THE Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) has recruited 7,000 new soldiers in the past five years and successfully fortified the Kingdom’s borders, according to a report released by the Ministry of Defence on Wednesday.
The report was unveiled at a two-day workshop at the ministry in Phnom Penh, where roughly 300 military officers gathered to discuss human resources and planning in the military from 2010 to 2014.
RCAF Commander in Chief Pol Saroeun said that, in light of recent clashes along the border with Thailand, the government must focus in the next five years on both diplomatic efforts and protection of Cambodia’s sovereignty.
“We need young soldiers and young commanders to replace the old soldiers. All of us here are old and will only be able to work for a few more years,” Pol Saroeun said.
Minister of Defence Tea Banh pointed to RCAF’s work abroad as a sign of its improvement in technical areas.
“A strong point of our military now is that we have integrated our soldiers into international humanitarian operations,” Tea Banh said, referring to UN peacekeeping missions in Africa in which RCAF troops have served as deminers.
Cheam Yeap, a senior lawmaker in the Cambodian People’s Party and head of the National Assembly’s finance commission, said Monday that 2009’s US$500 million in military spending accounted for roughly a quarter of the Kingdom’s total budget.
In September, the International Monetary Fund said Cambodia’s budget deficit, which it said would amount to about 7 percent of GDP for 2009, had been driven by an increased wage bill for the civil service and military. It warned the government to avoid any further wage bill expansion and instead direct spending to priority sectors such as health and education.