Only 2 per cent of Cambodians believe their lives are thriving – the lowest of 146 countries surveyed – according to research by US company Gallup.
In a well-being survey, compiled during 2011 and released by the company this week, Cambodia languishes at the bottom, below neighbour Laos, Togo and Comoros (3 per cent).
Thailand (46 per cent) and Vietnam (30 per cent) recorded much higher percentages of residents who consider their lives to be thriving, while North Korea and Myanmar did not appear on the list.
According to the results, which shows one in four around the world think their lives are thriving, 72 per cent of Cambodians believe they are struggling, while 26 per cent say they are suffering.
Although Cambodia is among the poorest nations in Asia, Cambodian Center for Human Rights president Ou Virak said poverty alone could not explain Cambodians’ low sense of well-being and happiness.
“Security is one of the most important things,” he said. “People feel a lack of security when it comes to the rule of law in Cambodia . . . [the] government and the banking system,” he said.
With land grabs and a “failure of the justice system”, people felt unsure about their future, leading to a culture of greed, Ou Virak said. “When you have way more than you need, if you end up having something taken away, then you still have enough to keep your lifestyle.”
Council of Ministers’ Press and Quick Reaction Unit spokesman Ek Tha, however, said the government had “done its utmost” to rebuild Cambodia.
“This country has started from scratch after 30 years of war,” he said. “The government has been doing its best.
“In 1979, 100 per cent of people were under the poverty line, now it’s 27 per cent. You can see people now have access to healthcare, education, arts, jobs. They have vehicles, clean water, electricity.
“Our legal and economic situation has improved . . . the government is working for the people.”
The Gallup poll surveyed about 1,000 people aged 15 and older per country.
About 74 per cent of Denmark’s population believe they are thriving, the highest of any country.
To contact the reporter on this story: Shane Worrell at firstname.lastname@example.org