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Demobilized soldiers still wait for payouts

Demobilized soldiers still wait for payouts

As the rice-growing season approaches, thousands of demobilized soldiers are still

awaiting their promised compensation package six months after leaving the armed forces.

Without the cash and equipment, they are unable to provide for their families.

Former Captain Sath Som On, from Pong Ro commune in Kampong Thom, is one of 15,000

soldiers discharged last year. He said none had received their final payout package,

and was worried his would not arrive before the start of the planting season.

"Now we wait like the bamboo stem waits to fill with rain," he said. "I

don't know which day the rain will come, just as I don't know which day the second

kit will come in to my hands."

The government announced last October its donor-backed plan to cut 31,500 soldiers

over three years. Svay Soun, 54, from Kongpisey district, Kampong Speu, was discharged

in November.

"Since I left the army, no one has come to see me," he said. "I don't

even know who to ask about it."

Soun lived in the jungle for a time after he was demobilized, then went home, where

he has no land, to wait for his kit to turn up.

"I cannot move anywhere else, because my address is in this village. So I will

have to wait until I receive the motorbike and sewing machine I was promised,"

he said.

On complained the ex-soldiers were trapped, unable to leave for work outside the

village in case they missed the government delivery. Life, he said, was very hard.

Chou Ros, 54, from Dong village in Kampong Thom province, said he could not support

his family.

Khieu Chhen, deputy secretary-general of the Council for the Demobilization of Armed

Forces, said the government had always planned to distribute the kits six months

after the soldiers left.

"The government has not ignored this and I hope the kits will start to be distributed

in June," said Chhen. "But it could be later than that if the procedure

of transferring money is delayed."

Ros said he felt cheated. "Before I was demobilized I told my wife to find some

land for rice and to look for a cow to buy," said the former soldier, who like

others expected $1,200. "In fact I received only a small amount of money with

which I can't do anything."

On was angry so much money was deducted from his first payout, such as $30 for a

health check.

"We have lost too much money. Those soldiers without brains will feel nothing,

but we have brains and what they did to us was bad. They have cheated us."

A report from NGO Working Group for Weapons' Reduction (WGWR) noted all the ex-soldiers

it interviewed were dissatisfied with the kits provided by donors at the demobilization

ceremony. They said poor material quality meant the items would not last.

Neb Sinthay, executive coordinator of WGWR, said the government and provincial authorities

should ask NGOs to assist.

"This issue is so important that they must show interest in helping them improve

their lives," he said. "If we ignore it, society will have to deal with

the problems."

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