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PM Hun Sen vows support for disabled

121204_03

Disabled participants attend a workshop at which Prime Minister Hun Sen spoke on Koh Pich in Phnom Penh, Monday, Dec. 03, 2012. Photograph: Pha Lina/Phnom Penh Post

Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday challenged all government ministries to fill their target quota of having two per cent of their workforce comprised of people with disabilities by the end of this year.

Speaking at the Handicap Day celebrations on Koh Pich, the premier conceded that the 2010 sub-decree on employing people with disabilities had received lacklustre implementation.

“How many members of the Council of Ministers that approved the sub-decree implement it? We should examine ourselves, whether we employ disabled people based on the determination of the sub-decree,” he said.

Under the sub-decree, public institutions are required to have two per cent of their workforce comprised of people living with disabilities, and private institutions one per cent.

The premier called on Social Affairs Minister Ith Sam Heng to report to him at the end of this month which ministries had, and had not, fulfilled their obligations under the sub-decree.

The 2009 Law on the Protection and Promotion of Persons with Disabilities stipulates that those who do not fill the requisite quota of disabled persons in the workforce will be fined, and those who fill the quota will receive tax and other “legal” incentives.

Hun Sen points to himself as a person living with a disability, having lost his left eye during the civil war in 1975. He spoke of ending discrimination and harassment of people with disabilities.

“I was insulted and called a [blind-eye guy]. I was hurt in my heart. Therefore, I would like to urge all to stop aiming  inappropriate verbal insults at disabled persons and to eliminate all forms of discrimination against them,” Hun Sen said. “It is seriously hurtful.”

Hun Sen also called for all new or renovated buildings to provide disability-friendly access.

Lim El Djurado, spokesman for the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, confirmed the ministry would follow the prime minister’s instructions.

“I don’t have the proper data right now; we are going to work with the Ministry of Labour [to obtain it]. But our ministry was the first to enhance disabled people’s rights. We have a loading-ramp path, an elevator, and many disabled staff working here,” he said.

Cambodian Disabled People’s Organisation executive director Ngin Saorath said the talk was comforting, but following it through was essential.

“Awareness of the public will not grow stronger just by talking, but by action,” he said.

“In Cambodia, discrimination is divided into three parts: institutional discrimination, referring to government and universities; environmental discrimination; and behavioural discrimination.

“The public will give names to people with disabilities and use disabilities as a joke,” Saorath said, adding that this demonstrated the low level of understanding of disability issues in Cambodia.

This could be changed with education, he said. “Include disability lessons starting from primary school – it could empower people with disabilities.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Chhay Channyda at channyda.chhay@phnompenhpost.com ; Vong Sokheng at sokheng.vong@phnompenhpost.com
With assistance from Stephanie Ip and Soo Jin Kim

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