Prime Minister Hun Sen urged those who have purchased the documents of disabled veterans in order to collect their pensions to return the papers during a speech at the National Institute of Education yesterday, offering to pay the buyers for returning the ID cards.
The government has long known that some veterans and disabled soldiers sell their identities for a once-off lump sum to people who buy the IDs in bulk and then make a profit by collecting the pensions over time.
Soon after assuming the presidency of the newly established Cambodian Veterans Association in 2007, the prime minister announced that pension payments would from then on flow through local banks in an effort to step the illicit trade.
In yesterday’s speech, however, Mr Hun Sen acknowledged that the practice persists.
“This problem, as I have confirmed with the Ministry [of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation], really takes place,” the prime minister said. “I call on all those who bought the books of disabled veterans, please kindly return them to our disabled veterans, either for free or sell them for a fair price.”
The premier even offered to help buy the veterans’ identities back.
“I think I can contribute to buying the books back,” he said. “I could help with some money to buy them back on behalf of the association and give them back to the real owners.”
Contacted after the speech, Defense Minister Tea Banh said the government had already managed to largely stem the practice by speeding up the pension payment process.
“Before, we had this kind of problem because the payments were quite late,” he said. “There are still some people doing this, but just a small amount.”
SRP spokesman Yim Sovann, however, said disabled veterans continue to sell their identities for one-off payment because they have trouble making the regular trips to pick up their monthly pensions.
“They sell because of the administrative system. They don’t want to spend the time to go and get their pensions,” he said.
In his speech, Mr Hun Sen also urged local authorities to process any land concessions veterans are in line for.
“The land concessions for the veterans are not involved with any [other disputes] and all the cities and provinces have to vigilantly watch the issue to solve the problem,” he said.