Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Hun Sen mocks pension scheme

Hun Sen mocks pension scheme

A senior citizen sits outside her house in Phnom Penh
A senior citizen sits outside her house in Phnom Penh last year. The prime minister yesterday told seniors to demand a $10 pension from the CNRP that was promised during the last election. Hong Menea

Hun Sen mocks pension scheme

Prime Minister Hun Sen ripped into the opposition during his first public speech of the year yesterday, ridiculing the party’s 2013 election promises to raise civil servant wages and increase pensions as a surefire way to bring down their government if they were in power.

Speaking yesterday at the opening of a provincial hall in Tbong Khmum province, Hun Sen sought to ratchet up pressure on the Cambodia National Rescue Party, while also announcing a wage boost for civil servants and the armed services.

The premier urged seniors and low-paid civil servants to demand cash from the opposition, which last election promised them a $10 pension and a $250 minimum wage, respectively.

“Please, go and get the money,” he told the crowd, adding that “at least one million soldiers, police officials and all civil servants [should] please ask for the money.

“The CNRP would collapse after six months, because everyone older than 60 years old would gather and demand $10. There are about 2 million people over 60 in Cambodia,” he said.

Explaining his government’s own stance on government salaries, Hun Sun said: “We have a policy of increasing wages by going up in steps.”

“Wages just can’t lift off like a helicopter, but I want to increase them up to $1,000 [for civil servants],” he said.

He accused the CNRP of just trying to get votes, saying he wanted to make people’s lives better but lacked the funds for big salary increases.

CNRP spokesman Yem Ponharith said he didn’t understand the premier’s point, given that as the CPP was in control, the opposition wasn’t in a position to set wages or pay pensions.

“If the CNRP ran the government and had assumed the premiership, then people older than 65 years would get $10 per month,” he said.

Cambodia currently has no universal pension scheme, with only former government workers and factory workers getting retirement fund payments.

Low wages among civil servants is also a major challenge for the country, with the World Bank citing it as a significant cause of corruption.

It’s unclear whether Hun Sen’s announcement of government wage increases, to take effect this month, was referring to regular annual increases, usually about 20 per cent, or an additional boost.

In August, Hun Sen told graduates at the University of BELTEI that the health and education ministries were earmarked for salary increases in the mid-year budget.

He said the Education Ministry was first in line and would see staggered wage increases between September last year to April this year.

Pay for low-paid non-teaching staff, such as office workers, will be eventually bumped to about $138 in April, up from about $106 in September last year.

Ny Chakrya, director of human rights and legal aid at Adhoc, said ordering people to demand money from the CNRP was irresponsible.

“If the government cannot make enough revenue to support people, it should explain this, he said.

Political analyst Chea Vannath’s said the prime minister appeared to be returning to political attack mode despite telling the opposition he wanted to cooperate.

“Earlier [Hun Sen] announced to the nation that now we have a new culture, a culture of dialogue and productivity rather than verbal attacks and sarcasm,” she said. “Things like this appear to be against what he is preaching.”

She urged him to have a more “productive, open-minded” approach, saying he could have discussed, rather than attacked, the CNRP’s $10 pension proposal.

“Even if they don’t have the budget, it’s an idea to discuss later on to see if there is any possibility to start in the future, which is something that’s going to benefit the CPP .”

“I would rather the PM play the role model for a long-lasting culture of dialogue.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING SHAUN TURTON

MOST VIEWED

  • Kingdom may hire Turkish power ship

    Cambodia is considering negotiating with Turkey to hire a 200MW-capacity power ship to meet electricity demands as the country faces an ongoing electrical shortage, according to the prime minister. Speaking to garment workers in Pursat province on Wednesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Electricite du

  • Woman who scaled Cambodia’s three highest peaks eyes Everest

    One of the very few Cambodian women to have successfully reached the Kingdom’s three highest peaks is now eyeing Malaysia’s tallest mountain, Mount Kinabalu, and potentially even the world’s tallest straddling Nepal and China, Mount Everest. While in many Western countries it

  • Cheap, clean and efficient: The firm leading Cambodia’s solar revolution

    Sitting in her bright and airy 17th floor office, Rithya Menon, Okra Smart Solar’s lead firmware engineer, checks the frequently updating data telling her everything about how well their community services are operating. “I saw in the data that there was a problem with

  • PM Hun Sen: Cambodia will not die without EBA scheme

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday reiterated that he would not be overly concerned if Cambodia had its access to the EU’s “Everything But Arms” (EBA) scheme withdrawn because the Kingdom would not die without it. Hun Sen was speaking to factory workers in