A BOUT 10,000 soldiers of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) are likely to be demobilized next year in the first major step of the government's military reform program.
Co-Minister of Defense Tea Banh said he hoped to shed about 10,000 of the army's 120,000 soldiers.
"The following years we will reduce more and more, if the Khmer Rouge is weakened," he said. "I want my army to be smaller, better, more efficient and professional."
Demobilized soldiers would receive vocational training in areas such as agricultural, technical, mechanical and handicraft skills at eight training centres to be set up.
Tea Banh said the Ministry of Defense had allocated about 600,000 hectares of land for demobilized soldiers throughout the country. Those who wanted to take up farming would receive between half a hectare and one hectare each.
A total of 328 people would soon start six months' training to become vocational skills instructors, to teach those who left the army's ranks.
The minister would not say how much money would be spent on the training centers, nor how much demobilized soldiers would be given to leave the army and undergo training. But he confirmed the money would come out of the extra 40 billion riels (US $16 million) recently allocated to the ministry in the Revised Budget Law.
Tea Banh rejected the suggestion there was any contradiction between the demobilization plan and the government's bid to introduce compulsory conscription.
The Post reported in its last issue that about 30,000 Khmer men are likely to be affected by a draft conscription law, soon to go before the National Assembly, which would require them to serve 18 months in the army, navy or air force.
The minister said conscription would increase the number of Khmer men with military skills, to be called upon to fight if needed, and who could be given vocational training as well.
"Each country has to have soldiers to defend it. (But) conscription does not mean we have to fight and demobilization does not mean we do not have to fight."