More than 500 new soldiers are finishing their training today after they joined the military—willingly or not—in a wave of recruitment in Oddar Meanchey province, and more might join them soon, RCAF officials said Thursday.
The men were trained for about a month and a half, and a ceremony celebrating the completion of their training will be held in the provincial capital Sunday, said Kol Vorn, RCAF deputy commander in Banteay Ampil district, who was one of the officers in charge of the men’s training.
“I trained more than 500 new soldiers in Oddar Meanchey province from four districts after they did a lottery and took volunteers to join the military in December for the first step,” Kol Vorn said.
After Sunday’s ceremony, some will join units at the border and others will stay at district headquarters, he added.
Amid last year’s standoff with the Thai army at the border, men aged 18 to 30 living near the frontier with Thailand were selected to join the military based on an Oct 18 order from Ke Kim Yan, the recently removed RCAF commander in chief.
The order demanded the recruitment and training of 1,100 new soldiers in the province in three waves finishing Jan 31, April 30 and July 31.
Though the order did not say the men could be forcibly drafted, local officials organized obligatory lotteries when they could not find enough volunteers. In at least one village in Kok Morn commune, which reporters visited in November, two-thirds of the new recruits said they were unwillingly selected.
Commune chief Ourn Vy confirmed Thursday they had all nonetheless joined the army.
More recruiting might begin in March, Kol Vorn said.
“They might be selected by volunteering, and if it is not enough, a lottery could be used for recruitment,” he said.
RCAF Military Region 4 Deputy Commander Pov Heng confirmed the next phase of recruitment could start in March, though he said plans weren’t set yet and he declined to comment further.
“I do not know yet how many will be recruited, and we have not taken any steps to recruit, but it is open,” he said.