RCAF Commander-in-Chief Ke Kim Yan said that the Cambodian military plans to shed 40,000 soldiers, reducing troop strength to around 70,000, Chinese state-run media reported Monday.
The Xinhua news agency reported that Ke Kim Yan made the massive troop reduction plan known to Liang Guanglie, the Chinese military’s chief of general staff, who arrived in Phnom Penh Saturday and departed Tuesday.
However Pol Saroeun, RCAF deputy commander-in-chief, said by telephone Tuesday that the report was wrong.
Pol Saroeun said that he did not know what Ke Kim Yan said to the Chinese military chief, but insisted that the report of 40,000 soldiers losing their jobs was wrong.
“It is not true,” Pol Saroeun said.
Pol Saroeun added that he could not reveal the exact number of troops the government plans to demobilize, stating that such information was “secret work.” He declined further comment.
Defense Minister Tea Banh said by telephone that all questions should be directed to Ke Kim Yan, who was unavailable for comment Tuesday.
SRP lawmaker Yim Sovann, chairman of the National Assembly commission dealing with national defense, said that Defense Ministry Secretary of State Hak Savuth had told him about the troop reduction in early September.
“The deputy minister told me that the government had decided to demobilize 40,000 soldiers,” Yim Sovann said.
The majority of those being removed from the books were those that had already died, were too old for service or had received injuries that kept them from duty, he said.
The demobilization would take place over the next two years, he added.