Cambodia Table of Contents
Military service was compulsory in the People's Republic of Kampuchea. Cambodian males between the ages of eighteen and thirtyfive faced an obligation to serve in the armed forces for five years, an increase from three years was made in 1985 because of personnel shortages in the country. Recruitment councils made up of party and government officials existed at all administrative levels; they may have performed functions, principally the selection of eligible youths to be inducted into the military services, similar to those of local United States Selective Service Boards. The establishment of these recruitment councils may have supplanted the earlier press-gang tactics of KPRAF units who, according to refugee accounts, had forcibly rounded up Khmer youths and had inducted them en masse into the armed forces. In spite of this bureaucratic innovation, however, draft dodging was reported to be widespread, a situation that was acknowledged obliquely by the government and party media in their unrelenting emphasis on recruitment and on the patriotic duty of serving in the armed forces. It was not known whether or not Khmer youths themselves could elect to serve in the main, provincial, or local force, or whether or not a quota system prevailed.
Women as well as men were eligible for military service. A party organ reported authoritatively in the early 1980s that the KPRAF was composed of "cadres and male and female combatants," and "our people's sons and daughters." Women were heavily represented in the local forces, according to official disclosures, which stated that in 1987 more than 28,000 were enrolled in militia units and that more than 1,200 had participated in the construction of frontier fortifications on the Thai-Cambodian border. The presence of women in the provincial and in the main forces, however, could not be verified.
The KPRAF, with the aid of its Vietnamese and Soviet advisers, made a considerable effort to establish a network of military schools and training centers for its personnel. In the early 1980s, about thirteen such institutions were reported to be already in existence. Two of the better known schools in Phnom Penh were the Engineering School and the Technical School. Each of these schools enrolled about 300 students, in curricula lasting one year. The Engineering School, located in the former Cambodian military academy, offered courses in radio, telecommunications, topography, map reading, mechanics, and civil and military engineering. Successful completion of courses at the Engineering School qualified graduates for the Technical School (not to be confused with the civilian Kampuchean--USSR Friendship Technical Institute). The Technical School offered military science subjects, such as weapons and tactics, a higher level than those given by the Engineering School. Both institutions offered language instruction in Vietnamese and in Russian as well as heavy doses of ideology. In Phnom Penh, there also was an Infantry School, presumably for junior officers in the KPRAF; a Political School to train party cadre for the armed forces; a military medical school; and a school for logistics. Promising graduates of the KPRAF school system had the chance to go abroad for further military education. In the mid1980s , about 1,000 KPRAF officers had been sent to schools and to training centers in Vietnam, and an additional 500 were being trained in the Soviet Union. This international military education and training program, as well as the entire network of service schools, was believed to be administered by the Training Department of the KPRAF General Staff, which issued specialized training directives in the name of the Ministry of National Defense to subordinate echelons down to the local force level.
Below national level, each KPRAF military region had its own training schools, and Cambodian youths who joined the armed forces were believed to receive their initial military training in such institutions. Instruction reportedly covered political, military, tactical, and vocational subjects. According to a training directive issued in 1984, provincial and local forces were ordered to stress unit training and to vary these instructions with actual combat patrols and operations. Local commanders also were directed to conduct drills for cadres and combatants, to arrange for training areas and materials, to select qualified training officers, to develop training schedules, and to select personnel for course enrollment.
Recent data on pay and allowances in the KPRAF were lacking. In the early 1980s, military salaries for common soldiers amounted to the riel (for the value of the riel--see Glossary) equivalent of three to four dollars a month. This was supplemented by a rice ration of sixteen to twenty-two kilograms a month, supplied at the concessionary rate of one riel per kilogram. Local commanders at all echelons were enjoined to ensure the timely distribution of pay and of rations to all personnel under their jurisdiction. Soldiers in permanent garrisons were expected to supplement their meager salaries by planting individual or unit vegetable gardens and by raising poultry or livestock wherever possible. On the home front, the care of veterans and of military dependents whose sponsors were away on active service was decentralized and entrusted to the solidarity groups (krom samaki) and to various party and government committees at the local level.
A system of military justice existed in the KPRAF, but its functional details were unknown. The Constitution provides for military tribunals, and the KPRAF maintained a network of military prisons. At the national level, the principal military prison was T-1, located in the Tuol Sleng area of Phnom Penh. Administrators of T-1 reported to the Ministry of National Defense. Other military prisons existed in the four military regions of the KPRAF, and possibly at the provincial level as well. Military police of the KPRAF served as guards and as administrators of the military penal system.
Military uniforms in the KPRAF were worn by the main and by the provincial forces, although apparently not by the militia. In general, these uniforms resembled those of Vietnam and the Soviet Union. Battle dress for the soldiers consisted of green or khaki fatigues, with Soviet-style soft campaign hats (such as the Soviet Army wore in Afghanistan), or visored caps with a cloth chin strap. Although not part of the uniform, soldiers on an operation widely wore the krama, a checkered scarf knotted loosely about the neck. Junior officers serving on staff duty or attending service schools in Phnom Penh wore khaki shirts with ties, brown trousers, and the round service cap. The cap device for all ranks consisted of a five-towered, stylized rendition of Angkor Wat on a red field, surrounded by a wreath. The device for senior ranks showed more elaborate gold ornamentation around the wreath. The KPRAF owned a garment factory in Phnom Penh, and it may have produced at least some of the uniforms it needed at this facility. The KPRAF also authorized a system of rank and branch insignia in July 1987. Although photographic evidence was lacking, these insignia were believed to resemble closely those of the Vietnamese army; they were worn on collar tabs of varying colors: scarlet for the army, dark blue for the navy, and sky blue for the air force (see table B). These branch insignia were worn by personnel up to the rank of deputy platoon commander. Platoon commanders to deputy regimental commanders wore rank insignia on collar tabs with silver borders; regimental commanders to deputy chiefs of military regions wore similar insignia with golden borders. Senior officers from military region commander to deputy defense minister wore collar tabs with a golden dragon surrounded by an ornate border on a maroon background.
After coming to power, the PRK instituted an array of awards and decorations for individuals, military units, and other organizations which performed noteworthy services for the party and the state. Identified awards or decorations included the Order of Angkor, the Fatherland Defense Order (first and second class), the Victory Medal (first, second, and third class), the National Defense Medal (first, second, and third class) and the Labor Medal.
In addition to these medals, a number of citations, banners, and streamers were awarded by various government ministries, including the Ministry of National Defense, to both individuals and organizations for meritorious or distinguished performance of duty.
Data as of December 1987
Cambodia Table of Contents