D espite the numerous problems facing Cambodia in the last two decades, it is still
a nation full of opportunities for self-sustainability and reliance.
As Cambodia strives to achieve economic prosperity, it can learn much from the growing
pains of others, such as Thailand.
Cambodia is a tiny country in comparison to other nations in Southeast Asia, but
is very capable in many other aspects.
The population may be less than ten million, but the country is rich in natural resources,
such as fertile farmland, a network of exploitable hydrology (including countless
fish and wildlife in the Mekong River and the Tonle Sap lake), timber, gems, oil,
and natural gas that is currently being explored for exploitation.
There is also a wealth of cultural resources, such as Angkor complex, which drew
nearly a quarter million visitors in 1995, and has the strong potential to attract
With that in mind, Cambodia has more than adequate resources (or at least enough)
to sustain a population of ten million or perhaps even up to 50 million people. Social,
political, economic, and environmental issues are all intertwined and dependent upon
one another to move forward positively. The resources are there ready and available
to be utilized appropriately.
Cambodia only needs the political will and a competent leadership to ensure people
will live better, and eventually catch up with the rest of her neighbors and the
Short and long-term foreign capital investment is badly needed in Cambodia to help
jump-start the economy after decades of economic stagnation.
Infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, telecommunications and public utilities,
must be rebuilt from scratch.
The people, a top priority, must be properly fed and re-educated from the bottom
up in an attempt to catch up with the rest in the world.
Cambodia has been sleeping far too long and requires much time to recover, socially,
politically, economically and environmentally.
Cambodia must also remember that growth does not come without serious side effects
that cannot be ignored. One doesn't have to look far to find the problems directly
or indirectly associated with economic growth. Thailand is a classic example of the
dark side of Asian economic miracle. It is an example of what NOT to follow for the
most part. It is the story of what happens when the country imports free-market capitalism
without social and governmental structures that go with it to regulate growth.
In Bangkok for instance, more people per capita drive Mercedes Benz cars than anywhere
else in the region (or perhaps the world), but they can't enjoy their expensive imported
vehicles because they are always stuck in traffic jams. Bangkok drivers couldn't
imagine leaving their home without packing a mobile phone and a portable potty in
their cars. Others probably wish that there is a toilet built right into their cars
after so many emergencies (nature calls) on Bangkok's crowded street.
Bangkok is a city of about ten million people with little central city planning.
It has a few basic public transportation systems with many streets and overpasses
packed with private vehicles. There is no subway system, no car pool lanes, and just
about everybody drives one form of internal-combustion-engine vehicle or another.
Bangkok has recently built it first small waste-water treatment system, but most
people still throw their garbage, and flush their toilets, into city canals and water
Many local residents lament Bangkok as a "rich city with poor life," no
matter how beautiful the city is.
It is often easier to say that "we'll make our mess now and clean it up later
when we can afford to." When a city grows as fast as Bangkok has been in just
the last ten years, there is no such thing as "later." It is either now
There are very few sidewalks left for pedestrian because just about everyone drives.
There is no room for new open spaces, such as new parks for people to relax and enjoy.
Many of Bangkok famous canals and water ways have now become history as they have
been filled in for new high rise buildings. Traffic on Bangkok's street is now world
famous as being "the mother of all traffic jams." Breathing the air in
Bangkok can be quite an exciting experience in itself, if you enjoy getting high
on carbon monoxide.
The lack of environmental regulations and enforcement by the government, especially
in heavy industrial sectors, has led to serious health risks and other problems.
The pollution and traffic are not just environmental problems alone, but also economic
and political problems brought on by free-market economy without government regulations.
Where there is big money to be made in Asia, corruption is sure to follow and Thailand
is not immune to this "social and economic disease." Corruption would lead
to the deregulation or lack of enforcement of environmental laws, if any, and the
results can be very serious.
AIDS and HIV positive cases (another side effect of Thailand's economic boom), rank
among the highest in the world, unchecked until just a few years ago. The Thai, young
and old, continue to die from the disease. Sad to say, it could only get worse as
Bangkok's population continues to grow rapidly.
These are just some examples of the impacts or side effects from unregulated free-market
economy in Cambodia's next door neighbor.
Cambodia has a huge advantage that other developed nations, such as Thailand, did
not have. It has the opportunity to learn from others' bad moves due to the lack
of proper planning and regulations.
Cambodia can learn so much from Thailand's many mistakes in its attempt to achieve
economic prosperity as a developed nation.
Lets hope that these same mistakes can be avoided in Cambodia because so many lives
depend on it.
- Ronnie Yimsut, Oregon, USA.