IT IS A PROBLEM ... THAT THERE ARE MANY YOUNG PEOPLE ADDICTED TO ALCOHOL.
Children as young as 14 are regularly drinking alcohol in Cambodia, according to a new study that has prompted fresh calls for strict age limits on alcohol consumption across the Kingdom.
The report from the People Centre for Development and Peace (PDP-Centre) found that 85 percent of 1,400 people studied in seven provinces said they liked to drink alcohol. Of that, 14 percent were only 14 years old. More than half - 52 percent - were between the ages of 18 and 25.
The statistics should be a significant concern to Cambodians, PDP-Centre President Yong Kim Eng told the Post Sunday. "It is a problem for us and our society that there are many young people addicted to alcohol," he said. "Alcohol has many negative effects, such as more traffic accidents and domestic violence."
In a country where four people die every day on the roads, drunken driving is the second-leading cause of motor-vehicle crashes in Cambodia behind disobeying traffic signals, according to a report released last week by the NGO Handicap International Belgium.
The report showed 814 people died in traffic-related accidents between 2006 and 2008, and a further 11,178 people were injured. It's evidence, said Yong Kim Eng, that Cambodia needs stricter laws regarding the consumption of alcohol. There are no age restrictions at present.
The study suggests the highest concentration of alcohol drinkers is found in border provinces such as Svay Rieng and Banteay Meanchey.
"For the first time, we are trying to push to have alcohol rules in five provinces ... in order to reduce the number of drinkers," Yong Kim Eng said.
The government, however, has no immediate plans to introduce any such age restrictions, one official said Sunday.
"I think it is very good for Cambodian people if we have an age limit on drinking, but I don't know when this rule will come because it is difficult for us to stop people from drinking," said Dr Veng Thai, Phnom Penh's municipal director of health at the Ministry of Health.
Hun Chan Phalla works as a beer girl in a Phnom Penh restaurant, encouraging patrons to drink as much of the restaurant's alcoholic beverages as possible. She admits that most of her customers appear to be teenagers or young adults.
"I think most of them are less than 20 years old, and sometimes I think I am wrong to try to get them to buy my beer," she said Sunday, "but it is my job. If I don't sell beer to them, I will not have money to support my family."