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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Look to elevate the capable, not the privileged few

Look to elevate the capable, not the privileged few


The December 24 article in the Phnom Penh Post titled Chea Sim’s son named Prey Veng governor re-emphasised and reflected the reality of how power and privilege have been strongly rooted in Cambodia’s society.

According to the article, Chea Sim’s son’s appointment is neither an isolated nor a special case. It is common amongst many other kids from elites and powerful political families.

To put it simply, many happened to be born in just the right families. But instead of questioning the gap and inequality between the political elite and the rest of society, I have repeatedly heard praise heaped upon these privileged kids’ educational background.

Sometimes the comparison was made by looking at which of these elites’ kids are doing better.

In addition, their charitable activities have also been applauded. For instance, their gifts of free health treatment and checkups, building homes for the elderly, etc.

However, these services should be the state’s responsibility and duty to its citizen.

I was then trying to think of a positive side. One of which was, perhaps, Chea Somethy, with his privileged education background, can become a good leader. I spent half a day thinking of it over, but it is just not convincing.

Once again I read the article a few times and did a little bit of research on his personal background it focused my attention on this excerpt from the same article:

CPP officials hope Somethy will increase the party’s support base in the province where his father was born, which was narrowly captured by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party six seats to five in the 2013 election.

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said the party’s permanent committee had backed the “capable and smart” Somethy, who is in his 30s, after considering “many” senior officials for the position.

“Truly, we selected the most capable and experienced person to take the position so that he can serve the local people and gain support from them as well,” Eysan said.

“Receiving support from people is a good thing for the government and the party, and it is our hope.”

Un Svanthy, deputy chief at the anti-economic crime department, vouched for his departing boss, calling him “responsible and friendly”.

A truly democratic governance system, which includes the provincial governorship, should be to encourage many other people with leadership potential, not just the children of those in power.

Sadly, the reality is that the current system does not seem able to do this.

Instead of having leadership democratically selected on the basis of ability to manage and lead the province to ensure the people’s livelihood with dignity, prosperity and development that meets people’s needs and a sustainable environment, we have seen more and more grooming of the kids of the elites for power.

I believe positive change can only take place if we act differently. And no matter what generation we are in, if we really do care about this nation, we should not let the bad old ways lead us.

“We build the road by walking”, Paolo Freire said. And so I believe that we, this generation, can do this. It is not easy but it is possible.

We can learn from our nation’s sad history and find leaders out there who are ready to work for the nation who is ready to work all their whole lives for the better of Cambodia.

Some of them have already been proven in their current positions in the ministries or elsewhere. The next step is creating the democratic space for them.

Chrek Sophea



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