King Norodom Sihamoni has called on the public to continue to promote the rights and equal participation of people with disabilities in society. He said the disabled should live lives free from discrimination, and that the public should work together to address any remaining challenges to ensure that they enjoy full rights.

The King issued the message to commemorate the 25th Cambodian Day of Persons with Disabilities and the 41st International Day of Persons with Disabilities, marked on December 3.

In the letter, he lauded the government’s introduction of the National Social Protection Policy 2016-25, which established the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) and increased the efficiency of social protection services in a transparent, equal and inclusive manner. The NSSF aims to improve the welfare of vulnerable people, especially the disabled, to improve their livelihoods day by day.

The King also called on persons with disabilities to keep up their efforts to develop their knowledge and skills so that they can meet the demands of the digital age and be competitive in the job market, thus enhancing the quality of their lives.

He called on his subjects to continue to promote the rights and the participation of the disabled, free from discrimination, for the sake of a society which is for all.

“People with disabilities need warmth, love and friendship. This love will support and encourage them to develop themselves, while remaining free from discrimination. We need to work together to meet any challenges which prevent the disabled from enjoying full and equal rights,” he said.

Prime Minister Hun Manet, who is also honorary president of the Disability Action Council (DAC), said in a speech marking the 25th Cambodian Day of Persons with Disabilities and the 41st International Day of Persons with Disabilities that the Kingdom was proud to observe this solemn day, alongside people from across the world.

Manet presided over the event, themed “Innovative solutions for a conformable and equal society”, along with his wife Pich Chanmony in Phnom Penh on December 4, according to the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation. 

“As signatories to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the governments of many countries have celebrated successes in the disability sector, showing a strong willingness and attention to ensuring equality,” he said.

“In 2023, Cambodia has chosen it as a key topic, with the goal of urging the proper consideration of society as a whole for developing Cambodia. We are paying close attention to a concrete political strategy, and set the clear vision of achieving innovative solutions,” he added.

Manet announced his commitment to the successful implementation of his government’s Pentagonal Strategy-Phase I, including the National Disability Strategic Plan, in the near future, in order to meet the physical needs of all people – especially those living with disabilities – and reduce their economic risks and guarantee their income security.

Manet said the International Day of Persons with Disabilities is observed to commemorate the struggle for social rights of the world’s 1.3 billion people living with disabilities.

“It is especially important that Cambodia observes the occasion, in order to remember the devastation caused by the cruel Khmer Rouge regime of Pol Pot, which left behind many disabled people, as well as widows and orphans,” he said.

He added that another legacy of the Kingdom’s wars was the number of landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) which remained throughout the country, noting that this included cluster munitions, which contained many dangerous chemicals that had been detected in the water and soil of Cambodia.

To observe the day, the government instructed the Ministry of Information to cooperate with the DAC and encourage state and private media outlets to cover it nationally, in order to give the public a clearer understanding of the importance of the occasion.

Ly Thuch, first vice-president of the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA), said Cambodia is committed to supporting the victims and survivors and landmines and their communities.

He reiterated Cambodia’s calls for closer partnerships with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and greater efforts to achieve the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs).

“In commemoration of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we not only reflect on the challenges faced by the 1.3 billion men, women and children living with disabilities – including the survivors of landmines – but also applaud the valuable contributions they have made to our mixed global community,” he said.

He added that their strength and resilience, especially in the face of disasters and humanitarian crises, deserve to be recognised and admired.

“As chair of the 5th Review Conference of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, It is my honour to observe this important day alongside all of you, and to reiterate our commitment to fully exercising the rights of disabled persons and the right to life from landmines,” he continued.

Chab Tuo, president of the Samneang Music Association for the Disabled, believes that the Kingdom’s leadership paid close attention to all disabled persons. The government, he added, has provided them with hope and the support they need to live with dignity and equality in a society which enjoys peace, stability and development.

“We may be disabled physically, but our hearts are not. We never stop struggling to look after ourselves and others, and we take part in many kinds of social work. Most importantly, we play our part in protecting peace,” he said.