In relation to the issue of district armed forces
Previously we have used the terms regular troops, regional forces and militia, which means we have three different types of armed forces. The regular army was then taken to mean those armed forces under a military region, directly subordinated to the General Staff. It was also called then as the central armed forces. The regional forces included those at the provincial and district levels. As far as the militia is concerned, we refer to those who are at the local levels.
Subsequently, we demobilized the militia, after we signed the Paris Peace Agreement, if I am not mistaken, that was recorded to be 240,000 of them at the time. There had been various points of thoughts and views in relation to the demobilization of the militia. Some thought the demobilization would make it difficult for our recruitment into the regular armed forces as they considered that the militia was a reserve number. Another opinion then expressed was that if the militia was to be allowed to exist, it would create so many difficulties at the local level when we put into practice a democratic process.
It was a good thing then that we have put the issue for discussion to figure out its pros and cons. If we look into this issue from a perspective that our country is in war, keeping the militia on the consideration that they could turn to be reserve for national armed forces would no doubt be a good option. But in a democratic process, where an election was to be held afresh, that would not be an option as those forces might be used by one party against the other, whereby violence could be expected incidents at the local levels.
We have so far maintained the armed forces at regular and regional levels. The issue here is how many troops should be reserved as regular forces? And we also have to take note that there are at least three types of regular forces where one of them is under the chief of staff, two others for infantry and other military regions. How many troops should be assigned for the provincial level, with number varying according to size of the province, and the same condition must be applied for district level. We have allowed for maintaining district armed forces on condition of necessity. For example, so far we have permitted for some districts to maintain their armed forces, like in Preah Vihear and Uddar Mean Jei that are bordering with Thailand.
We should take a close look and study as to where such maintenance is necessary and we should not expand this design at all. If we were to increase regional forces, it is indeed a must that we have to decrease the regular force number, and vice versa. That is the only option in terms of number of troops as it is how far our budget reserve would allow.
There had been decisions to reduce the number of armed forces and rearrange them to regional level without my acknowledgement, especially from the military region IV. That is why I have instructed to the Chief of Staff and Minister for National Defense that before making a decision to transfer troops from one place to another, they need to keep me posted. I could not accept it when they mobilize soldiers from local to be concentrated at a certain place without the knowledge of the Prime Minister. I wish you to take note on that.
Take for instance, effort to integrate the brigade 31 into navy force must be implemented by a sub-decree, though it is true that they are being moved under military command. The reason is they are being taken off the list of infantry unit and deck crossing into navy force.
Let me now come back to the issue of maintaining commanding structure of the district armed forces because whenever we need them there we have their commanders ready – be it their Head or Deputy Head of company. Also increasing number of soldiers, even one person, would indeed have a direct relation to financial commitment. I have permitted for a recruitment of some 7000 soldiers in the course of 2008.
We need to decide at some stage as to how many troops need to be maintained at the higher command levels – for instance, what percentage of the total armed forces should be placed under direct command of the Ministry of National Defense and the General Staff. For example the Logistics and Accounting Departments – they seem to be two of a kind when we see that these two offices have been functioning under the line of the Ministry of National Defense and that of the General Staff as well. The two should be merged and only one document would be developed.
Therefore I required that logistics and accounting should be merged to that of the Ministry of National Defense. It is also better that if ever any irregularity is to be noted, it is the Minister of National Defense who will have to answer to the National Assembly, and not the Chief of Staff.
Some Reform Issues
in the RCAF
I have a few issues to bring directly to your attention now. We need to learn of negative developments so that we could go on improving our performances.
Let me share with you the case of Gen. Sum Samnang, who has not implemented my approved 5000 Riels per diem for a new recruit training. He disbursed only half of the ordered amount. If it were not because of HE Tia Banh’s pleadings I would have you removed the following day already. You have given me a disapproved clarification that the other half of the amount is for reserve. Your task is not to do a financial reserve in that matter but that of the Royal Government and me and the Ministry of National Defense. I wish that Gen. Sum Samnang takes full responsibility that per diems for trainees reach them in full and I will follow this matter up.
As for Gen Chao Phirun what has happened now to your arms depots. How many weapons and ammunitions that can be repaired and reused, and that cannot be repaired and used, aside from those on fire in Battambang province? It is in fact the Ministry of National Defense that is entitled to provide and supply military tools and ammunition but because their spirit of responsibility is rather low, in the later stage I have to take the matter in my own hand – starting from reequipping weapons to uniforms and per diems.
I must take my comment out straightforwardly. We had many malfunctioned weapons and lately we have had them repaired and hence better maintained. I am sure now I would not hear from our troops that so and so ammunition does not function anymore. I have had ammunition prepared and stocked for at least several years, if ever there needs to be. And because of a good preparation, brand new producing date, I would not accept incident of ammunition defect.
That is why I have had to take care of thing myself lately as to how much ammunition do we need and how many of them are for where and whom. All brigades have received new weapons and ammunition but also those provincial forces that are at the border areas. I wish that the Ministry of National Defense is taking this issue seriously. There used to be a time when weapons and ammunition are available in the local black market. Because of those incidents in the past that I have ordered that we diversify our stocking ability as to where to store what.
It is also true the case of the navy headquarters at Jroi Jangva, the one that I went for an inauguration of more achievements last week. They have proposed to sell the Navy Headquarters on ground that there are no more Khmer Rouge’s threat. This was the case relating to Gen Choeun Chanthan. After it kept coming to me for a second time, I had that request shredded. How could they come up with such an idea? The Navy Headquarters is there since the French (colonial) time. Even if there is no more threat of the Khmer Rouge, one could not deny the fact that the Navy Headquarters is situated in an excellent location that any rescue mission from water access could be performed in full competence – be it on Tonle Sap or either section of the upper or lower Mekong or Bassac Rivers.
The Don’ts for the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces
This is to be read as point ten in the future direction setting. I have written it myself. The Royal Government of Cambodia is implementing reforms in all fields, the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces is also included. The armed forces have to stay as a strong backing force for other competent authorities to fulfill their tasks that would also include actions against illegal business, smuggling, illegal logging, land encroachment or illegal fishing. However, before they could fulfill these missions, they first have to strictly follow the don’ts rule, which are 1) do not perform these illegal activities and 2) do not provide protection for those who do.
Whatever happened must now be stopped. Soldiers who are to perform illegal business must not be in the military apparatus any more because their presence would harm the image of the armed forces as a whole. Many have taken up uniform to make physical and spiritual efforts but some have taken uniform for the sake of one’s own business. This is a bad example. As a commander or commander in chief, if one is involved in illegal logging, how could one expect that those under command to obey order. Commanders who have encroached hundreds of hectares of land, would so commanders be in effective positions to warn those under command against taking up one or two hectares of land?
That is why I am demanding that all must be serious and back off from all sort of illegal actions. In some instances I agree that there are incidents that so and so fake Colonels or Generals performed those illegal duties. But I am sure that there also are incidents that real Colonels or Generals who committed these acts as well. Now it is time to stop and we need a reverse that will help our reform of the armed forces. We now have to work out together for a plan to provide land for soldiers, retirees, the handicapped, the disabled, and families of deceased soldiers.
I would have your attention to be mighty armed forces or commanders or commander-in-chief should not be involved in illegal actions but in combating with illegal logging, land grabbing and fishing. They should act as a backing force for justice police to take actions because they do not have a mandate to do all this. The army should see it as their duty to help provide intervention to legal actions by forest administration, fisheries and custom house, for example.
Concerning with the above issue, I would like to bring to our attention again on issue of reforms in the forestry sector and land issue because these are life and death issues for the Royal Government of Cambodia. We all have seen that an effective action has been taken against drug. But why logging and transporting of high value logs always find a way around. Usually because they have powerful persons behind, log transport bypasses our authorities. So I place my order today that whoever performs this illegal action and claims to have so and so powerful person behind, s/he must be arrested immediately.
As I have come to this issue of depending on so and so power to conduct illegal business, let me once again remind all of them that whoever claims to have the powerful protection of the Hun’s family, whether it be my children’s or my in-laws’, they would get arrested. There had been a recent incident that someone issued a name card introducing himself as “Special Envoy of Samdech Techo Hun Sen for the District of Mehmot.” In fact we know the man but I never made him my special envoy at all. There have been so many cases so far.
I would seek your understanding and stop any involvement, if you may have, for the sake of our nation’s budget collection, keeping land, forest and fishing resources for many of our generations to come. If you, with the power to prevent and crack down, become the power to do in reverse, you will have our nation destroyed. I have so far rebuked only those who have performed illegal duties but not those with proper businesses.
Also a matter of serious concern too is the fact that some commanders or commander-in-chief have so taken conscripted soldiers to stand guard at personal properties at all. I demand that this must be fixed immediately as we are in need of troops. Take for example as we have been talking about lacking effective soldiers at the district forces. Soldiers are for national defense. They are not for your own property protection. Some have gone too far to also make use of engineering machines of the armed forces for own properties development. I warn that these actions will not be allowed and I would not keep you in position for doing that.
Aside from those in the armed forces, I also have some information about land grabbing by provincial leaders. If it is coming to a level of serious concern I will have your actions echoed on microphone. Today I have brought up some major issues … I am sure all of our commander in chief, deputy commanders in chief, commanders, deputy commanders, officers and armed forces understand what I have said and at the same time our people also have listened to it on radios and TVs too.
As part of our reform process, in the near future we will have this obligation to fulfill that everyone must declare their property and if anyone fails to declare all property they have, there would be measures concerned. The anti-graft law would soon be going into force, whereby officials, officers and politicians are required to declare their properties. The General Staff Headquarters has now become the Headquarters of the Anti-Corruption National Committee …◉