The Constructive Cambodian
When boys become men in Cambodia, they often start to drink. There seems to be stories every day about men who do harmful things under alcohol’s influence. Tivea Koam proposes some behaviour changes.
Tivea Koam is a freelance writer, assistant editor for Lift, and a student at the Department of Media and Communications at RUPP.
In the past, when there were celebrations like Khmer or Chinese New Year, weddings, parties or big events, Cambodian people chose to drink alcohol to celebrate. However, now the behaviour of people towards alcohol consumption has changed and it has almost become a habit for most Cambodians, who drink every day.
What really worries many people about alcohol consumption in Cambodia is the increasing number of youth who are drinking – they are, after all, the future human resources for this developing nation.
According to a study by the People’s Centre for Development and Peace, of the 1,400 people surveyed across seven provinces, 58 percent aged between 15 and 25 said they drank every day. Overall, 16 percent of those surveyed were found to be alcoholics, while 30 percent of the daily expenses of people surveyed went towards alcohol.
Yong Kim Eng, the PCDC president, was quoted in the Post in 2009 as saying “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.”
Recently the ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, along with a number of NGOs and international organizations, also conducted a survey on school age youths regarding the consumption of alcohol, drugs and sex. The survey of more than 2,400 youths aged 10 to 24 and including 1,236 girls showed that 70 percent of the girls said that they had consumed alcohol or alcoholic beverages, while 91 percent of the boys had consumed alcohol or alcoholic beverages.
Deputy of the National Aids Authority, Tea Paula, told Radio France International last month that he had talked with young people in Banteay Meanchey and Kompong Som province and they told him they drank beer every day, they were drunk every day and they vomited every day. He added that it was a serious problem.
A lot of studies showed that drinking alcohol can actually decrease the risk of heart disease if you drink moderately. But if you are drinking too much, alcohol will damage your health. It can cause disease of the blood, organ failure and severe damage to your nervous system.
Every year alcohol kills 2.5 million people, including 320,000 young people between 15 and 29 years of age, according to estimates for 2004 on the World Health Organization’s website.
The high number of alcohol consumption among our youth has concerned a lot of local organisations working on alcoholism, as well as the government. Young people’s use of alcohol results from a lack of knowledge and ignorance of the consequences of alcohol consumption.
Most teenagers think that drinking alcohol helps them build a network of friends, release stress and be stylish in modern society, rather than destroying their health.
According to a recent study from the MoEYS and Cambodia Movement for Health about drinking alcohol in educational institutions, 70 percent of respondents said they consumed alcohol or alcoholic beverages in high school and 10 percent of students said they also used it.
Mom Kong, the Executive Director of CMH, told the Phnom Penh Post that teachers drinking alcohol in school was not a good role model for students.
When people who are role models for the younger generation are seen consuming alcohol, young people can get the impression that alcohol consumption is an accepted culture for everyone, leading them to use alcohol as well.
Having more people, especially youth, consuming more alcohol can lead to more traffic accidents. A total of 1,649 people died in traffic accidents last year, 12 percent of which involved people driving under the influence of alcohol, according to Ministry of Interior Ministry figures.
Alcoholism can also make people lose their patience and lead to arguments and violent incidents in restaurants and beer gardens among youth. For instance, last week a group of teenagers fought each other in a beer garden in Kampot province after drinking alcohol and one man suffered cuts to his abdomen.
A lot of advertisements for alcohol beverages, which include beautiful girls wearing sexy clothes with men, have made people feel that they look elegant and awesome when drinking beer, and even worse, made people feel that after drinking beer there may be sex. In beer garden restaurants, there are also beer girls wearing short and sexy clothes, and this can make drinkers search for commercial sex after having some beers. When they lose control because they are drunk, people can have sex without using condoms, and that can lead to HIV/AIDS.
With the increase in the number of youth engaging with alcohol and the many negative effects of alcohol on youth, what will the future of the new leaders of the next generation be? There should be swift action on alcohol consumption to ensure the reduction of the impact of the problems on Cambodian society.
The government should consider increasing the tax on alcohol sales in Cambodia since that can help reduce the availability of alcohol beverages among teenagers. Furthermore, the government should accelerate the alcohol policy by having restrictions on the ages of those who buy alcohol. Nowadays anyone can buy alcohol if they have money.
What’s more, policemen who arrest drunk drivers should not drink alcohol when on duty. Last month, Prime Minister Hun Sen also called on government officials, especially traffic police, not to drink while on duty. He asked how traffic police could legitimately fine those who violate traffic laws if they themselves are drunk.
For advertisements including sexy girls and boys, the government should pay more attention to them since they have other consequences. Teachers or older people, the role models for the younger generation, should consider their attitude and behaviour towards drinking.
Last but not least, the government, educational institutions and NGOs should put more effort into creating more workshops or activities that can engage as well as educate youths about the disadvantages of alcohol and its risks.