More than 100 handicapped ex-soldiers gathered outside the National Assembly Monday to demand annual bonuses in addition to the aid packages they are scheduled to receive in a demobilization ceremony next month.
Some of the protesters threatened to boycott the Nov 25 demobilization event in Kandal province if they do not receive the bonuses from the government beforehand. The soldiers are asking for bonuses that would provide two months’ extra pay for each year of service .
“We are protesting because we want the bonus from our salaries that was promised us by the government,” said Soy Chantha, who lost his right leg in a 1998 land mine accident.
Soy Chantha became a soldier in 1985 when he was yanked from primary school to serve with government forces. He said the money from the demobilization program—about $240—is not enough to help him start a new life. “I want the money to help move my family back to their native village,” he said.
Som Soeun, 52, said if he and his people are not paid, they will not ride on the truck taking them from the Phnom Penh military hospital to the ceremony.
Many said they were afraid they would never see the bonuses because of reports that demobilized soldiers in Kampong Thom never received the bonuses they were promised.
Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Cheam Channy advised the protesters to go to the Council of Ministers. Once there, one of the protesters submitted a request asking Prime Minister Hun Sen to intervene in the matter.
Defense Ministry officer Kim Sovan appeared later to assure the soldiers that his ministry had not forgotten them. He said the proposal for the bonuses had already been submitted to the Ministry of Finance.
“Our minister promised he would not lose a cent of your money—you will get it all,” he told the protesters.