CAMBODIAN youth and students associations say there has been a decline in the moral
character of the nation's young people and are calling on the Government to develop
a youth policy to combat the problem.
Six Khmer Youth associations - Khmer Youth Association (KYA), Khmer Democratic Youth
Association, Khmer Student Association, Union Neutral Khmer Students, Khmer Student
and Intellectual Association, and Student Movement for Democracy - recently held
a seminar on youth morality, which they say is declining because of a poor example
being set by society at large, corruption in schools and the breakdown of the family.
The group says the day-to-day corruption of government officials, pervasive injustice
and a lack of law enforcement give young people a warped view of how a society should
Young Kim Eng, Director of KYA, said it would be impossible to ensure social stability
in the long term and build Cambodia if the next generation has no concept of right
"Morality is like the hardwood of a tree: if the young people lose their morals
the tree has no strength," he said.
He said the administration of "justice" in Cambodia as epitomized by extrajudicial
executions and mob killings was contributing to the declining moral standard and
setting an example of violence for the young.
He said thought should be given to the example being set.
"Adults must think of young people as white cloth - it is easy to stain,"
Him Monipheak, director of the Khmer Student Association, said he was particularly
concerned about the example being set by mob violence, saying it was a dangerous
precedent. At the moment thieves were the main target of mob "justice",
but once the concept took root it could easily be steered into a way of getting rid
of people perceived to be trouble-makers, such as human rights workers or journalists.
Kim Eng is also concerned about corruption within the education system.
He said in schools now some students think that the teachers are vendors who sell
lessons and the students are buyers who pay to get good grades. He said this had
led to a decline in respect for teachers, which at times erupted into violence against
The associations said they were also concerned about the imitation of culture from
abroad, which they believe endangers the future of Cambodia's own rich heritage.
Him Monipheak said that though much of what needed to be done was the responsibility
of the Government, the youth associations would try to do their best in the meantime.
"We will not wait for the Government: we must start community level education
now," he said.