Disabled people for the first time will be eligible to receive a disability pension under a new sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on June 27.
The new Policy for Poor Disabled People establishes provincial committees to administer a pension of 20,000 riel, or about $5, per month to seriously disabled, elderly disabled and seriously injured people living below the poverty line without full time jobs.
This is the first time disabled non-veterans will be entitled to receive any monetary benefit from the government.
“We need to say congratulations to the government and congratulations to the people of Cambodia,” said Yi Veasna, executive director of the National Center of Disabled Persons at the Ministry of Social Affairs. “This is an important step in implementing the Disability Law.”
The Disability Law was enacted in 2009 and provides a framework for disability rights for the country’s approximately 2.2 million people who have some form of disability.
Mr Veasna said yesterday that the new provincial committees would be responsible for developing systems to identify those eligible for the assistance under the sub-decree.
The committees will also direct rehabilitation centers where those eligible will receive a food allowance of 3,000 riel (about 75 cents) and a transport allowance of 10,000 riel (about $2.50) per day. Eligible disabled people referred for medical treatment will receive an additional 30,000 riel (about $7.50) per year.
“Technical committees will provide more detail on how to properly evaluate disabled people,” Mr Veasna said. “This will be for the poorest first, but makes room for more people to be included in the pension system.”
Although there is no set timetable for the government to start paying out disability pensions, Mr Veasna said he expected the system to be fully operational by early 2012.
Currently, the only financial support disabled non-veterans receive is through NGO and charity channels, said Ntin Saorath, Executive Director of the Cambodian Disability People’s Organization.
“This is a good step, a stable step,” Mr Saorath said, adding that $5 per month seemed like a nominal amount but was better than nothing.
“It is not enough for people with disability compared with the inflation in Cambodia,” Mr Saorath said. “Generally, people with disability live on less than $1 a day, which is below the poverty line.”
However, Mr Saorath said the payment of pensions was only part of the solution. “Disabled people need to be able to earn a living by themselves, have a career, be a dignified part of their community.”
Only one in 50 of Cambodia’s disabled people have gainful employment, according to CDPO statistics, Mr Saorath said.
Ros Na, deputy director of the social affairs department in Siem Reap province, said yesterday he had not yet seen the sub-decree. Mr Na agreed $5 a month was a “little” pension, but said: “It can make an improvement and it is better than what they had before.”