Organizations Push for Employment of Disabled Persons in Provinces

Local and international organizations on Tuesday marked International Day of Persons With Disabilities by calling on the government to extend its efforts to employ more disabled people beyond Phnom Penh’s environs.

A sub-decree attached to the government’s Disability Law, enacted in July 2009, states that the staff of all government agencies must include a quota of at least 2 percent disabled persons—a goal to be reached within five years.

Speaking to a crowd of more than 250 disabled people outside Phnom Penh’s Chenla Theater on Tuesday, Ngin Saorath, executive director of the Cambodian Disabled People’s Organization, said that the quota was well on its way to being met in Phnom Penh, but that provincial and district government agencies were lagging behind.

“We have seen great progress in Phnom Penh, and we believe that the target will be met by the deadline,” Mr. Saorath said.

“But we are motivated to increase the rate of employment in the provinces because that is where the majority of disabled people are,” Mr. Saorath said.

Mr. Saorath told reporters later that 1.85 percent of all government employees in Phnom Penh have a disability, but that “very few” disabled people work in provincial governments.

“The law is the law, and I am confident that all people in the provinces are aware of it. But with the [July 2014] deadline now coming close, they need to act or they will be fined,” he added.

In a letter dated December 2, Prime Minister Hun Sen reiterated the government quotas on disabled workers, and urged the private sector, which the sub-decree states should have 1 percent disabled staff, to also move toward the goal before the July deadline.

Minister of Social Affairs Ith Sam Heng, who is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the government’s employment of disabled persons, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Srey Vanthon, country director for ADD International, a U.K.-based NGO that works with disabled people, said Cambodia needs to enforce the law.

“The government has moved beyond talk of charity and handouts and into talk about rights and inclusion. But we need better enforcement of national policy to ensure things like access ramps are built on all new buildings,” he said, referring to Article 21 of the Disability Law.

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