About two months ago, the world was watching Cambodia and Thailand clash on the border near Preah Vihear . The significance of these small-scale battles to the countries involved and the rest of South East Asia should not be dismissed, but the latest flare-up between Thais and Cambodians have quickly become old news with the onset of social the unrest that has now risen to a revolutionary roar across the Middle East and Northern Africa.
Even the developing civil war in the Ivory Coast, which saw thousands of people murdered last week, has struggled to take attention away from the unpredictable revolution being staged in Libya, and the bizarre, violent and nonsensical dictator of that country, Muhammed Gaddhafi.
Still, the most important question regarding the Libyan situation, as well as Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and other countries in flux, is what inspired the people to unite, and confront authoritarian leaders now, when many of the leaders have been in power for decades. The most common answer seems to be economic, mostly in the form of rapidly rising food prices and the failure of governments in the region to generate jobs for the expanding number of youth entering the work force. In a report from Egypt, the Washington Post asked a 17-year-old Egyptian man, who worked as a hired assassin, why he settled for such rethless job. “We have no jobs and nothing to do, but we have to bring money home,” he said.
Although the world is getting older as a general trend, less developed countries, particularly those such as Cambodian and many countries in the middle east which have recently been embroiled in war, are remarkably young, with the majority of populations yet to reach adulthood. It is in this global context that this week’s “Constructive Cambodian” column has been written, and while Lift has been covering the looming employment crisis in Cambodia for more than a year, the importance of doing something now, rather than waiting, is more obvious than ever.
While low unemployment is a common ill across the world, where economies are still “recovering” from the economic crisis, Cambodia has a compounding problem of poor education of its population, which make it difficult to fill white-collar positions with qualified applicants, even if they are created with improvements in industry and commerce. One of the obstacles on the road to a higher achieving academic population is a lack of enthusiasm for schooling across the board. Our cover feature investigates how this attitude is being changed, both on a national level and one student at a time.
Another commonality between our Kingdom and those in the Middle East is a subservient role of women. While Colonel Gaddafi still insists on his body guards remaining virgins, Cambodia’s rigid rules around feminine behaviour seem to be loosening. One example we noticed recently is the rise of social drinking among young ladies. We talked to people in the know to find out if our suspicions were true and, if so, were they representative of larger shifts in society.
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Our thought and prayers are with citizens in the Middle East and those still piecing together their lives in Japan, or risking their lives to protect their neighbours.