Since birth, the world has been perceived differently by Chab Tuo, with his eyesight significantly impaired. Despite the enveloping darkness, this hurdle failed to deter the tenacity of the young lad.
Instead, the darkness became a catalyst, propelling him to academic excellence and ultimately, his current prestigious role as undersecretary of state.
A memorable photograph features Chab Tuo, impeccably dressed in a black suit and matching tie, standing in the presence of Queen Mother Norodom Monineath Sihanouk.
His right eye is closed, unresponsive to movement, yet his other eye blinks, offering a respectful bow.
At 30, Chab Tuo is the first Cambodian with a disability to hold the position of undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans, and Youth Rehabilitation.
His appointment by the King was prompted by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s recommendation.
Chab Tuo was born into a family of four siblings in Thmey Village, Bavet town, Svay Rieng province. Remarkably, he is the only one who has been blind since birth. Nonetheless, his determination led him to pursue an education. He began his journey at Prey Tup Primary School before moving on to Chi Phu High School, where he successfully completed his studies in 2012.
“My schooling relied on Braille and my memory to comprehend lessons, so learning was never difficult for me. I could learn just like those with sight,” Chab Tuo said candidly.
After completing grade 12, he moved to Phnom Penh to attend the National University of Management, earning an associate degree in 2013 and a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2016.
In 2012, while still at university, he was elected president of the Samneang Music Association for the Disabled, which today boasts a membership of 700 visually impaired and disabled individuals.
Chab Tuo elaborated: “Our responsibility as an association is to furnish these individuals with guidance and vocational instruction, thereby elevating their prospects of securing gainful employment”.
Receiving significant support from Queen Mother Norodom Monineath Sihanouk, Prime Minister Hun Sen, and Bun Rany Hun Sen, Chab Tuo noted that his association had been granted land to construct a building for disabled residents.
Assistance also extended to skills training, musical instruments and food provisions, provided by leaders from various ministries, institutions and philanthropists.
He expressed his delight and pride at his recent appointment as undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans, and Youth Rehabilitation, made official by a royal decree issued on June 27.
“I am really proud to represent people with disabilities in Cambodia,” he emphasised.
He commended Prime Minister Hun Sen for placing his trust in him, and expressed his intent to raise awareness about challenges faced by disabled people, encouraging both the private and public sectors to create special job opportunities for them.
Chab Tuo and research documents verify that this is a historic first for Cambodia, appointing a visually impaired person as Undersecretary of State.
“It demonstrates the Royal Government’s commitment to addressing the needs of disabled people,” he stated.
He urged fellow disabled Cambodians to actively pursue training courses and educational programmes to broaden their knowledge and increase their employment opportunities in all fields.