Prime Minister Hun Sen's youngest son, Hun Many. Photograph: supplied
Many people believe that children of the wealthy or high-ranking officers are often spoiled, rude or careless to others. The higher one’s family is on the social ladder, people perceive, the worse their behaviour is to others. However, this widely-held belief is certainly false when it comes to the youngest son of Prime Minister Hun Sen, Hun Many.
Getting out of his car – a gentle young man dressed in a blue shirt and black trousers – Hun Many welcomed LIFT reporters into his office with an air of politeness and simplicity. Hun Many invited LIFT for an exclusive interview related to a youth group known as “Youth in the Cause of the Motherland”, a group formed by Hun Many that’s taking off with unprecedented success.
Q: Can you tell us about the background of your youth group?
A: This group was formed by volunteering youth who share the same vision, see the good causes of devotion of the elder generation for the sake of their people and motherland, and believe gratitude and justice should be paid for those devotions by means of honouring it, maintaining it and improving it. This group consists of all volunteering youth. It has yet to be formed with a formal structure.
However, I have, for the meantime, been supported to be a co-ordinator and team leader for the group. As a volunteer group, we don’t limit the number of members. Anyone who sees the good causes of our group can join. As of now, we have varied members from different backgrounds, including university lecturers, NGO staff members, government officials, businessmen, lawyers, staff of private companies etc. who share common beliefs and visions.
Q: What is the purpose and ultimate goal of the youth group?
A: We are well-aware that a nursery on which we spring until today has been paved by the elder generation. Our main purpose is, therefore, to get the next generation understanding of this, and to have it maintained, promoted and improved. We envisage a Cambodian society whereby youth at every social class and tendency are not discriminated against, but are seen as a contributing force to the development of the Cambodia.
We try our utmost to explain, encourage and put perspectives into actions by means of initiating social gatherings, peer meetings, mentoring, civic education etc. We want all Cambodian youth to understand their roles and obligations – and do good things for the causes of their people and beloved motherland, rather than spending their time with things that leave negative impacts on society.
Q: What were the mains factors that impassioned you and other members to get involved in the youth group?
A: On the one hand, it’s generally understood that youth are physically and mentally energetic. I feel so, as a youth myself. Indeed, we have energy to do a lot of good things for the cause of our people and motherland. This belief certainly drives me and other members of the group to join hands and form this group. On the other hand, it relates to the history of Cambodia. Before, it’s quite unfortunate Cambodia underwent political instability as a consequence of chronic wars, and didn’t have chance to do what Cambodia and her people deserved.
Now, seeing the current situation whereby peace, stability and development are taking root, we take this opportunity to honour this, and foster them by means of understanding how things developed from year zero, how to preserve it, and how to foster it. Since we have faith that every individual is the cell of the society, we need to nurture those cells by encouraging them to take part in whatever activity which bears fruit for their society.
It’s always a regret and pity to see any individual Cambodian youth, who I believe, is a key driving force of our country’s development and shall have no time to waste at this peaceful time of our country, get involved in criminal activity when their physical and mental strength is more than needed in the build-up of their own homeland.
I also see many youth feel safe and grateful being saved from civil war, from running for shelter from bullet and mortar over 20 years ago. But the border of our youth desire cannot be limited to peace only but to be always active and competitive. We cannot stay safe anymore economically at this globalised time if our youth stay uncompetitive, especially compared to those of our neighbours. Nowadays, youth of Cambodia don’t need to learn how to shoot anymore, but they need to learn how to sew clothes at factories and sow seeds at rice fields etc.
Q: What has the youth group achieved and accomplished since it formed?
A: Not as much as compared to what have been achieved by the elder generation. But we are proud that it’s moving. This move is indeed driven by our belief that everyone in the society shall not ask what his nation could do for him, but what he could do for his nation. I myself have been observing this, and I’m sure my group members have also been observing this philosophy too.
With this, we are proud to say that our individual and group achievements have thus far contributed tremendously to this country. To name a few, we have so far taken part in environment protection activities where we planted trees, released fish, lobsters etc. into their natural habitats, and also took part in certain social works such as community cleaning, offering donation to flood victims, blood donation etc.
Besides, our group has also initiated several study-tours for students in various universities so that they could see the real production chain onsite, and to reflect it against their in-class theories. To exemplify, we have recently hosted more than 500 students from 22 different universities to Phnom Penh Sugar Company where they were exposed to the real production assembly of the company.
Particularly, we have organised a gathering of nearly 20,000 youths at Olympic Stadium to focus on the topic “Youth in the Cause of Motherland”. On top of this, we have also involved our group in sports activities where we competed against or joined with other groups so as to make us and others healthier and friendlier. Last year, we organised a youth camping trip and I’m happy to announce that such activities wait in queue to come.
Q: Do you think the group is making an impact on Cambodian youth?
A: Yes, it has, more or less. But with whatever image, we are not negatively affected as we are standing firm on our principles that we do whatever we can to help this country, but not to manipulate anyone. So far, we have been working with no less than 20,000 youth. Though we don’t have specific assessment on the level of impact, we could tell from their active and energetic participations that they are certainly affected by our activities, and are satisfied by that.
This satisfaction is seen to have been geared by the joint efforts that yield multiple-effects on every participant. What I can conclude for now is that they are affected because most of them shared a common vision and causes as I do, and our group does.
Q: Does your youth group face any difficulty?
A: Of course, yes. We are youth; we lack or may be seen as lacking experience and know-how, and we need to learn. We need to learn while we are doing, and this is, for sure, our limitation. Besides, as you see, many of us have our work in addition to volunteering.
For sustainability of our careers and this volunteer work, we need to find a good time balance. This limitation has thwarted us, to a certain extent, from what we wanted to achieve.
Q: How does your youth group tackle these kinds of challenges?
A: Luckily, our group consists of committed members who possess different skills. Based on a principle of openness, we always place challenges on the table for discussions. Our thoroughness, seriousness, commitment and varied skills have helped us get through those challenges.
Another strength that we should not forget is that we never consider challenges as obstacles. Rather, we see them as opportunity and a lesson learnt. Besides, we always keep learning from the old people who have gone through those challenges.
Q: What does the youth group have planned for the future?
A: As mentioned in our vision, we envisage a Cambodian society where youth are actively involved in the cause of their people and motherland. In other words, we plan to do whatever we can to activate, encourage and provide as much necessary assistance as possible to them so that they could use their physical and intellectual strength to its fullest potential to help contribute whatever they believe fit to this country. We also plan to shape this group as a role-model for other people who are willing to contribute whatever resources they have for the betterment of Cambodia and Cambodians.
However, I have to be cautious by letting you know that because this group is a volunteer group, not an official institution. Its future plan, to fit with its capacity and flexibility, is subject to change.
Q: Do you have any final words on how youth can get involved in bettering Cambodia?
A: I just would like to add that you don’t need to be an intellectual to be able to share a piece of knowledge with your countrymen; likewise, you don’t need to be wealthy to be able to contribute a cent to a charity group. By just doing the right thing that causes no harm for your people and country, you’re contributing.
There is indeed no time for you to wait; for those who are able to understand this message, you’re, of course, needed by your people and country. Please join us, and act now.