The distance between the armed forces and the country's civilians has been put down
to the army's poor record on human rights, numerous land grabs, and threats. Low
salaries and political differences also contribute to the problem, a conference in
Phnom Penh was told.
The two day national conference held December 13-14 was the first of its kind and
was hosted by the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace (CICP) in cooperation
with the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs.
Dr Kao Kim Hourn, CICP's executive director, said it was important to promote trust
and confidence building between the people and the military.
In the past, he said, people were scared of soldiers and even of those people simply
wearing uniforms. The military should be as close to the people as a son to his parents;
in reality, he said, they seemed to be far removed.
Cheam Chany, an opposition party MP, said that the fact that members of the armed
forces threatened civilians and were often involved in stealing land meant many people
feared and hated them.
Kek Galabru, president of human rights group LICADHO, said the armed forces should
be placed outside party political control. Their duty, she said, was simply to serve
the people and the nation.
A country at peace needed fewer soldiers. They should be trained in human rights,
told to strictly obey the law, and be better paid.