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Top generals unaware of incidents

S ENIOR officials in the Ministry of Defense have denied any knowledge of the conscription abuses being investigated by human rights organizations but they said if the reports were true the practices were against the Royal Govern-ment's military policies.

When asked about the alleged incidents in the northwestern provinces Chief of the General Staff General Ke Kimyan said:"We have not heard any reports and do not know anything about this."

He added: "The government wants to reduce the number of men in the army, because we do not need any more soldiers."

General Hing Lang, first deputy at the ministry's department of international relations also denied hearing any news about conscription.

Asked about official military policy, he said: "Our policy is to demobilize soldiers. Already our army is too big, we have more than 130,000 soldiers and cannot pay them good salaries.

"If some soldiers are doing this, we request people to complain directly to the ministry in Phnom Penh.

"We would like to investigate and send such soldiers to the military court."

He also denied that there was any official rule about conscription only during the fighting in the dry season.

"There is no rule, no policy on mobilizing more soldiers. If this is happening it is not legal," he said.

General Hing Lang explained that during the SOC period, there was a policy of 'voluntary conscription' of males between 18 and 25 years of age.

But he said men who had not completed school, and were the sole breadwinners for their families could not be recruited according to the policy.

"After signing the Paris agreement we were under obligation to demobilize soldiers so we have no conscription since then," he said.

Despite repeated attempts by the Post to contact them, Co-Ministers of Defense Tea Banh and Tea Chamrath and Secretary of State Ek Sereyvuth were all unavailable for comment.

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