Military Orders Investigation Into Why Soldiers Aren’t Getting Promoted

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Cambodian soldiers take part in a military training exercise in May 2019 (Hun Manet’s Facebook page)
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The ministries of defense and finance have formed a committee to identify soldiers who have gone too long without promotions, with military spokespersons explaining that they will be looking for ways to boost salaries and make sure ranks match up with responsibilities.

The Royal Cambodian Armed Forces have a “schedule” for the promotion of its soldiers, said the ministries’ joint announcement issued last month, and soldiers’ last date of promotion will be compiled and “studied” to check for compliance.

RCAF Commander-in-chief Vong Pisen and Defense Ministry secretary of state Phuong Siphan will head the committee, with army commander Hun Manet — the prime minister’s son — and Finance Ministry secretary of state Chan Sothy as deputies.

The committee’s responsibilities include identifying soldiers who haven’t been appropriately promoted and looking into “additional allowances” for those soldiers.

The Cambodian military had about 125,000 personnel in 2006, according to an official defense policy document from that year. Its number of generals is estimated to be well over 1,000, leading to occasional campaigns to try to cull the total.

Army spokesperson Mao Phalla declined to say what the military promotions “schedule” was, referring that question to Defense Ministry spokesperson Chhum Socheat, who could not be reached.

But Phalla said the new committee would help boost the salaries of long-time soldiers. “They have served for so long and they have not been promoted,” he said, though he did not know how many soldiers were in that position.

Thong Solimo, spokesperson for the armed forces’ general command, said some officers’ ranks had stagnated because their ranks would become too high for the jobs they do if they were promoted.

“They would be too high for their positions,” Solimo said. “We have some soldiers whose positions are colonel and they have had this rank for 10 years and they have not been promoted.”

“That’s why they are having this committee, to investigate the issue, because we do not clearly know how many,” he said.

Political analyst Seng Sary said the problem with the military wasn’t having too few promotions.

Many young soldiers had been too quickly promoted through the ranks, he said. “[They] need to check whether those promotions came about through bribery or corruption, [and they] need to demote their ranks,” Sary said.

He cautioned that unearned promotions can lower the morale of other soldiers.

“It could make soldiers lose their passion and spirit in the army,” Sary said.

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