Around 500 RCAF soldiers based in Pailin province complained to their senior officers late last month over deductions made to their February salaries, according to RCAF officials and a rights group.
Soldiers at the provincial RCAF base were deducted between $7 and $9.50 from their February salary, said Vath Chao Tol, RCAF commander of Pailin town.
“The deduction was made without reasonable or prior declaration,” he said by telephone Wednesday. “The soldiers were too angry for having their low wages deducted.”
“Those privates and officers stationed along the border to protect Cambodia’s territory should not have had their low wages deducted,” Vath Chao Tol added.
RCAF provincial commander Prak Sakhan said by telephone Wednesday that he ordered RCAF finance officials to deduct the money from his soldiers’ salaries in order to pay a bill of $3,700 owed to a private contractor for the construction of military camps along the border.
“To return the debt is our responsibility, which is why I issued a directive for their small contribution,” he said, adding that he did not think that the soldiers would react the way they did.
However, Prak Sakhan said, he and other RCAF officials met Tuesday and decided to return the money deducted from the troops.
“Now [the soldiers] oppose, so I need to return the deducted money,” he said, adding that his actions were “not concerned with corruption or for personal interest.”
The wage deductions come after the government already delayed payment of February salaries to tens of thousands of members of Cambodia’s armed forces.
Choun Makara, provincial monitor for local rights group Adhoc, said the deduction, coming after a pay delay, have demoralizes soldiers tasked with keeping the nation secure.
“Any irregular deduction of wages without reasonable notice, can be perceived as corruption,” he said.