malai district, Banteay Meanchey province – Several handicapped former RCAF soldiers have accused provincial officials of confiscating portions of their long-awaited pension checks.
“I am happy to get it, but I am disappointed because they took [$30] from each of us,” handicapped former soldier Soun Phall said Wednesday. “They told us not to tell other people about this.”
Soun Phall said he hadn’t received a pension check since 2002 but when the money finally came through on Wednesday, he was surprised to find that $30 had been taken from his $250 pension.
Soun Phall said he was told the money was taken by officials in Banteay Meanchey’s Women’s and Veterans’ Affairs Department in compensation for the officials’ “hard work to try to get salaries.”
Three other handicapped former soldiers, who asked not to be named for fear they would be paid late again, said by telephone last week that $25 had been deducted from their pensions. They did not want to forgo the money, but it had already been deducted from their pay, they said.
In early January, a number of handicapped former soldiers accused department officials of demanding they give up half of their pensions before they would receive the remainder of the money owed to them. Other handicapped former soldiers also said they had not been paid in years.
Deputy Director of the Women’s and Veterans Affairs Department Nim Sophet denied that money was withdrawn from the men’s pensions.
He added that more than 160 handicapped former soldiers have received their pensions since being demobilized in 2002.
“We apologized to them for being so late,” Nim Sophet said. “We had a talk to encourage them to continue working in their life and development in society.”
Last month, he blamed the ministries of finance and interior for not sending money to his department, despite promises of funds since 2001.