NA Commission Debating Conscription Law

The National Assembly’s commission on interior and defense is debating a draft law on military conscription, but lawmakers disagreed Monday on how many men and women could ultimately be called up for 18 months of national service.

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Yim So­vann, who is chair of the commission, said that under the draft, about 3 million Cambodians be­tween the age of 18 and 30 would be eligible for conscription from 2007 to 2008.

“It’s a big number of soldiers and it will be an expensive burden on the government’s military spending,” he said.

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said the proposed law merely de­fines the draft age and would not re­quire the conscription of all people aged 18 to 30.

“They will just be standing by [if] the country goes to war,” he said. “Not all will be conscripts.”

Cheam Yeap said he did not know how many people would be con­scripted under the draft.

“When we have this law, we will be able to call on all people to serve and defend the nation,” he said. “Without it, we can’t conscript them into RCAF.”

Yim Sovann said his commission re­ceived the draft law in December 2004 and that it could be ready for a vote at the Assembly next year.

He said consideration of the law was proceeding slowly as Cam­bo­dia was a poor country and poor peo­ple could ill afford military service.

“If their children are conscripted in­to the military, they will lose in­come from their children,” he said.

Conscription could also mean that the wealthy would pay bribes to spare their children from national service, he added.

Chum Sambath, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Defense, said that Cambodia’s armed forces are getting too old and the nation needs fresh blood to fill the ranks.

“We have more old soldiers right now and we need to have young men to replace them,” he said.

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