Amid struggles by the Cambodian Veterans Association to live up to its pension obligations, Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered the minister of social affairs and the minister of finance to provide roughly $1.5 million to alleviate the issue ahead of the Pchum Ben holiday.
Hun Sen, who also heads the CVA, said yesterday at the National Institute of Education he was shocked by revelations at the group’s congress on Tuesday that 1,523 members’ families had not been provided for.
“This surprised me. I call for an urgent solution for them before Pchum Ben,” the premier said. “This issue must be addressed by the Ministry of Social Affairs, to give pensions to the families of those veterans that have sacrificed themselves for the nation.”
The prime minister also claimed that on average, 150 veterans below the age of 60 are dying per month.
He also urged government officials and humanitarian aid workers to lend a hand to veterans – especially those who are disabled.
Article 35 of the CVA’s statute says that the association’s funding source is derived from member contributions, charitable contributions, local and international NGOs and the government.
According to the Ministry of Social Affairs, as of June 2015, Cambodia is home to 87,285 veterans, along with 140,528 dependents.
Sim Chhin, a 60-year-old veteran who served during the Khmer Rouge era who is missing a leg and suffers from throat cancer, said in an interview yesterday that he lost his leg in 1978 after stepping on an active landmine while he was serving the regime at the time.
However, he has not seen a cent for his service.
“I asked the commune chief, and they told me that I was [a] veteran before 1979 and . . . would therefore not be funded,” Chhin, who hails from Tbong Khmum’s Aekpheap Village, located in Chiro commune, Tbong Khmum district. “I wondered, ‘Why?’ I was also working to save the country. It’s just that I suffered my accident before ’79.”
Under the “win-win” policy of Hun Sen that saw the last of Khmer Rouge lay down their arms in the 1990s, veterans serving under that regime are entitled to the same benefits as current government soldiers.
Chhin added that he lived off of the work of his family, who are farmers.
“Until now, nobody cared about me. I have never received any pension,” he said. “I hope Hun Sen helps me, too.”