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Publicity Gets Disabled Soldiers Face Time with PM

Ven Rathavong and Ros Chanveasna / Khmer Times Share:
Prime Minister Hun Sen points to Pav Reth, a disabled soldier who received a plot of SLC land from the government in Kampot province. KT / Venn Rathavong

The government, spurred on by Prime Minister Hun Sen, gave seven disabled soldiers social land concessions in Kampot’s Chhuk district, Techo Aphivat commune after their life stories were publicized by local media outlets and spread on social media platforms.

The seven soldiers each come from a different province, and many spoke of the hardship they faced after being disabled during the civil war. 

Long De, a 63-year-old former soldier, said that all mass media – including Facebook – plays an important role in uncovering stories that would have gone unheard and unseen without them. 

“After I had attempted to send my documents directly to request an SLC from Samdech Hun Sen, Facebook users spread out my story quickly,” Mr. De said. 

Mr. De was stopped by the police when he tried to introduce himself to Mr. Hun Sen during the inauguration ceremony of the new Chroy Changvar Bridge to no avail. He confirmed that he requested an SLC a number of times since 2010 but never received a response.  

Another former soldier, Pav Reth, said, “Before, I was a disabled street singer in front of the French Embassy in Phnom Penh, because I had no money to feed my family.”

The 52-year-old said he too had requested an SLC in Kampong Thom many times since 2011 but never heard back from ministry officials. 

“I am very happy that Prime Minister Hun Sen currently granted us a new house at Koh Sla disabled and retired soldier center in Chuck district, Kampot province,” Mr. Reth said.

Mr. Hun Sen said that he found out about Mr. Reth because of a story in a local newspaper. Mr. Reth used to sing in civilian clothes, but found that people gave him more money when he wore his old army uniform.

“When he wore an army uniform, the Phnom Penh Post published a story on him, so we found him,” Mr. Hun Sen said. 

Mr. Hun Sen said he discovered Mr. De through Facebook. “That day, I was on Facebook, and some Facebook users said that there was a struggle to meet the prime minister, and they [police officers] did not allow it,” he said. 

Mr. Hun Sen said he immediately ordered his officials to find the man. 

“I am thankful for all Facebook users that those people helped to reveal my suffering,” Mr. De said. “If there was no mass media, my story of suffering would never have made it to Samdech Hun Sen.” 

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