CMAC Planning a Mine Museum in Siem Reap

Compulsory military service could bolster national pride and provide a sense of direction to the young, several members of the public said Tuesday, but some questioned whether the government might use increased ranks of soldiers to serve individual interests rath­er than the nation.

The National Assembly’s commission on interior and defense is de­bating a draft law on conscription, but lawmakers disagreed on Mon­day about how many men and women could ultimately be called up for 18 months of national service.

According to a copy of the draft law, anyone who avoids conscription in a time of peace could face three months to two years in prison, while draft dodging in a time of war could merit six months to five years in jail.

“If I am conscripted to be a soldier and to really serve the nation, it is fine. But they do not really protect the country; they defend the party, per­sonal interests and the power of the leadership,” said Chan Savoeun, a 21-year-old unemployed man from Kandal province.

Chan Vanny, 21, who sells sugar cane behind the Royal Palace, said he would be happy to be drafted, but added that he was uncertain if he had the necessary schooling.

“I want to join the army even if I am given a small salary because I need to serve the nation,” he said.

Sok Nath, a 19-year-old student in Phnom Penh, said his father, who fought during the civil war and lost his leg to a land mine, had ad­vised him to steer well clear of the mil­itary.

“He served in the resistance force dur­ing the 1980s and 1990s, he gets nothing, and what he receives is a handicap without any sponsorship from the government,” he said.

Im Socheat, a 29-year-old motorbike-taxi driver, said national leaders claim they are acting patriotically when they go to war, but are ac­cused of betraying the nation and kill­ing people after they are de­pos­ed.

He also expressed concern that of­ficials would use additional soldiers to protect their own financial in­terests.

“I prefer to be a simple person and moto-taxi driver to make money to feed my family rather than to serve those officials and let them make money to buy villas and a very nice car,” he said.



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