Lawmaker: Army ‘Recruitment’ Deserves Scrutiny

SRP lawmaker and party spokes­man Son Chhay on Tuesday wrote to Defense Minister Tea Banh seeking an investigation into military recruitment methods that may be improper and to put an end to any such irregularities.

Of particular concern are alleged cases where people are being effectively conscripted into the military, and a practice whereby officials raise mo­ney from villagers to give re­­cruitment bonuses to those who en­list, Son Chhay wrote in his letter.

“I would like to inform Deputy Prime Minister Tea Banh to examine improper actions of forcibly re­cruiting soldiers in some areas such as in [Kompong Thom pro­vince’s] Baray district, which goes against Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen’s advice not to forcibly conscript people,” Son Chhay wrote.

He went on to say that local officials are also seeking donations of 2,000 to 10,000 riel from families to not send their sons off to serve.

Speaking by telephone Tuesday, Son Chhay said that families have complained that they had to hand over the cash or risk having members of their own family recruited. Local officials collecting the donation say that it is going to new re­cruits as a bonus, Son Chhay said.

“I am concerned that this will create a burden for the poor,” he said. “The Ministry of Defense must in­vestigate and stop it.”

Tea Banh could not be reached for comment, but Kompong Thom Provincial Governor Nam Tun said that officials in his province have only recruited willing volunteers.

He said villagers have been do­nat­ing money to support the newly enlisted troops, which helps make up for government budget shortfalls, but he said there is no official order to raise money from villagers.

“It is our culture to raise money to motivate [the new recruits],” Nam Tun said. “We are raising money to buy them food and for transportation expenses-this is the Khmer habit.”

But according to Phat Bun Pheap, SRP commune chief of Ba­ray district’s Chraloang commune, orders have been passed down from the provincial and district authorities to collect money from families that don’t contribute new soldiers to the military’s ranks.

“There is no written order, but every commune has collected [money],” he said, adding that the authorities fear that if they don’t generate bonus money for new recruits, nobody will join the army.

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