After finishing high school in my home province of Kampong Speu, I moved to Phnom Penh in 2000 in pursuit of a higher education. Back then Cambodia was very poor in almost every aspect of life and it was difficult to choose the right direction, especially when you have very little information to work with.
I was not a hard working student through high school and I didn’t perform well. I was 16 when I first came to Phnom Penh in 2000. I remember my father was very worried about me since I was just a young cowboy who knew nothing about city life. My bike was stolen three times and my dad was so upset with me and said could not trust me.
He sent me to stay with one of my uncles, who helped me find a place where I could be trained and learn some discipline and become a better person. I was admitted to a leader training centre where I had to live with 20 older boys who had totally different lifestyles from me. I was the youngest there and had to live on my own; I had to do things that I had never done before at home, such as making my bed, mopping the floor, washing dishes, doing the laundry etc. The training and discipline at the dorm changed me and I became stronger and more mature.
I then enrolled in law school at the Royal University of Law and Economics and I studied very hard. I loved the subjects so much, and politics was always my best subject. At the dorm we discussed politics, arguing and debating. At the start I was not a good speaker, but the hot debates at the centre every day made me a better speaker and my confidence grew when I spoke in public.
I appreciated the time I spent at the centre. It taught me a good lesson, which was “go through a tough situation and it will make you a tough guy”. In 2007, I competed in the Youth Leadership Challenge, the toughest and most stressful situation I ever went through.
I almost dropped out of the competition, but all the hard times I had been through had lifted my morale and I knew I had to finish what I started. In this competition, like politics, everyone had to be manipulating. Flexibility, situation awareness and the smart handling of people were tactics we exercised during the competition.
I learned a good lesson from this, which was “to win a challenge, first we have to win people’s hearts”. I won some of the contestants’ hearts and finally I won the competition. It was a great experience and a great opportunity to visit the United States, where I had the privilege of visiting many historical places and met some American political figures as well.
A few weeks ago, I participated in another challenge organised by Kingdom Brewery and the International Republican Institute. The topic was how would I use a bus to advertise and boost revenue for the company? I came up with an idea of next generation transportation where I would transform the classic way of transportation into something more enjoyable. The idea was to integrate a pub into the bus, making it the first mobile pub in town.
This would attract people to try this new form of entertainment and it would make people talk. When doing business, we have to inspire people to talk about our products and services, as we know word spreads and it is the cheapest form of advertisement. The pub bus would attract people to come and experience this new way of entertaining and in this way the company would boost its sales.
I presented this idea to the crowd and the judges and finally I won the contest and won a trip to Malaysia.
Right now I’m working in a UN agency in Cambodia.