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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - NGO urges soldiers to stop bending elbow

NGO urges soldiers to stop bending elbow

NGO urges soldiers to stop bending elbow

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A recent survey of police officers and soldiers reports that 63 percent admit to drinking until they are drunk. Seventy-five percent go to a brothel afterwards and seldom use condoms. The military is trying to curb such behavior.

Chhoun Saveoun, a 53-yearold soldier in Kampong Cham, knows that reducing his drinking

would be a good idea.

"My body feels very hot when I get drunk [and] I always hurt myself," Saveoun

said. "Sometimes I walk and hit myself with a wall or tree and sometimes I fall

down on the ground unconscious."

A scrape to Saveoun's forehead testified to his drunken misadventures.

The military man was speaking at the launch of the Model Man campaign at Bek Peang

headquarters, an event organized by Family Health International (FHI) and the Ministry

of National Defense to educate soldiers about the risks of excessive drinking and

the risky behavior that often follows.

A survey of 135 police and soldiers conducted by FHI found that 63 per cent drink

until they are drunk and three quarters of those questioned have sex with prostitutes

after their drinking sessions. Participants admitted that they seldom used condoms.

"Now, even if I am very drunk, I will not go to have sex outside. I might be

able to escape from a bomb, but I could not flee from dying if I had AIDS,"

said Saveoun, who appeared intoxicated at the June 13 event, but said he planned

on giving up drinking rice wine next month.

Since beginning earlier this month, more than 600 military personnel and their families

have participated in the Model Man campaign to reduce alcohol consumption.

The campaign encourages soldiers to lessen their alcohol intake and suggests activities

such as sports or helping with housework as alternatives to visiting brothels, said

Song Ngak, senior program officer for FHI.

If military men do visit sex workers, they are urged to use condoms to protect themselves

form contracting HIV.

The launch in Kampong Cham followed a similar event in Kampong Speu, two provinces

where the Model Man concept will be tested over three months.

The serious educational messages were livened up by performances of traditional chhayam

drumming and singing, jokes, drama performances and the reading of a poem dealing

with the consequences of binge drinking.

It seems the message is starting to get through to some soldiers.

Pom Peoun, 35, said he had cut back his drinking since the campaign started in early

June at the Bek Peang headquarters.

"Before I always drank all the wine that I had when my friends came to visit,

but now I drink wine just to make my rice more tasty," Peoun said.

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