A new study finds that the government must do more to remove obstacles to participation for Cambodia’s growing youth population
THE government has failed to generate much interest in political participation among Cambodia's growing youth population, according to a new report that evaluated youth participation in July's national polls.
"In general, political parties in Cambodia have not paid attention to encouraging youths, especially girls, to become effectively engaged in politics and have no specific policy for youth," said the report, which was published by the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel) on Thursday.
The report found that "youths are keen to participate in the elections but face obstacles, as they have no identity documents to use to vote.
"Participation of youths in elections is crucial for increasing voter turnout," the report said, adding that it could strengthen Cambodian democracy on many levels.
"Political participation among youths is still very low even though their demographic is growing rapidly," said Mar Sophal, head of Comfrel.
The report said that 250,000 to 300,000 reach voting age every year, and young voters between the ages of 18 and 30 constitute more than 30 percent of the country's estimated population of 14 million.
In the absence of official statistics, Comfrel estimates that youth turnout is only 60 to 65 percent, compared with a national average turnout of 75 percent.
Meanwhile, the report also notes that voters aged 18 to 30 are less receptive to vote-buying.
Mao Pouthyroth, program coordinator for the Youth Council of Cambodia said: "Participation is vital to help youths strengthen themselves to become future pillars of politics and democracy".
Howver, Phay Siphan, secretary of state for the Council of Ministers, said Cambodia's youth are simply not interested in politics.
"Nine out of 10 youths that we interviewed were not interested in politics. So, the government's focus now is economic policy in order to create jobs for young people," he said.