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Cambodia Needs Budget For Military Demobilization

The Ministry of Defense's co-Minister said Thursday that, his ministry needs a budget of millions of US dollars to pay lum sum money to thousands of deceased soldiers' families, to demobilize the troops and avoids losing millions of dollars during the current government's five- year term.

Vice Premier and co-Minister of Defense, Mr. Nhek Bun Chhay, from Funcinpec Party told opposition Sam Rainsy Party's legislators during their debate about this ministry's issues, that the ministry still pays salaries in the names of 20,000 soldiers who died in action.

The government will pay the soldiers' wives and children for the next five years, meaning 10 or 12 millions US dollars. He said that his ministry wants to get the money from other sources, but that if the government has the fund, it would reduce the sum to a lesser amount, but that this cannot be done.

Vice Premier and Co-minister of Defense, Mr. Tea Banh from the CPP, said that the Ministry of Defense tries to demobilize 16,500 soldiers in 2000-2001, by spending 42 millions US dollars, and borrowing 18 millions dollars from the World Bank.

He said that the government cannot demobilize the soldiers completely, and it only did so up to July, on a monthly basis. There are 112,773 soldiers, and recently there is an additional of 987 soldiers.

He added that sometimes, the government pulls the money from other sources, but it is not enough to cover the need. Mr. Nhek Bun Chhay says that now, there are many soldiers, compared to a population of 13 millions, and that the government cannot take care of them financially. He added that this amount is more than Cambodia needs.

The World Bank postponed its loan to Cambodia for troop demobilization due to corruption, during the bidding, thus making Cambodia lose 2 million dollars which the World Bank makes this country pay back, which she did.

Sam Rainsy Party's member of parliament, Mr. Keo Remy, said that the postponing of a loan for troop demobilization is not a real issue if the co-ministers of defense clarify with the loan donor about their goals, showing transparency, so that the World Bank can trust the Cambodian government again.

NGOs officials said that the troop demobilization's acitivities are not clerly defined, and this hinders the troop demobilization's effort. He said that the government should change its past practice.