The army needs $70 million in international money to carry out a demobilization program delayed since last year’s factional fighting, RCAF Chief of General Staff Ke Kim Yan said this week.
Ke Kim Yan said Tuesday that 30 percent of the armed forces needs to be cut and retrained, but that the government can only pay for a 10 percent reduction.
For the rest, he said, Cambodia will need international aid.
“We cannot lay them off without giving something back to them,” Ke Kim Yan said Tuesday. “If we don’t [retrain], it will create social problems.”
The three-star CPP general also said the RCAF has taken on an additional 20,000 Khmer Rouge defectors since 1993. Defense co-Minister Tea Banh on Wednesday said that 148,000 troops are on the armed forces’ payroll.
However, military analysts and diplomats estimate the number is less than 100,000 and say Cambodia needs to adopt a peacetime philosophy and practice.
Analysts believe that the RCAF payroll is inflated by “ghost” soldiers—dead or deserted soldiers whose pay is still claimed by low-level commanders.
The government developed a demobilization plan in 1995 and 1996 with technical advice from the World Bank. It was to have been implemented last year.
The plan was stalled by cuts in German financial assistance after the bloody factional fighting that ousted Funcinpec’s Prince Norodom Ranariddh as first prime minister last year.
However, some aid may resume now that a new coalition government has been formed.
A German Embassy official said Wednesday that demobilization aid will figure prominently into aid discussions he expects to take place early next year.
Ke Kim Yan also raised the issue in a meeting with Bill O’Malley from the Australian Office of National Assessment, an Australian Embassy official said.