A GROUP of young Cambodians in Prey Veng province, concerned over the plight of the elderly in their commune who have no family to look after them, have built what they say is the Kingdom's first retirement centre.
"I think that most elderly people in Cambodia face a lot of problems when they get older - especially those who have no families or their family is very poor," said Kim Vuthy, the 25-year-old project manager of the NGO Cambodia Retirement Village in Kagn Chhreach's Chong Ampil commune.
He said he hoped that the project would serve as a model for other efforts to care for Cambodians with no family to rely on for support.
"We will provide them accommodation, food, basic medical care," Kim Vuthy said.
"We think about them as if they were our parents or grandparents, so we have to look after them. We should treat them well before they pass away," he added.
The centre has been built to house 12 people, but Kim Vuthy said he hoped to secure more funding that would allow him to expand.
"I really need help from the government to build a bigger building and to support the everyday operations," he said.
"I hope that we can make a big difference with this village and ensure that elderly people have a roof over their head," he added.
Proud to help
Pho Phal, 51, the chief of Chong Ampil commune, said that he is proud to have the retirement centre in his village.
"There are 125 older people in my village and some of them face hardships because they don't have enough food or medicine, and their children do not care for them," he told the Post.
"They have to earn a living by themselves," he added.
"They cannot go to the pagoda or have free time because they have to take care of their grandchildren," he said.
"I hope that when they have the centre they will be happy and won't face such difficulties."
We think about them as if they were our parents or grandparents.
Thun Saray, executive director of Cambodian rights group Adhoc, said that it was important that the idea for the centre came from the community itself, rather than from an outside organisation - showing that the issue of elderly neglect was starting to be recognised.
"I think it is very good that Cambodian youths had the idea to build the elderly a centre, and this is the first time in Cambodia," he said.
"In Western countries, governments usually help take care of older people, but the Cambodian government usually leaves this to the NGOs to solve," he added.
Prey Veng provincial Governor Ung Samy said he did not know about the retirement home, but that he was happy to support it because he believed it could reduce poverty.
With no social safety nets in place, the elderly are especially vulnerable.