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MoSVY Secretary of State Encourages Persons with Disabilities Not to Despair as the Government Seeks to Help

PHNOM PENH: Secretary of State for the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth (MoSVY), and Secretary-General of the Disability Action Council (DAC), Em Chan Makara, has urged persons with disabilities not to despair as the Royal Government is taking further steps to support them.

Speaking on behalf of the Minister of Social Affairs, Vong Sauth, on the International Day of the Deaf at the Ministry on Thursday morning, 22 September, Secretary of State Em Chan Makara said that there are two categories of disabilities in Cambodia that require increased attention: intellectual disabilities and Down Syndrome, and deafness.

"Especially when one’s guardians are gone, this is a very serious burden [for persons with disabilities to bear by themselves], so the Ministry of Social Affairs has to pay special attention to this," he said.

Kim Kheung, a 27-year-old deaf person, spoke at the event in sign language with the help of an interpreter, and shared that he used to avoid people and crowds because he felt like society had abandoned him, but his feelings changed after his parents sent him to study at Krousar Thmey School, which allowed him to now find a job and work as a volunteer teacher at Chbar Ampov Special Education High School.

He urged the government to address the challenges deaf people face in Cambodia, including a lack of schools, jobs and overall difficulties in communication. He, however, also thanked the government for doing a lot of work to help persons with disabilities from the beginning until now.

"The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, the Disability Action Council under the Royal Government, have been working hard to promote the rights of persons with disabilities, especially in the sector of education for the deaf, vocational training and other fields, in order to give us the right to full freedom, equality and dignity," said Kim Kheung, through an interpreter.

"These factors have reduced the pre-existing discrimination against deaf people. We have sign language schools from elementary to higher education levels, we can get information through some public and private television channels, and we have the ability to work and run our own business and are able to compete in the free market fairly."

Deputy Secretary-General of the DAC, Neth Un, said that the Royal Government is currently focusing on improving the quality of teachers and improving the quality of education for persons with disabilities by establishing a special education institute with the aim of training teachers on how to teach students with disabilities, and develop the necessary study and teaching materials.

"The Royal Government has provided additional equipment such as reading materials in braille for the blind and hearing aids for the deaf and hard of hearing," he said. "In addition, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports has published lessons in sign language from the first grade to the seventh grade, and continue to prepare lessons for secondary, high school and higher education students, to give persons with disabilities the ability to study and research [at these higher levels].”

Secretary-General of the DAC, Em Chan Makara, said that in the near future, he plans to meet with the Minister of Education to discuss increasing the number of schools for persons with disabilities in Cambodia, another aspect which all stakeholders must give more attention to. He also expressed concern about the lack of teachers who can teach deaf students.

Currently, Cambodia has five schools for the blind and deaf – two in Phnom Penh, one in Battambang, one in Siem Reap and one in Kampong Cham – with a total of 182 fixed staff (91 women) and 13 contract staff (7 women).

In the 2021-2022 academic year there were a total of 787 students (325 girls) attending these schools. Among this number, 387 are deaf or hard of hearing students.

According to the 2019 census report from the Institute of Statistics of the Ministry of Planning, there are 689,532 persons with disabilities in Cambodia, equivalent to 4.9% of the total population. From this number, 402,783 are women and girls. The census also reported that there are 19,993 deaf or hard of hearing people in Cambodia, equivalent to 2.9% of the total population.

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