Prime Minister Hun Sen has appealed to the Cambodian public and the international community to continue their support for policies to provide the disabled with full rights and access to opportunities.

He made the remarks at the 5th “Asia-Pacific Community-based Inclusive Development Congress”, which is being hosted by Cambodia from March 15-17.

The goal of the conference is combating discrimination and promoting the rights of the disabled.

The conference – held under the theme “Strengthening the Socio-Economic Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities during and after the Covid-19 Pandemic through Community-Based Inclusive Development” – was attended by around 1,000 people on its first day, including delegates and representatives from development partners, civil society, as well as organisations for the disabled and disabled persons from the Asia-Pacific region.

“This conference aims to combat discrimination and promote the rights of the disabled by providing relevant sides with the opportunity to meet and share experiences and address challenges happening in the Asia-Pacific region and set direction for implementation in the future.

“I appeal to the local and international communities to continue to implement the sustainable development goals on disability, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Incheon strategy to provide the disabled with real rights,” Hun Sen stated.

He said the problems and challenges in public health, economies, society and geopolitics are now seriously affecting the general population, particularly the disabled and the vulnerable.

The premier added that with the consideration of the welfare of the disabled, the government has set a two per cent quota to recruit disabled persons into ministries and state institutions according to the labour law and to value the disabled.

The private sector, he said, has also been encouraged to employ the disabled to improve the livelihoods of their family members and provide them with the right to contribute more broadly to socio-economic development.

“I encourage the continuation of strengthening implementation and developing inclusive, effective and wide communities. I appeal for the participation in the implementation of the Jakarta Declaration on the Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities 2023-2032 for the sake of the disabled regionally and globally,” he said.

Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation Vong Soth said at the conference that the problem of disability had attracted global attention, with the rates of the disabled increasing year after year due to a lack of nutrition, ageing populations, hereditary illness and accidents.

Citing the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) report on disability, he said 15 per cent of the world’s population is disabled to some extent. Of that number, the Asia-Pacific had 650 million disabled persons as of 2021 and 700 million in 2022.

According to the Cambodia Socio-Economic Survey 2021 by the National Institute of Statistics (NIS) – under the Ministry of Planning – Cambodia has 872,527 disabled persons, or about 5.3 per cent of the total population.

“The government has ratified the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities and international instruments and put into practice policies and legal documents to strengthen services, promote rights and enhance the quality of life for the disabled,” he said.

Soth noted that in the past year, a total of 3,748 disabled person were recruited into 37 ministries and state institutions. The private sector including banks, micro-finance institutions, hotels and factories have recruited 5,839 disabled persons to uphold the rights of the disabled.

He added that the ministry has provided payments to a total of 19,374 disabled persons and is preparing to provide payments to another 16,489. The government has also established the National Institute for Special Education to educate trainers for the sake of disabled students.

Ghulam Nabi Nizamani, the chairperson of Community-Based Inclusive Development (CBID) AP Network – established in 2019 – said he was convinced that this three-day conference would connect all levels of society and classes to implement and help disseminate information to those who have the role of drawing up policies at the national and sub-national levels, including communities.

“The conference at this time is held to empower all people, especially the disabled during the crisis of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I believe that our fifth conference will be meaningful and successful in making society more inclusive,” he said.

The Asia-Pacific Conference on Disability has been held four times: First in 2009 in Thailand, in 2012 in the Philippines, 2015 in Japan and 2019 in Mongolia.