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Civil society needed in military reform

Civil society needed in military reform

Following its inaugural workshop on civil and military relations held in the capital

December 2001, the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace (CICP) has announced

it will hold ten similar meetings this year.

Dr Kao Kim Hourn, executive director of CICP, said closer contact between the military

and civil society was essential for reform of the armed forces.

"Successful military reform will require the engagement and cooperation of all

sectors of society: the military itself, the government and civil society,"

he told a press conference. "If there is no relationship with civil society,

the process of reform cannot be successful."

The CICP released a policy briefing at the press conference, which noted that past

demobilization efforts had not sufficiently involved civil society. Kim Hourn said

one reason civil society should be involved was that it provided for the needs of

demobilized soldiers and helped ensure they integrated successfully into society.

This helped minimize potential social problems, he said.

Problems could arise from the military's efforts to tackle demobilization at the

same time as it dealt with reform: civil society, said Kim Hourn, could help to predict

problems from this dual process and build trust between former soldiers and civilians.

"It is to early to say what those problems might be," he said. "It

could be something that happens in the next two or three years. We will research

the potential problems as part of our ongoing efforts."

Boua Chanthou, director of Partnership for Development in Kampuchea (PADEK), a local

NGO, said civil society did not discriminate between serving soldiers, former soldiers

or civilians when providing assistance.

"All the people in my project zone benefit from our efforts in such areas as

providing skills," she said. "Civil society exists to help everyone."

CICP will organize the workshops in cooperation with the National Democratic Institute

of International Affairs with support from USAID. The first workshop starts January

23.

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