Experts Say Gov’t All Talk, No Action on Support for Disabled

Marking the Cambodian Day of Persons with Disabilities on Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Men Sam An encouraged all government ministries to make an effort to employ more people with disabilities, though experts say the government should be more proactive.

Around 1,000 people, including more than 900 with disabilities, gathered at the National Institute for Education in Phnom Penh, where Ms. Sam An gave a speech advocating greater employment opportunities for the disabled.

Attendees leave the National Institute for Education in Phnom Penh on Monday after an event to mark the Cambodian Day of Persons With Disabilities. (Jens Welding Ollgaard/The Cambodia Daily)
Attendees leave the National Institute for Education in Phnom Penh on Monday after an event to mark the Cambodian Day of Persons With Disabilities. (Jens Welding Ollgaard/The Cambodia Daily)

“All of the state’s ministries and institutions must enable disabled people who have the ability to exercise their right to work without discrimination,” said Ms. Sam An, adding that facilities such as parking lots should be improved to make public buildings more accessible.

However, Ngin Saorath, executive director of the Cambodian Disabled People’s Organization, said that although he supported the deputy prime minister’s sentiments, people with disabilities needed more tangible support from the government.

“They agree only in front of others. We don’t see any commitment from the budget to help with infrastructure,” he said.

Previous promises, such as the 2011 sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen allocating a $5 monthly pension to seriously disabled people, have gone unmet, according to Mr. Saorath.

“This pension is already allocated, but the government has not yet implemented the scheme…. Nobody has received the pension,” he said.

The government has also failed to meet quotas meant to be fulfilled by July 2014 stipulating that all state institutions hire at least 2 percent disabled people, Mr. Saorath added.

According to Mr. Saorath, people with disabilities now hold around 1.75 percent of state positions, though the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of the Royal Palace are exempt from the quota.

“This number is not enough. Even though they are now saying it will be 2 percent of people by 2016, there are many more people with disabilities,” Mr. Saorath said.

Vivath Chou, the World Health Organization’s technical officer for disability and rehabilitation in Cambodia, said differences in terminology and interpretation have made it difficult to accurately determine the percentage of disabled people in the country.

Although the National Cambodian Demographic and Health Survey, which was conducted by the Ministry of Planning and the Ministry of Health in 2014, estimated that 2.1 percent of the population was disabled, only people with severe and easily visible disabilities were counted, Mr. Chou said.

He said it was important for the government to improve its data collection process to recognize people with milder disabilities who might also be in need of assistance. The true proportion of Cambodians with a disability, he said, was probably closer to 15 percent.

Contacted on Monday afternoon for comment, Social Affairs Minister Vong Sauth referred questions to ministry spokesman Toch Channy, who could not be reached.

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