A recruiting process has started in four districts of Oddar Meanchey province that could potentially send thousands of young volunteers to join the military in the border confrontation with Thailand, officials said Wednesday.
“In Anlong Veng, Samraong and Trapaing Prasat [districts], the villagers volunteered to be soldiers, and [in] Banteay Ampil, [they] might be selected by lottery,” said Him Seap, Oddar Meanchey provincial RCAF deputy commander.
Officials said lotteries were organized in Banteay Ampil district only because the number of volunteers surpassed the military’s needs.
“There are 60 young men from the age of 18 to 30 years old who want to join the soldiers [per village], but we need only 15 in each village, so they use the lottery,” said Ouch Sarik, Banteay Ampil district RCAF deputy commander.
He said volunteers just had to register their names, and they would be trained at the district or province military headquarters before being sent to the growing frontline on the Thai border. He added that the length of the men’s engagement with RCAF would depend on the situation at the border.
“[F]ive villages already selected 75 young men to join the army,” said Banteay Ampil District Deputy Governor Chap Phat.
Authorities need 15 volunteers from each of the 72 villages in his district, he added by telephone Wednesday. That comes to 1,080 volunteers for Banteay Ampil district alone, and potentially thousands more as other districts join the recruitment drive.
Anlong Veng District Governor Yim Phanna said a number of young men aged 18 to 30 had registered their names as volunteer troops, though he did not know how many. He said the military planned to select some men out of the district’s 60 villages.
“I need 1,000 soldiers added to Ta Moan temple,” said Nark Vong, RCAF Military Region 4 secretary-general of staff, at the temple.
“I knew that local authorities began selecting the youth in early October, and they will provide weapons or other military equipment,” Nark Vong said.
He added that the young men would be the responsibility of the provincial governor, not the military, until they join the frontline.
Preah Vihear provincial RCAF commander Colonel Som Bopharoath said 20 students were selected to apply for military school in Phnom Penh but not to join the frontline.
“We have no plan to select the youth to join the soldiers because we do not have a subdecree yet,” he said, referring to the conscription law passed by the National Assembly in 2006 but not yet enforced. Under that law, young men aged 18 to 30, with a few exceptions, may be legally obligated to serve 18 months in the military.
Oddar Meanchey Provincial Governor Pich Sokhin declined to comment and said the recruiting program was secret. Defense Ministry Secretary of State Neang Phat said he was too busy to comment.
Chea Morn, RCAF Region 4 military commander, said he was aware of the recruiting drive in Oddar Meanchey but had not examined it yet because he was busy preparing for a meeting with Thai officials in Siem Reap today and Friday to discuss the border dispute.
Siem Reap provincial RCAF commander Khim Bunseng said he would attend the meetings with other provincial commanders.
Meanwhile, in Thailand, the Foreign Affairs Ministry announced in a statement Wednesday that it had selected a chairman for its side of the Joint Border Commission—Vasin Teeravechyan, who was, until recently, Thailand’s ambassador to South Korea.
The Thai House of Representatives is expected to consider next week the negotiating frameworks of provisional arrangements with Cambodia and the JBC, the statement also said. Those steps should improve the Thai government’s ability to negotiate with Cambodia on the border dispute.
In an Oct 14 statement, the Thai Foreign Affairs Ministry explained it feared breaking the Thai Constitution if it negotiated without consulting the legislature.
In Phnom Penh, Phay Siphan, the government’s spokesman on the Preah Vihear dispute, confirmed that Cambodia would complain to Unesco about minor damage done to the temple during the armed confrontation Oct 15.
A rifle-launched grenade or mortar fired from the Thai side exploded near the top of the temple stairway, causing very superficial damage to it, a giant naga sculpture and a stone balustrade.
In a statement Oct 16, Unesco Director-General Koichiro Matsuura expressed “grave concern” for the temple, inscribed on the World Heritage List in June for its “exceptional universal value.”
“The inscription engages the collective responsibility of the international community to ensure [the temple’s] protection,” he wrote.
(Additional reporting by Isabelle Roughol)