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Pilot Project for Disabled in Pailin to Spread

Mom Kunthear / Khmer Times Share:
A Cambodian mine victim watches a volleyball match at a handicap rehabilitation center in Phnom Penh. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Pailin province will be ground zero for a Ministry of Social Affairs’ pilot project that will offer 20,000 riel stipends monthly to poor, disabled citizens, according to ministry officials. The funds will be distributed to citizens for set amounts of time based on their level of disability: the “lightly” disabled will receive the stipend for three months, those judged to be in the “medium” group on the disability spectrum will receive the benefits for six months, and those “severely” disabled will receive the equivalent of $5 monthly for one whole year.
Em Chanmakara, the secretary general of the Disability Action Council at the Ministry of Social Affairs, told Khmer Times yesterday that his Ministry has been advocating for the policy.
“Now, the ministry is starting to pilot this policy in Pailin province, where there are 1,404 disabled people. So far, 232 disabled poor people have received cards. We see that, in this implementation, the minister strongly urged us to complete this first pilot project and in 2016, he pushed to spread this project to another province,” he said.
Mr. Chanmakara said that so far, the Ministry of Social Affairs is still learning how to best execute their project and has not yet decided on the size their total fund. They need to determine exactly how many people in Pailin qualify as disabled and poor and can therefore access the funds, for one. Provincial officials also currently lack the training to screen and assist those citizens who do qualify.
“The Minister of Social Affairs wants to expand the policy to other provinces in the eastern part of country. So, we will study those provinces, how many provinces there are and what they are,” Mr. Chanmakara said.
According to Mr. Chanmakara, the Ministry is working closely with provincial authorities and the Social Affairs department in each province and also with the National Institute of Statistics in order to grasp the number of disabled and poor citizens in Cambodia. He mentioned that in order to judge citizens, the Ministry of Health will also need to help them.
“Both ministries will cooperate with each other in order to judge disabled people, and what level of disability they have, serious or medium or light. So, we demand the cooperation of the Ministry of Social Affairs, Ministry of Health as well as the authorities,” said Mr. Chanmakara.
He said that providing aid to the disabled poor people in these communities will improve their living standards. While the funds they will receive are not large, it is a starting point and indication of the government’s commitment to the disabled and poor, he said.
Currently, there are more than 500,000 disabled people in Cambodia.
“For all disabled people who are poor and without hope, the ministry will provide for them based on government policy. We are not discriminating against disabled people. If they are poor and disabled, we will set up policy for them immediately,” Mr. Chanmakara said.
The policy, however, is not meant to be a life-long support system, he added, but a temporary assistance measure. “It will not help them forever.”
Social Affairs Minister Vong Soth said in an annual meeting yesterday that this year, he ordered the service to spread out to provinces in eastern parts of the country, but he will not know whether that plan will come to fruition until the results of the Pailin pilot project are compiled.
He explained that the way by which citizens collect their stipends is by presenting “cards,” which they receive when their disability level is judged.
“This is our responsibility,” he said.

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