I would like to begin by recognizing all the positive developments our Government
has made since the last election. Cambodia does not yet have a satisfactory peace
but the absence of war provides people the opportunity to recover gradually physically
As Cambodians we have experienced a lot of trauma because of the wars and social
destruction we have come through. As human beings we still feel when we see people
suffer. We should be optimistic that many political leaders in power today have themselves
experienced the pain of the years of social injustice an oppression and they are
the ones devoted to change.
But a question remains - are our leaders really doing good for the people? In the
past, accusations could be heard from all sides that the other guy was the bad guy.
The concept of democracy is to produce and implement the rule of law in order to
protect people and the people and country's interest. What is happening to law enforcement
and implementation today?
Looking at the current policy of national reconstruction a material based approach
has been taken. Everything seems to relate only to money, social norms and the structure
of society seem not so important.
Encouragement for and provisions of security for investment are likely to be more
important than people or the country's welfare and confidence.
How can our Cambodian parents ever allow others to abuse their own children?
They provide armed forces to protect businessmen and to do harm to their own people.
They seem enthusiastic to increase the number of garment factories while in other
parts of the world this kind of exploitation is being rejected. We cheapen our own
Let the policy makers come and experience working 10 to 12 hours a day in a factory
just to earn $40 a month. Where is the revolutionary spirit to fight for justice
and anti-materialism? It is pitiful that we do not take advantage of the international
community's sympathy for Cambodia to strengthen our society and to provide our own
people the opportunity to regain confidence.
I do not argue against international investment but seek to reflect on the country's
The attitude of self-interest should be gone by now. Everything used to be politicized
and justified for self and group interest.
Over the last 10 years this attitude of self-interest has become one of the main
problems with the country. If someone from a political party misused power they were
protected by the party. Is it good to continue this political culture?
I understand it is very hard work for the Government to try and solve social problems
after the country has been destroyed by such a long period of war. However this is
not a good enough reason to let injustice and exploitation to flourish at full speed.
Of course it is not pleasant to listen to criticism but saying bad things is not
always a bad idea. Should we admire our leaders who, for example, know the national
education system is very poor but only allocate it a small amount of money, and send
their own children to study abroad.
It is a shame that the those people with a peasant back ground when they come to
power behave just like the people they used to criticize as capitalist and corrupt.
To reconstruct the county is not just to make lots of money. A stable society is
not created by leaders who make lots of money or have a strong family. It is created
where many people in society are strong and educated and have the confidence to participate
and negotiate to get a fairer deal with others.
We should be proud of the factory workers who are conscious and strong enough to
stand up to fight for their own dignity.
It is a problem between people and exploitation not between people and government
or political parties.
But it is up to the Government and the political parties to fight against such exploitation
and to protect their people from the negative forces of the global economic systems
seeking to use and abuse us.
- Soth Plai Ngarm, Bradford University, England