delegation of responsibilities in lower governing bodies.
However, he said, “It is not like Saoroth said, that the law is only on paper.”
“We have done many things since the law was adopted.
This year, we will implement the pension plan in Pailin province, and we will do it in other provinces later.”
He added that his ministry, along with other relevant ministries, are working on a strategic plan and developing new mechanisms to effectively enforce the law on all governing levels.