malai district, Banteay Meanchey province – Handicapped former Khmer Rouge soldiers have accused officials in Banteay Meanchey province’s Women’s and Veterans’ Affairs Department of demanding they give up half their pensions before receiving the remainder of money owed to them.
Sun Than, 42, who lost a leg stepping on a land mine in 1990, has not been paid in two years. He said officials in the provincial Women’s and Veterans’ Affairs Department told him that if he wants the money, he must pay out half of his $270 yearly pension.
“I have tried to get my salary for two years,” he said. “If I want to get salary now, I will have to pay them half of my salary,”
Nim Sophet, deputy director of the provincial department, denied the soldiers’ allegations.
“We do not keep their money with us,” he said. “If we do, we will be punished. They should be given more money because it hasn’t [been paid] for years and there’s more interest from it.”
He blamed the ministries of finance and interior for not sending money to his department, despite promises of funds since 2001.
Other handicapped former soldiers said they gave thumb prints to their military commanders after being promised this would result in payment. But they were told to pay $50 for paperwork submitted on their behalf.
“I and my friends gave them thumbprints in 2003…but we have not seen the money,” said former soldier San Luch, who lost his right arm. “We suffered because we fought for our nation…and officials and military commanders still make business on us,” he added.
Some of the former soldiers also sold their identity cards to their commanders because their salaries were too late, and they were desperate for money.