The Cambodian government spent at least $8 million to provide medical treatment for sick and injured soldiers between 1993 and 1998, according to high-ranking military officials.
Much of the cost was incurred in the fierce fighting between the newly formed government and Khmer Rouge forces in Pailin in 1994, said a RCAF general who asked to remain anonymous.
The costs were particularly high in 1994 because many soldiers were killed and injured, while others contracted malaria, the general said. He said Prime Minister Hun Sen obtained donations of about $1 million to pay for military health care that year, while the government spent an additional $1.5 million.
According to officials at the Preah Ket Melea Military Hospital, figures were not readily available for 1994. A more typical year was 1995, when 2,625 soldiers were injured and a total of 10,935 soldiers were treated for injury or disease.
In years other than 1994, military health care costs borne by the government averaged between $1.3 million and $1.5 million.
Donors have criticized Cambodia for spending too much on the military at the expense of areas such as public health and education. Chum Sambath, undersecretary of state for defense, said Cambodia doesn’t spend much on military health care compared to neighboring countries. And, he said, the country had to spend heavily between 1994 and 1998 to defeat the Khmer Rouge.
Based on government figures that put the army’s ranks at 130,000, the health care costs would average to about $12 per soldier, per year between 1993 and 1998.
Moeung Samphan, director-general of the ministry’s department of logistics and finance, said the defense budget had been $85 million annually up until 1999, but was cut to $80 million for budget year 2000.
“Now, we have no war and no injured soldiers, so the money budgeted for health care has been cut too,’’ Chum Sambath said.
He also noted that in peacetime, soldiers are working to construct roads and bridges at the country’s borders, as well as standing guard at the borders to “protect Cambodian territorial sovereignty.’’