"Integrating youth in all levels of society”, a slogan written in English and Khmer and hung on a white cloth over the main roads of Phnom Penh, was aimed to attract the attention of the Kingdom’s citizens.
But how much do young Cambodians know about the different political parties, and why should they become politically active?
Ngoeun Raden, a 27-year-old youth activist and Deputy Director of the Funcinpec political party, said that it is vital for young Cambodians to participate in politics.
He said that their involvement is key to developing the country’s political system.
Regarding youth activities hosted by Funcinpec in anticipation of the upcoming elections, Ngoeun Raden said that he gathered young Cambodians to discuss the importance of voting, while informing them about politics for the sake of making good decisions as citizens.
However, are young Cambodians’ affiliations with and knowledge of politics too closely tied with that of their parents?
Hing Soksan, Party Chief of the Human Rights Party, explained that youth are held back from political involvement by misunderstandings.
He said that young Cambodians perceive that they risk going to prison should their political party come under fire; they also perceive that they are then at risk for exile and even death.
However, these perceptions are false, Hing Soksan said – and they root from the older generation spreading an unclear picture of Cambodia’s political climate to their children.
“Politics are about responsibilities to the nation for everyone, not just politicians,” he said. “The lack of youth participation in each political party is not good for the country’s development, because youth have a very powerful voice and can make change in this society.”
Maly Socheata, a 28-year-old youth advocate for the Cambodian People’s Party and Ministry of Women’s Affairs, said that youth contribution to politics is the right move for the country’s development.
“I have never felt afraid of my [political] activities and I’ve never felt regret involving myself in politics, because I believe that it is an obligation for every youth,” she said. “I am pleased and excited to inform people about what I’m doing for the upcoming election.”
Cheam Yeap, a Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker, said that youth have the right to participate in every social activity and that such participation will allow for broadening their knowledge and skill.
He added that the government is making an immense effort to focus on education so that young Cambodians will develop into good citizens, and have the ability to actively contribute in society.
Seng Rithy, Secretary General of the Khmer Youth Association, said that it is important for youth to become politically active. He explained that young Cambodians should consider the principles of a political party before deciding to join it.
“Youths have to think deeply about whether a political party’s policies satisfy their interests,” he said. “And if they cannot find a political party that fits their needs, they can form a new one.”
Yim Sovann, a spokesman for the Sam Rainsy Party, said politicians are looking to youth to rid the country of corruption and continue cultivating a culture of democracy.