Chin Malin was born in Takhmao, Kandal province, to a doctor and a homemaker. A studious pupil since high school, Malin won scholarships at every stage of his tertiary and postgraduate education. He has two bachelor’s degrees – Law and English, two Master’s degrees in political science and law, and a doctorate in political science.

He is currently completing another doctorate. His passion to learn has taken him from Cambodia to Japan, the US and China.

While he continues his academic pursuit, Malin has also made great strides as a government officer, where his other passion lies. After working as a civil servant in the Council of Ministers from 2002 to 2013, he gained the trust of the government and was appointed undersecretary of state of the Ministry of Justice.

He is now secretary of state for the Ministry of Justice and deputy chairman for the Cambodian Human Rights Committee.

In an interview with The Post’s Voun Dara, Malin talks about his academic journey, serving the government, and shares tips on how to build life skills, study smart and apply for scholarships.

What year did you pass your high school exam?

I attended primary, secondary and high schools in Takhmao town. I graduated from high school in 1996 and went on to read law on a four-year scholarship at University of Law and Economics near Boeung Trabek High School. I earned a degree in law in 2000.

After earning a degree in law, did you enrol in another discipline?

While I was studying for a degree in law, I received two scholarships. One was for a bachelor’s degree in English at the Royal University of Phnom Penh and another – two-year scholarship – to study at the Royal School of Administration from 2000 to 2002. I graduated from both disciplines in 2002.

When did you start working within the government?

Students who graduate from the Royal School of Administration will automatically become civil servants. And those who got good grades can choose any state institution to work. Following my graduation from the Royal School of Administration where I passed with good grades, I was allowed to choose which state institution I wanted to join. At that time, I chose to work at the Council of Ministers in 2002.

During your university years, did you work part-time?

Yes, I did work part-time to earn some money for my studies. I did not depend on my parents. I worked as a part-time English teacher in the afternoon and night to earn money.

Did you stop studying when you started work at the Council of Ministers or are you still studying?

While working at the Council of Ministers in 2002, I won a scholarship to pursue a Master’s degree in political science in Nagoya University in Japan for about three years (2002-2005) and then I returned to work at the Council of Ministers.

However, in 2009, I won another scholarship to do a Master’s degree in Law at University of Hawaii in the US. The degree was for one year and I graduated in 2010. I returned to Cambodia and continued to work at the Council of Ministers.

I had studied and worked as an officer at the Council of Ministers for about 10 years before I came to work at the Ministry of Justice in the political framework in 2013. After the 2013 election, I gained the trust of the head of government and was appointed to work in the political framework as the undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Justice that year.

When you worked as an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Justice, did you learn any other skills?

Because of my love for studying and desire to improve my abilities, I was not satisfied with what I had and always sought knowledge. I received a scholarship to study in China for a doctorate in political science in 2018. The doctoral curriculum in China was unique. It was a programme for government leaders. It was not necessary for us to study onsite in China. It was a hybrid programme, so I studied in China and in Cambodia.

Was it difficult to work and study?

I could work and do research on this doctoral programme – it did not affect our work but it was not as easy as studying for a master’s degree where we are overseas and get to concentrate on studying. However, I did struggle to complete my doctorate in late 2021 successfully and defend my doctoral thesis. So I have two final degrees – master’s degrees in Japan and the US, and a doctorate in China.

I am now writing another doctoral thesis in Japan. But because of my busy schedule, I am not able to finish on time. I will try hard to finish another doctoral thesis in Japan. I have set the direction of gaining two master’s degrees and two doctoral degrees.

Can you share some special points with youths based on your experience of studying and landing a government job?

Of course, studying is the starting point of our success at work but to be successful at work, we must have a combination of other factors. What I mean is that through education, we acquire hard skills, for example when we study law, we acquire legal skills. So in order to be successful, we need some soft skills, such as leadership skills, communication skills, understanding the environment around us, and being flexible within our working environment.

How do you build personality?

The building of our personality does not come from school, but from the society and environment we live in. So, I encourage youths to study at home and abroad with a main focus on education. But do not focus only on studies at school, do take part in activities through volunteer work, social work, community work to build your personality. That way, we understand the society broadly, understand people and the environment around them, especially if you want to cultivate leadership skills and become more mature. These factors help us when we go to work because when we have good hard skills and soft skills, we can work with everyone, adapt to different working conditions and solve problems in front of us effectively.

Please share your experience in building soft and hard skills

Building soft and hard skills is something we have to build while at university. This was my experience when I studied in Japan, the US and China. The first thing is to study hard to get good grades in school. Besides that, we have to learn from societies there to build our personality by drawing on good points to develop our ability. It means that we have to communicate with our Japanese, American or Chinese friends. We take part in social work or other community work to reach out to those societies and communities and learn from them to build our personality.

How does one learn to be smart and win scholarships?

This is a good point that I wanted to share with youths who dream of continuing their studies abroad. If their family has money, it’s fine, as the family can pay for the school fees from high school. But for those of us who cannot afford, we need a scholarship to study abroad. From my experience, we have to learn smartly. It means that we work hard to gain skills including learning foreign languages such as English.

Apart from the combination of skills and foreign languages, we have to know what type of scholarship we want to pursue. It means that we have to learn from seniors who have passed the qualifying exams.

Some might have excelled in school and are outstanding students but they are not smart at scholarship applications or interviews. So, we have to know what kind of candidates scholarship approving bodies want and what is required of us in the future. When we prepare a scholarship application, we have to meet the criteria that approving bodies want. It is the same with interviews, we have to answer in accordance to what they want.

So, you might have excelled in school and are capable of writing and speaking well but it might not meet the goal of the approving panel. This point is called intelligence. We have to learn about the conditions of the scholarship and the direction of the scholarship, and particularly from those who have passed the exams to qualify for the scholarship.

How should students abroad prepare and what principles should they possess to be able to return to work successfully in their homeland?

They must work hard to pass. If they do not pass, they lose their scholarship. If they fail, they have to come back. Therefore, they must study hard to pass, and try to get good results.

When they return, they would need skills to solve problems at the workplace because we do not work alone there. We work in a team made up of the management, subordinates and colleagues.

With good soft skills, we can solve problems, be flexible under various circumstances and situations, and communicate and work with different kinds of people. If we only study hard in school, we would be good or know everything, but we might not be able to work with people. We might not be successful and our colleagues will leave us to work alone.

Please share the values of hard work and efforts to strengthen capabilities to give results to those who have worked hard.

I would like to stress to our youths that learning and building up their capabilities are endless. We have to do it over and over again no matter the age, time and place. We must not give up.

I still remember the time I was working at the Council of Ministers and I was just an ordinary official and I tried hard to study. As long as there was a training course, I attended it and studied hard to get a scholarship. Some people laughed at me, asking why I was trying so hard to study, and that I had nowhere to go as I was a government official.

But I did not feel hopeless because of their taunts. I was determined that as long as I had a strong, clear ability, I would not be an official for life. I will give you a head start but someday I will catch up and be faster than you.

So, although you are working now and do not have a position, you must continue sharpening your skills and knowledge. That means not giving up and when the opportunity comes, you will get promoted.