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Cambodian Royal Army - End-Strength

The size of the Cambodian Royal Army is uncertain. Different sources report different numbers, but they also include different formations. The Royal Government of Cambodia does not have a clear idea as to the actual size of the Army. It is well established that the Royal Cambodian Navy is small, with fewer than 3,000 end-strength, while the Royal Cambodian Air is no more than half this size. So any discussion of the size of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces [RCAF] ie effectively a discussion of the size of the Royal Cambodian Army.

The current figure represents a reduction compared to the approximately 165,000 personnel serving before 1999. The US Department of State estimated in 1997 that there were at most 60,000 combat effective members of the armed forces, a figure one US Department of State official admitted was put at the top end of the possible range to avoid embarrassing the Cambodian government. The rest were ghost soldiers or not active, but their salaries were paid (circa $20/month) and their supplies provided (then resold or never delivered, but invoiced).

In 2001, there were officially 129,449 Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) personnel, of whom 36,052 were commissioned officers including 386 generals, although diplomats said the figure may be less than 100,000. In 2002, Prince Sisowath Sirirath, then Co-Minister of Defense, stated that the total Cambodian military strength stood around 112,000 persons. [Cambodia Daily 3 September 2001] Orbat.com reported in 2009 a strength of 70-80,000, Local Forces for village defense with company-sized units totalling 30,000, plus a paramilitary police force of 60,000 [evidently these forces are not included in most totals].

A security assessment on Cambodia released in 2010 by defence publisher IHS Janes reported that the military had an on-paper strength of 110,000, but a field strength of 70,000 troops. In December 2011 Janes reported that "some sources estimate that up to 30,000 army personnel are medically or otherwise unfit for service. This would leave the army with a strength of around 110,000 on paper and an effective field strength of around 70,000 regular and provincial militia troops." The 2012 Military Balance reports the Army strength at about 75,000, Provincial Forces of about 45,000, plus a paramilitary police force of 67,000. Wikipedia reported as of May 2012, without attribution or analysis that, the strength of the Army was 175,000.

For many Cambodian soldiers, the military is more of a social welfare program than a full-time job. Many soldiers live in their own homes rather than in military housing, are farmers or engaged in other trades, and have not seen active military service in years. Many commanders inflate their personnel rolls, keeping ghost soldiers on the books and pocketing the monthly wages of the ghost soldiers. The program for the demobilisation of the military, agreed in 1999, has so far only been able to achieve a reduction in ghost soldiers.

Reserve service disappeared with the advent of the Khmer Republic and has not been instituted since that time. The lack of a precise plan for the organization of reserve units resulted in force development encountering immovable obstacles, particularly because at this time, a large number of the regular force was reaching the end of service life and was ready for retirement.

Apart from the military service law, the RCAF was considering the creation of a reserve system as an important source of new forces in the future. The creation of reserve forces was carried out in a large number of countries because it is an effective measure for rotating military forces with less expenditure and more people receive military knowledge as a tool needed when the country in crisis. When the support of defense force living conditions improves, recruiting reserve forces would be conducted on a voluntary basis, and various consequences can be avoided. When there is a shortfall in the active forces of the RCAF, reserve forces might be mobilised as active forces. The reserve system could be applied under the CMS Law with some provisions added, but as of 2012 nothing appeared to have been done on this front.

The government's announcement in 2004, that it would introduce compulsory military service, cast a shadow over the justification for demobilization. The conscription law of October 2006 required all males between 18-30 to register for military service with an 18-month service obligation. When the compulsory military service law came into effect, the RCAF will be able to recruit new forces every year. Recruiting new recruits must be in balance with the number to leave the military payroll and in accordance with all principles of the implementation of the compulsory military service law. But as of early 2011 it was unclear whether conscription had actually begun. In January 2010 the defence ministry announced that it had recruited 7,000 'new' soldiers over the previous five years, though it was unclear whether they were additional personnel or replacements.

The implementation of the General Statute Law for RCAF Soldiers had resulted in an increase in officers and a decrease in soldiers. Without conscription, the RCAFs human resources began to fall short of requirement and the armed forces ended up with mainly commanders and aging officers with relatively few fit, strong and young soldiers to perform their roles and responsibilities. There was a growing imbalance between officers and soldiers. As a practical example, the Armys report released in the 5 Year Work Achievement Review revealed that officers accounted for up to 77 percent of the force as of 2006.





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Page last modified: 28-05-2012 13:27:11 ZULU