Phnom Penh is not the only city in the midst of development projects.
Ratanakiri, a rural province north-east of the city, is slated for infrastructure and development projects as well.
Just recently, such projects have taken the form of rebuilding one of the province’s national roads: National Road 78.
Heak Bros, 30, is a vendor at Boeung Yark Loam Lake. He said that since the road has begun reconstruction, significantly more tourists have been coming to the area.
According to Heak Bros, these kinds of development projects have good and bad impacts on rural youth.
With tourists, he said, come more jobs for young Cambodians – however, the jobs become limited to providing tourist services.
Sok Sothearith, 22 and originally from Kampong Cham, has been working in Ratanakiri for six years. He said that access to clean water and electricity is not a problem in the province, but maintaining the national road is.
Sok Sothearith maintains this will benefit students, providing them with easier transport in and out of Ratanakiri.
The Director of the Tourism Department at Ratanakiri, Nget Pitou, said that the province is emerging into a destination for eco-tourists.
“After building up new National Road 78 from Opong Mon to Balunch, the number of tourists in Ratanakiri is expected to increase to 300,000 by 2015,” he said.
Nget Pitou added that more students are attracted to tourism as a university major.
Chan Kham Khuer, Director of the Education Department in Ratanakiri, said that the rate of students dropping out of school has reduced after the Department established more high schools.
There are five high schools in the province now; formerly, there were only two.
Chan Ngok is a 26-year-old Kreng ethnic minority. He was born in Ratanakiri but left to pursue higher education; now, he is a sixth-year medical student.
“Youth [in rural provinces] seem unwilling to participate in both social activities and NGOs,” he said.
Chan Ngok added that to engage rural youth in social participation, their communities should clearly explain the benefits.
“Young Cambodians have to be well-educated and know what their future goals are,” he said.
“They need to know about land conflicts, deforestation and political issues.”