Scouts wearing the Cambodian green scarves parade in front of the Royal Palace.
The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MEYS) has recreated the country's Scouting
Association, selecting thousands of students to train as role models for their peers.
Ou Sophany, national youth program commissioner of the group and a deputy director
at MEYS, said the forerunner of the Cambodian Scouting Association was last active
under the Lon Nol regime in the 1970s.
"We have recreated it to uphold the spirit and morality of young Cambodian people,
and to make them good citizens," he said.
"Youth's morality has gradually declined since 1993 and they have caused a lot
of trouble in society. These students will be trained to become good citizens and
to be courteous."
He said the decision to revive the movement came at the suggestion of a visiting
dignitary in 1997. In December 2001 the association chose 16,000 members nationwide,
including 4,200 in Phnom Penh. Among the members are school students and civil servants
in government institutions.
Sophany said scouts would learn to protect the environment and would be encouraged
to help their families, assist the poor, and be a good influence on society. Only
those students with a record of good behavior and leadership potential were chosen.
"The scout members will do [at least] one good thing a day," said Yuos
Sokhen, deputy head of the Baktuk High School. Almost 600 of his students signed
up. "They will perform their activities in cities and provinces. For instance,
they have to clean up garbage during the Water Festival."
Heng Hay, an 18-year-old student at the school, was one of those who signed up last
month. He said his parents were supportive of his decision.
"I want to help some of my bad friends become good people," he said. "We
should learn to depend on ourselves."
The group will be split between three age groups: 7-11 years; 12-17 years; and 18
and above. The youngest are considered vital - they are "the important
root," said Sophany.
He said Scouting was established in Cambodia in 1934 during French rule. King Sihanouk's
uncle, Prince Sisowath Monireth led the association until 1965 when it was headed
by Queen Kossamak, King Sihanouk's mother. The Khmer Republic set up a new movement
after the 1970 coup, but that ceased to exist with the Khmer Rouge victory in 1975.
The new body has some heavyweight political support: Sok An, Minister for the Council
of Ministers, is president, while Prime Minister Hun Sen is honorary president. Governor
Chea Sophara is in charge of the Phnom Penh scouts. Sophany said he hoped the association
would join the worldwide body next year.