King Honored on Elderly Day Aimed to Spur Return to ‘Year Zero’

Second Prime Minister Hun Sen took the occasion of Inter­national Older Persons Day to praise the nation’s most prominent senior citizen: King Noro­dom Sihanouk, 75.

“Recalling that this is Inter­national Day of Older Persons, this royal government, Cambo­dian citizens, my wife and I would like to take this opportunity to express heartfelt gratitude for the achievements of His Majesty King Norodom Sihanouk, the father of the nation,” Hun Sen wrote in a statement Thursday.

Speaking in general, Hun Sen said Cambodia’s elderly deserve to be treated with re­spect in ac­cordance with ancient tradition.

“In the thousands of years of history of Cambodia, all that we preserve is because of the wisdom, teachings and achievements of our ancestors and older persons, [ranging from] monarchs, officials, soldiers, priests and ordinary people,” he said.

“The Khmer culture and thought have always embodied the word ‘respect’…and giving respect and gratitude to the elderly gives morality to the younger generation.”

However, officials said Thurs­day that shortage of funds keeps the government from providing adequate services to the elderly.

Suy Sem, secretary of state in the ministry of social affairs, la­bor, and veterans’ affairs, said the government lacks funds and facilities, but has given some limited support, such as rice donations.

Thursday was International Older Persons Day, celebrated by the ministry and the UN Development Program. Next year, 1999, is International Year of Older Persons.

Suy Sem suggested that communes and villages should establish their own networks to help the elderly who do not have families to look after them.

“Communities should organize themselves to have elderly associations to enable them to help each other,” he wrote in a speech read by Hong Them, the ministry’s undersecretary of state.

Cambodia’s average life expec­tancy is 51.6 years, according to a 1998 UNDP report, making Cam­bodia’s elderly population here one of the youngest in the world.




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