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No money, no honey

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A young Cambodian girl gets a feel for a new motorbike. Photograph: Phnom Penh Post

As Cambodia edges towards a stronger economy, materialism is woven into the country’s social fabric. As a result, women are becoming more image and status conscious.

Van Tou, a trained teacher at the Institute of National Education, observed that female students in his class seemed more interested in touching up their make-up than being proactive in class.

“Some of them wore so much make-up as if they were attending a wedding party,” he said.

Another university lecturer, Sdan Samrithpiseth, said that he noticed heavily-made-up female high school students trying to attract attention from men with expensive looking cars.

“Whenever I ride my motorbike, no one looks at me. But when I drive my brother-in-law’s car, I get a lot more looks for pretty ladies!” he said.

“Students are becoming over-obsessed with materialistic things. Education has taken a backseat,” Samrithpiseth said. “They are too young to be a part of material world. Instead, they should prioritize their studies and work hard instead of being involved in materialism.”

One example is Socheata, who wished to give a fake name, a young Khmer girl who enjoys many privileges others her age cannot afford. Well groomed and fashionably dressed, many would think that she comes from a rich family.

On the contrary, she grew up in a poor family, she said. The lavish items she carries are actually from her boyfriend. Socheata agreed to lose her virginity to her boyfriend in exchange for money and gifts.

“There is no such thing as a free lunch,” said Socheata. “He loves me so he buys me things to show his appreciation. I just want to repay the favour,” she said.

Chor So Nary, a counsellor, explained that there is a growing social problem wherein people’s values and principles are compromised by materialism.

“The influx of foreign culture in Cambodia has contributed to this problem,” she added. “But it really depends on the individual to stay disciplined.”

So Nary believes that a supportive family environment helps curb unnecessary materialistic desires.

“Strong family ties help kids share their problems with their parent. Otherwise, they will mix with the wrong company and get into trouble down the road,” she said.

“School is important too. The more school activities there are, the less time youths waste on unnecessary things. Students should make the most out of their years to establish a better future for themselves.”

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