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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Survey paints good, possibly bad, picture

Survey paints good, possibly bad, picture

Cambodians were overwhelming happy about the direction the country was headed, a US government-funded survey released last week found, and Prime Minister Hun Sen agrees.

The premier yesterday touted the findings from the International Republic Institute’s January survey of 2,000 Cambodians from around the country, which found that 79 per cent of respondents believed the country was “generally heading in the right direction”.

“This is a point we must all see together. I stand here very proud . . . that I am the leader of the Royal Government and have confidence from the people and confidence from the [CPP] allowing me to be prime minister since [a long time],” Hun Sen said, speaking at a pagoda in Kampong Cham yesterday.

Only 60 per cent of Cambodians responded positively to the same question in the IRI’s first Cambodia survey in 2006, with Hun Sen attributing the improvement to his leadership. The survey, however, also found that 46 per cent of Cambodians said their living standards were worse off or the same as five years ago, with observers yesterday quick to point out the limitations of the poll.

Independent political analyst Lao Mong Hay told the Post the survey’s findings should be “taken with a pinch of salt”.

“Considering the political climate prevailing in the country and considering the control and utilization of the media almost exclusively by the government . . . people cannot be expected to have a lot of information from different sources,” he said.

Questions asking people about their direct experiences, rather than vaguely about their opinions, would be “more reasonable”, he added, saying a “big question mark” should be put over the reliability of many of the questions.

IRI country director Jason Smart said the question quoted by Hun Sen was “universally used” in polling, adding the survey was not meant to capture the views of individuals about the government but rather the “general mood” in the country.

“The poll just gives a snapshot of the views of the general population in January 2013,” he said, declining to comment further.

A poll released by US company Gallup last year found only two per cent of Cambodians believed their lives were “thriving” with the country in last place out of 146 countries surveyed for wellbeing.

According to that poll, 72 per cent of Cambodians believed they were struggling while 26 per cent said they were suffering.

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