Thousands of Young Hopefuls Sit Military Entrance Exam

As more than 3,000 young people from across the country took the military entrance exam Sunday, vying for just 620 positions in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), Hun Manet, a senior defense official and the prime minister’s eldest son, vowed to eliminate “irregularities” within the exam process.

After more than 2,000 prospective military personnel began the exam at Phnom Penh’s Bak Touk High School on Sunday morning, Lieutenant General Manet told reporters that hundreds more candidates were also taking the test at centers in Stung Treng, Siem Reap, Battambang and Kampot provinces.

Among those sitting the exam, the military plans to enlist 120 active service officers, 250 infantry soldiers and 250 reserve soldiers, he said.

“A career as a soldier is important. You are leading other forces and sometimes face danger,” said Lt. Gen. Manet, who has been at the forefront of a recent campaign encouraging young people to pursue military professions.

The exam turnout suggested that the campaign—which ran until mid-November and included patriotic television spots and information booths set up in well-trafficked areas of Phnom Penh—has paid off. According to Lt. Gen. Manet, 43 percent more candidates sat the exam this year than last.

The integrity of RCAF’s recruiting process was called into question this year when two military officers employed by the National Defense University were charged with fraud and sentenced to a year in prison in October for accepting a $10,000 bribe to process applications for three young men.

Unlike the Education Ministry, which has enlisted the Anti-Corruption Unit it its efforts to eliminate bribery from the grade 12 national exam, the Defense Ministry is putting the onus on the public to prevent similar “irregularities,” Lt. Gen. Manet said Sunday.

“We…appeal regularly [to the public], at the stage of submitting applications and also after the exam. We follow and question the candidates and appeal to the parents and the public that knows about irregularities to inform our committee in order for us to work and take action if the case is true,” he said.

Interviewed at Bak Touk High School on Sunday, some test takers said the level of competition among them, and the appeal of jobs in the military, made them wary of the temptation for officials to tamper with the results.

“If there is any corruption, I plead for help [from the government] in stopping this problem from happening, because when officials do this, the people with real knowledge do not get a position,” said Chim Makara, 23, a university student from Takeo province.

Kouy Pha, 20, who works transporting rice, said he was inspired to join the military both out of duty to his nation and a desire for free schooling and accommodation. He also expressed concern about the potential for unfair results.

“I am worried that someone might be accepted because of their connections and it will affect the candidates that have abilities,” he said.

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