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.