Military officials have been docking money from armed personnel salaries for “emergency funds,” military staff said last week.
Rin Pin, who has been in the Navy since 1993, said that, for the last five years, his 90,000 riel monthly salary (about $22) has been cut by 2,000 riel.
“The Defense Ministry cuts 2,000 riel from my monthly salary,” he said. “My commander claims it is for the Cambodian Red Cross to help poor people.”
Rin Pin works at the Phnom Penh Naval headquarters, located near the Chroy Changva bridge in Russei Keo district. He said he is told to pay the money by his superior officers.
“I do not know for sure if [the money] really goes to the Cambodian Red Cross,” Rin Pin said. “[My] commanders said my salary is cut by the Defense Ministry to help poor people and fight famine.”
General Meas Sophea, who is in charge of the infantry, confirmed that he took money from soldiers’ pay. “We take between 1,000 and 2,000 riel from each soldier,” he said. “It is very small in comparison with the police.” Soldiers call the deduction “money for emergency help,” he said.
General Meas Sophea defended the deduction, saying that it is used to support soldiers and their families in a time of national need. “Currently the government does not have the funds to support them,” he said.
Prince Sisowath Sirirath, co-minister of defense, denied that the ministry was involved in docking soldiers’ wages. “The Defense Ministry and the ministry’s finance department have no principle to cut soldiers’ salaries,” he said. ‘It’s not true; it’s just an accusation.”
One three-star RCAF general said he had received numerous complaints from soldiers about pay deductions.
Their commanders reported that they had taken money to help pay for dead soldiers and their families, the general said. “But some commanders do not actually take the money for these reasons,” the general said. “They use it to assist political parties when the election is coming.”