Researchers in attendance at a forum organised by the Youth Resource Development Program (YRDP) in Phnom Penh on Sunday said young people play an important role in the nation’s development and in resolving social issues.
The forum, entitled Influence of Current Political Developments on Youths, was attended by more than 200 youths and monks from the capital and Kampong Cham and Battambang provinces.
Dr Chhort Bunthong, the head of Culture, Education and Tourist Relations at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said at the forum: “Youths are the ones who follow the news. They know as well as anyone what the political situation is like today.
“Through videos and on social media, the public express their concern as they see our politicians are still divided,” he said.
Dr Bunthong considered youths a major force in resolving national issues.
“When young people are strong, politicians will try to implement policies that will serve the interests of the youth, so young people must make themselves a valuable and influential part of society.
“On the other hand, if young people fail to make themselves influential, they will become victims of politicians,” he said.
At the event, independent social and political analyst Meas Nee reminded attendees of the Khmer proverb saying “the bamboo shoot succeeds the bamboo”.
He raised the question of how the “bamboo shoots” would become the next “bamboo” in modern day society.
“Are young people currently given enough opportunities by politicians of the older generation to grow beyond being bamboo shoots?” Nee asked.
He made a comparison with Singapore, saying that although the city-state is relatively tiny and has a small population, it has become a strong country because its leaders have followed the right path.
Nee noted that one of the most important factors that has made Singapore a prosperous country is that the leadership has made a point of developing human resources, especially the education of young people.
He said there are more than five million young people in Cambodia out of a total population of around 16 million, but around 80 per cent of the youth have little education or skills, making it difficult to develop society.
“Bickering between politicians, with partisans and extremists smearing each other, has become part of the political culture.
“This means that the culture of ‘when the water rises, fish eat ants; when the water recedes, ants eat fish’ continues to exist in Cambodian society,” Nee said.
He continued that if the younger generation goes down the same route and young people smear each other, the youth will not be able to grow “from bamboo shoots into bamboo trees”.
“Although Cambodia’s past shows a history of bitterness and its divisiveness led to the loss of a lot of territory, Cambodian politicians seem unable to learn from that past."
“The most immediate issue to be resolved in Cambodian society is a reconciliation between Khmer and Khmer,” he said.
Young political analyst Ly Srey Sros spoke of how Kem Ley had been a role model for Cambodia’s youth and an important catalyst in encouraging young people to care about and participate in national and social issues.
With regard to Cambodia’s current situation, she said that the Kingdom’s politicians have shown their inability to work together, allowing political progress to be stalled.
“Politicians seem to have little time to think what principles will solve the country’s major problems,” Srey Sros said.