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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Moral decline of youth seen

Moral decline of youth seen

CAMBODIAN youth and students associations say there has been a decline in the moral

character of the nation's young people and are calling on the Government to develop

a youth policy to combat the problem.

Six Khmer Youth associations - Khmer Youth Association (KYA), Khmer Democratic Youth

Association, Khmer Student Association, Union Neutral Khmer Students, Khmer Student

and Intellectual Association, and Student Movement for Democracy - recently held

a seminar on youth morality, which they say is declining because of a poor example

being set by society at large, corruption in schools and the breakdown of the family.

The group says the day-to-day corruption of government officials, pervasive injustice

and a lack of law enforcement give young people a warped view of how a society should

work.

Young Kim Eng, Director of KYA, said it would be impossible to ensure social stability

in the long term and build Cambodia if the next generation has no concept of right

and wrong.

"Morality is like the hardwood of a tree: if the young people lose their morals

the tree has no strength," he said.

He said the administration of "justice" in Cambodia as epitomized by extrajudicial

executions and mob killings was contributing to the declining moral standard and

setting an example of violence for the young.

He said thought should be given to the example being set.

"Adults must think of young people as white cloth - it is easy to stain,"

he said.

Him Monipheak, director of the Khmer Student Association, said he was particularly

concerned about the example being set by mob violence, saying it was a dangerous

precedent. At the moment thieves were the main target of mob "justice",

but once the concept took root it could easily be steered into a way of getting rid

of people perceived to be trouble-makers, such as human rights workers or journalists.

Kim Eng is also concerned about corruption within the education system.

He said in schools now some students think that the teachers are vendors who sell

lessons and the students are buyers who pay to get good grades. He said this had

led to a decline in respect for teachers, which at times erupted into violence against

them.

The associations said they were also concerned about the imitation of culture from

abroad, which they believe endangers the future of Cambodia's own rich heritage.

Him Monipheak said that though much of what needed to be done was the responsibility

of the Government, the youth associations would try to do their best in the meantime.

"We will not wait for the Government: we must start community level education

now," he said.

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