Gov’t Prepares Subdecree on Military Draft

Compulsory service in the Cam­bodian military has inched a step closer to becoming a reality with the completion of a government sub-decree on conscription, officials said Thursday.

The sub-decree will allow a 2006 law on conscription, enacted over opposition protests and complaints from youth groups, to come into force.

Defense Ministry officials said Thursday that the completed draft sub-decree on conscription is currently being reviewed by the ministry’s Military Council, a policy planning body headed by Minister of Defense Tea Banh.

Once approved by the council, the sub-decree will be sent to the Council of Ministers for review and promulgation.

Tea Banh could not be reached for comment, but Nguon Sam, dir­ector of the Defense Ministry’s legislation department, said by telephone that the government did not anticipate drafting large numbers of people.

The armed forces will first induct volunteers and allow deferments on grounds such as continuing education, Nguon Sam said, adding that call-ups will not be carried out by force.

“We will conscript only a small number of youths, we don’t know how many people exactly,” he said.

“We are not conscripting youths forcibly. There are many conditions,” Nguon Sam added.

Numbers of draftees will be subject to budget proposals the ministry will submit to the Finance Ministry, Nguon Sam said.

Ministry of Defense Secretary of State Neang Phat said the military would need to discharge those reaching the mandatory retirement age of 65 before adding more service personnel.

“We must release personnel reaching retirement age before we conscript people,” he said, declining further comment.

It remained unclear when the first call-ups could occur or how many draftees between the ages of 18 and 30 will be inducted into RCAF.

Deputy National Assembly Pres­ident Nguon Nhel said that through conscription the government is seeking to ensure the country’s defenses in the future.

“We want to protect our territory in the long term,” he said. “We conscript people. We aren’t waging war or invading other countries,” Nguon Nhel added.

SRP leader Sam Rainsy said Thursday that Cambodia is at peace and the government intends to use conscription to hide high un­employment levels.

“The government wants to hide unemployment. This is not the people’s choice. The government has failed to manage a good economy,” Sam Rainsy said. “We are at peace. We have enough soldiers,” he added.

Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said Thursday that he was concerned that conscription could lead to extortion of poor draft­ees seeking to avoid military duty.

“This should be on a volunteer basis,” he said. “It is a concern that the implementation could affect only the poor…and could provoke corruption.”

Related Stories

Latest News

The Weekly DispatchA new weekly newsletter from The Cambodia Daily delivering news, analysis and opinion to your inbox. Published every Friday at 11:30am. Sign up today.