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Soung Sophorn: Citizen representative for Pailin

Soung Sophorn, 26, the citizen representative in Pailin of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), has spoken to LIFT about “youth participation in politics”.

Sophorn was born in Kandal province. He is the second and the youngest child in the family. In 2010, he graduated from the Royal University of Law and Economics with a bachelor’s degree in law. Later on Sophorn finished his master’s degree in political science at the Royal Academy of Cambodia in 2013. Before deciding to work as a politician, Sophorn worked at Put Theavy Law Office as a human rights lawyer between 2006-2008.

When and why did you decide to work as a politician?
There are three plans in my life. The first is to participate in politics. The second is to study and the third is social activities.

I have participated in politics since 2008 when I was chosen as the youth activist president in Sangkat Sras Chork.

In 2010 I became the youth activist president of the Sam Rainsy Party, and now I am the citizen representative candidate in Pailin province.

I decided to participate in politics because during my stay in the Boeung Kak area I found out that there are a lot of problems in society, such as a lack of jobs and a lack of food. I think that only a politician can solve those problems.

Did your parents support or encourage you to become a politician?
My parents forbid me from working as a politician because they love me and they were afraid that I would get into danger. Additionally, they pointed out that whenever I participate in politics it affects my study.

Why is it important for youths to participate in politics?
Youths play a very important role in politics. The loss of land and the lack of jobs is happening because young people aren’t getting involved in politics. When youth don’t participate in politics they will be easily cheated. However, once they get involved in politics it will help to strengthen the legislative system as well as the economy. Furthermore, it helps our society become safer.

As a citizen representative, what will you do to improve the situation of young people’s careers in Cambodia?
We have to enhance the education system, because when young people have enough knowledge they are able to analyse situations and to think critically. On the other hand, we have to create more jobs in our country. When there are more jobs, there will also be more money for education as well as more opportunities to research new technology. As a result, they won’t have to go abroad to work, thus losing their opportunity to study.

This year the Cambodian elections will take place. There are a lot of youths who have become interested in politics and are not afraid of going to vote. What are the reasons behind this?
The increase in youth participation in politics, as well as in voting, has come about because youths today have a better education and they learn more about the situation of Cambodian society. It’s also due to the increase in the youth population amid the lack of jobs.

Do you wish there was a different model of leadership from the current leader?
I always say to young people “new generation, new change”, so we won’t totally follow the current style of leadership. However, we will incorporate some of the aspects of the current leadership, and we will love and respect the old leader. For this year’s election people vote for the political party, but they don’t vote for the person. That causes a lack of transparency and development. I want people to choose their leader by observing the ability of each provincial representative and the ability of the leader of each political party, rather than just considering the political party itself.

Through our own model of modern youth, we encourage, support and protect youths. This model is based on two main policies: a politician is a five-year-worker and the citizen’s servant.

Do you think the voice of Cambodian youths has been expressed enough in politics? And is it safe enough for them to voice their concern via the media?
Nowadays, the youth participation is very active. For instance, we can see that there are three million young people among nine million people taking part in the vote. There is nothing to be afraid of because the law states that all citizens have freedom of expression. Youths have to know and use their right while the media is widely used. For example, during the last national election we did not use Facebook but this time we are.

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