Involvement and voices of youth in the election campaign is very powerful in Cambodian society. Youths dare to share their ideas aloud to the public without fear; if we compare that to the last election, it is very different.
In past elections, people were afraid to discuss politics. But things have changed today, and people try to involve themselves in the political sector. Furthermore, there are many young people involved.
“Young people want to stand up and make themselves have power in the society,” said Sok Touch, Rector of Khemarak University and notable political analyst. “They do not want to be ignored anymore.”
Cheat Chansolinda, a 20-year-old third-year student at Khemarak University, said youths are ready to fight for their rights.
“Young people now need the democracy and the right to free speech and the right to do what they think is the right thing for them.”
Touch added that changes in media, such as the prevalence of Facebook, have changed youths’ perceptions of politics.
“News is in the people’s hands. People can enlarge their understanding of politics by using the modern technology around them.”
Furthermore, Touch said Cambodians who go abroad to work or study come back with new political ideas.
“Migration to other countries makes people aware of the situations of people from other countries. Therefore, they come back to spread new ideologies onto their families and other people around them.”
Pak Udom, a youth volunteer for an unspecified political party, said knowledge is key to making informed political decisions.
“Before involving myself in politics, I try to understand the politics, activities of the leader, and to follow any situation that happens, either locally or internationally,” said Udom. “After understanding more about politics, I do not want to be a person who follows the electoral campaign of others. I need to make decisions on my own.”
However, Chansolinda said social media was one of the only outlets available for discussions.
“Young people nowadays do want to have a chance to voice themselves in the media, but there are no chances to express themselves. Only Facebook is freely open for youths to discuss and express their ideas and spread them rapidly.”
However, some parents fear that their children may be put in danger by involving themselves in politics.
“Honestly, I do not want my child to be involved in politics,” said Chan Buntheoun.
Nonetheless, Buntheoun said he would respect his child’s decision to become involved.
“In a democratic country, I cannot ban my kid from joining the politics if they want. People have their own thoughts.”
Furthermore, Buntheoun said he is encouraged by youth involvement in politics.
“It is good that young people are involved in the election campaign, because they are the power of the country.”
Touch added that being involved in politics is not without risks, but that following the law can keep you safe.
“If you do an illegal thing, you will face the law. But based on the law, there is no rule to catch the politicians or the members of the party for being involved in politics.
Politics, of course, can also create disagreements that can devolve into insults and name-calling. However, Udom said that he respects his opponents.
“I never hate other youths who are members of a different party. We have our own thoughts and decisions. We have the right to choose the party that can be the pillar supporting the country. Thus, why do I have to hate young people like me?”