About 50 people representing 520 villagers from nine districts in Banteay Meanchey province who claim to be disabled soldiers on Monday asked the provincial hall to intervene and request that the government help them get pensions.
Sok Mann, 58, who claimed to be a disabled soldier living in Thma Puok district, said yesterday that the 520 people were former soldiers who became disabled during the civil war of the 1990s, but their names have never been included in the list of monthly pensions like other disabled soldiers.
“I lost one of my legs due to a mine explosion when I was sent in 1996 to protect the border at Dangrek mountain in Banteay Meanchey province’s Thma Puok district,” Mr Mann said yesterday.
“I went to the provincial hall because I wanted to ask the governor to be aware and ask the government to help us because Mr Hun Sen has said that no disabled people should be left behind to die with nothing to eat.”
Keo Dara Reaksmey, director of the provincial hall’s inter-sector office, said that those people had already once asked for intervention in early 2017, and that provincial officials forwarded their petition to the Ministry of Defence.
Mr Dara Reaksmey said the ministry had also replied, saying that those people were not qualified enough to meet the criteria as disabled soldiers.
“The Ministry of Defence has already responded to them through the provincial administration, and the provincial level has no duty because the Ministry of Defence has already evaluated and determined who are veterans and who are not, and we have informed them already,” he said.
In May 2017, the Ministry of National Defence sent a letter to the provincial governor, saying that the 520 people could not be recognised as veterans.
The letter noted that no directive or order was issued by the government to consider those who protested as disabled soldiers eligible for pensions.
Chhum Sucheat, Defence Ministry spokesman, said he was unclear whether the people who protested on Monday were really disabled soldiers.
Mr Sucheat said that if they did not have proper documents to certify their seniority from their units or authorities, they were unable to get pensions.
“In general, if they do not have proper documents certified and issued by their old units, it is a bit difficult for them,” he said. “So, they have to fill in the documents as required by the law because it is the state that requires them to have clear proof.”
Soum Chankea, provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, said that provincial authorities should submit their request to the Ministry of Defence to review it again because they claimed they were former veterans who got injured while defending the country.
“This is a message to inform the government about their plights. Normally, those disabled soldiers are the people who defended the country,” Mr Chankea said. “The state institutions should not abandon or ignore them.”