February 14 is Valentine’s Day or sweethearts’ day. Souvernir stalls, chocolate shops and florists are busy stocking up for a flood of customers who will buy things for the special people in their lives.
There is a growing culture of recklessly spending a lot of money on gifts, souvenirs and roses.
Seng Chan Dara, a second-year student at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, says that “It’s a chance for sweethearts to go out for walks or to sing karaoke, a chance to hang out together.''
But Dara, says also that some of his male friends can’t wait for Valentine’s Day because they want to take the opportunity to be closer with their girlfriends and sometimes have sex with them.
Then they often break up, as teenage love often doesn’t last long.
Socheata (not her real name) says that when she was in high school, she folded paper in the shape of a star and gave it to her special person on Valentine’s Day.
“The same day, he asked me to make love with him. Because I loved him, I agreed. Then, within a couple of months, he had another girlfriend and we broke up.
“It was the most terrible experience of my teenage life, and after that I stopped studying.”
Socheata warns that young women, especially, need to consider what love is.
“Don’t think that having sex is love. If two people love each other, sex is not proof or a requirement,” Socheata says.
“But if he wants to have sex with you, it’s not honest love: he just wants you, your virginity.
“Young people’s love keeps changing; yesterday, there was love, but today there is no more love. So please don’t spoil your whole future in one unconsidered moment.”
Keo Phally, who has two daughters in high school, says: “I really worry about young people these days.
“When they see other teens have sweethearts, they want to have one as well.
“I trust my daughters, but I don’t really know everything about them.”
Phally says what she can do is keep giving her daughters good advice.
Ouk Lisa, 16, says: “I’ve heard a lot of advice from television and people such as my parents and teachers, so I know how to behave on Valentine’s Day.
“But I still plan to go out with my boyfriend for the evening, because he asked me in advance.”
From his experience working with young people, Ou Ratanak explains that they are at an age of curiosity and see February 14 as a chance to exchange gifts and to have sex.
“Men are very active on Valentine’s Day and are more likely to ask to have sex with their partners, putting them at risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases.
“For that reason, Valentine’s Day has become a focus of concern by government and non-government organisations that work with young people,” he said.