Cambodia's old adage that those with messy handwriting will become doctors while those with neat handwriting will become clerks bears little weight nowadays, given municipal offices are becoming increasingly computerized, said 30-year-old Young Sokhara, a clerk at Tuol Tompoung administrative hall.
Sokhara explained that clerks are “members of the Ministry of Interior, who are sent to district halls to help ministries check and execute documents, prepare meetings, aid district chiefs and so on”.
When it comes down to getting hired, Sokhara said, neat handwriting won’t get you a clerkship.
Instead, the job relies on an ability to interact well with others and knowledge of how the government operates, according to Sokhara. A good score on the entrance exam certainly doesn’t hurt, either.
“Being a clerk now is much different from the past,” Sokhara said. “Clerks should have good computer skills since we’re not depending on handwriting, anymore.”
Sokhara reflected that he appreciates his work because of how the close connections it allows for with the district’s citizens; he also enjoys being able to help them directly when they face problems.
“I will be the first person who people come across when they come to the district hall,” Sohkara said.
Sometimes, Sokhara is especially challenged when he is kept late at work by having to process birth and death certificates, various formal applications and other tedious paperwork.
Although Sokhara does not yet hold a university degree, he maintains that he is satisfied with the amount of work experience he’s gained in lieu of academic accolades. Before moving to Phnom Penh, he’d worked as a clerk in his hometown in Preah Vihear province for over 10 years.
However, he’s still looking towards the future. Currently, Sokhara is pursuing a Bachelor’s in Law at the Royal University of Law and Economics so that he has the opportunity to further his career when the time comes.
Sokhara said that although he’s not in a high position, his work is rewarding.
“When people need my help, I help them without thinking about any personal advantage,” he said. “Helping them is my duty.”
A good clerk, Sokhara said, should welcome citizens’ problems and never accept a bribe.
With the upcoming elections, his hall is busy. Sokhara is responsible for overseeing the list of names for those who register for elections and double-checking for any mistakes.
“For those who are listed incorrectly, or have another problem on the list, they can come to me for help,” Sokhara said.
Sokhara looks to making an even stronger commitment to the government when he graduated university.
“Even if you’re somehow disadvantaged, study hard,” Sokhara said. “You need to be recognised by the Kingdom and try hard to develop our country no matter who you are.”
He finished with a message to Cambodian youth: “Don’t miss election time.”