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Cambodia’s Electric Shortage: Its Impacts on Economy and Small Businesses

Written by: Kong Sreynou, a 3rd-year student majoring in International Studies at Institute of Foreign Languages, RUPP. Edited by: Heng Kimkong, a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at Cambodia Development Center and a Ph.D. Candidate in Education at The University of Queensland, Australia. Photo Credit: Asia Times Cambodia has experienced steady economic growth over the last few decades, along with the boom of construction and investment. Within this context, the consumption of energy such as electricity has significantly increased. Although Cambodia has undergone rapid economic development, the infrastructure required for the energy sector is still limited to match the pace of development. With the increasing population and the expansion of key industries such as garment and tourism sectors, Cambodia’s electricity consumption increases. It was forecast that electricity consumption would grow at a rate of  9.4% annually. Meanwhile, Cambodia also encountered a shortage of electricity due to the drought in the dry season as well as the growing number of demands in electric usage. The shortage of electricity is harmful to public places, industries, or households. In 2019, the government had to reduce or cut off the electricity during the day in order to meet the demands at night. Electric scarcity has impacts on the economy and small businesses in many ways.  First, electric inefficiency can cripple the small businesses in the country as small business owners are believed to endure  the most from the electric shortage. Large parts of Cambodia have to suffer hours of electric outages, as the country’s supply of electricity could not meet the increasing demand. According to VOA Cambodia, Phnom Penh has been crippled by power outages up to 6 hours per day in some areas, and it is struggling to meet the high demand of the small business owners. Some small businesses such as Salons require ongoing electricity to run their business. For example,  Sokunthea, a salon owner in Phnom Penh, has experienced an ongoing electricity shortage, saying that, without electricity, she can’t blow-dry the hair of her guests after washing it. She further added that her customers would not be able to enter her shop since the weather is scorching hot. Without fans, her customers will get sweaty, and the make-up will slide off.  The electric outage undeniably offers difficulties for small business owners to pursue their small business since their income will be dropped. Plus, the price of Cambodia’s electricity is also regarded as among the most expensive in the region, according to the Open Development Cambodia (ODC). Thus, while  they cannot run their business smoothly to generate income, they have to pay their electricity fees at a high price. There are also growing numbers of new constructions, such as new apartment buildings, stores, and hotels, which do need electricity, adding burden to the already struggling sector. No doubt, without proper electric generation, small businesses will suffer, and many new buildings will be slowly constructed.  Second, the economic impact of regular power cuts could be huge. Big investments or private companies in or around the Phnom Penh city, especially within the industry and manufacturing sector such as garment factories, play vital roles in helping the Cambodian economy, yet they depend heavily on electricity to run their businesses. Since there is a shortage of supply of electricity, the firms from private companies and big investments will lose their interest in investing in our country. This is because they will have to buy expensive generators, which adds to their expenses. As stated by Cheat Khemera, Senior Officer at Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC), most garment factories are connected with state-run electricity supply, and therefore there would be great impacts if there is not enough electricity.  With the growing demands for the nation's electrification priorities, Cambodia has invested heavily in hydropower development with 60 possible sites, and an estimated supply of 10,000 MW, of which 50% is on the mainstream Mekong, 40% on its tributaries, and 10% in the southwest outside the Mekong basin. In addition, coal electric generation is also an attractive complement that can offset hydropower seasonality. According to the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME) annual report in 2020, there are two coal-fired power plants in Cambodia. One of which is located in Tamar Sor commune, Botum Sakor district, Koh Kong province, and another one is situated in Trapaing Prasat district, Oddar Meanchey province. These two power sources, hydropower dam, and coal have promised massive gains in electricity generation capacity. Additionally, solar power has emerged as an energy source with considerable potential for Cambodia. To date,  Cambodia’s existing operational solar power stations include a 10-megawatt (MW) and a 5 MW solar farms in Bavet city, Svay Rieng province, an 80 MW solar station in Kampong Speu province, a 60 MW solar station in Kampong Chhnang province, and a 60 MW solar station in Battambang province’s Thmar Kol district. So far, the Royal Government of Cambodia has done its best by introducing policies and initiatives to address the inadequate electricity supply. It has laid out a few key policies on energy development. First, the Power Sector Strategy 1999-2016 was introduced to ensure  an adequate, reliable and secure electricity supply throughout the country at reasonable and affordable prices to facilitate investment in Cambodia and to drive economic development. This strategy has encouraged the exploration of environmentally friendly ways and socially acceptable energy resources to minimize environmental effects resulting from energy supply and use. Second, the Renewable Electricity Action Plan (REAP) 2002-2012 was implemented to offer cost-effective and reliable electricity through renewable energy technologies in rural areas. Third, the government introduced the Renewable Energy Development Program which aims to promote the production of power supply from various resources such as hydropower, wind and solar energy, biomass, biogas, biofuel, solid wastes and geothermal energy.  In short, the electricity shortage can threaten Cambodia’s economic growth. Small businesses will suffer the most from the outage of electricity which serves as a major barrier for them to run their business. Thinking of Cambodia's economy, key investors and private companies will lose their interest in investing in the country due to the scarcity of the power supply and the high price of electricity. Therefore, to address these issues, the government should consider using more solar energy to generate electricity. Solar energy could be used to provide additional energy capacity during the dry season rather than constructing dams that can create long-lasting environmental consequences affecting the health of the Mekong river and lives depending on it. The investment in solar energy to produce electricity should therefore be considered by the government because it offers a more sustainable and affordable source of energy.     

It’s Time to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle Plastic to Save the World

Written by: Tea Sovanmony, a 3rd year student majoring in Global Affairs at The American University of Phnom Penh Edited by: Heng KimKong, a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at Cambodia Development Center and a PhD Candidate in Education at The University of Queensland, Australia   (Photo Credit: "Collection of #1 PET plastic, accepted effective June 2012" by Department of Environmental Protection Recycling a is licensed under CC BY 2.0)   In the contemporary world, plastic has become one of the most essential contributions to human society. However, the use of plastic has also had a significant negative impact on human health and well-being as well as those of animals. Across the entire globe, there are increasing concerns about the increasing use of plastic, which has led to pollution and caused great harm to human life, wildlife, ocean creatures, and nature. Importantly, it has caused disruptions to the entire ecosystem. Thus, it is crucial that the world commits to applying the 3Rs principles of reduce, reuse and recycle to curb the excessive use of plastic to save our planet.  Whether you believe it or not, there is a connection between plastic used by people and the environmental world. According to nature, there is no waste material that does not decompose. However, in the case of plastic, it takes more than a hundred years for it to totally decompose. While plastic waste is dumped or flows into the ocean, it breaks up into small microbeads that are extremely harmful to all living things, including humans and animals, in the long term.  Human beings invented plastic to make life easier. However, this creation is and will always be considered unnatural to the ecosystem. In fact, plastic is less expensive, more affordable and more durable than paper bags, leading to its mass and endless production. Plastic has played an integral part in the production of water bottles, plastic wraps, plastic bags, plastic straws, plastic utensils, plastic cups and more. As people become comfortable using plastic and begin to use it indefinitely, it results in the uncontrollable use of single-use plastic. Consequently, the usage of plastic has become a major global problem. As 40% of all plastic that has been used is used just once, the National Geographic started to question whether it is Planet or Plastic? This campaign is then urged to raise international awareness of the consequences of single-use plastic.  The danger of plastic pollution  When tonnes of plastic are dumped into the ocean, it does not dissolve and remains in the water. This affects the ocean water and causes aquatic species to misunderstand plastic as their food. The effects of plastic on sea life are immense. For example, plastic waste causes the death of a million seabirds a year as seabirds would ingest plastic which  takes up room in their stomach, which sometimes causes starvation. For example, many seabirds have been found dead with their stomachs filled with plastic waste.  According to the United Nations, marine debris affects at least 800 species globally, with plastic accounting for up to 80% of the waste. Furthermore, plastic also polluted water when it was dumped into it, causing many problems to the environment in addition to making sea or ocean water look and smell bad. Therefore, plastic pollutes water and affects species in the ocean leading to their numerous deaths.  Plastic also hurts humans. Based on a research study by BreastCancer.org (2020), the leaching of plastic chemicals, including bisphenol A (BPA) from heating can cause human cancer. There are several more negative health impacts such as cardiovascular diseases, lung problems, cancer, and the weakened immune system. This is due to the toxicity of chemical elements including mercury, lead, and cadmium which are found in plastic. The cycle starts from the plastic garbage that humans throw away in front of their eyes into the street, which ends up in the ocean and breaks down into small tiny plastic beads. Those small particles are eaten by fish which will then be consumed by humans. Thus, humans are now eating plastic that they have dumped!  Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle (3Rs) are the solution  According to Wendell Berry, an American environmental activist and novelist, “The Earth is what we all have in common”. Thus, individual contribution to the environment through the 3Rs: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle is a must. It takes no or little effort and cost in starting the actions for sustainability and a better planet  because planet Earth is a home to all human beings and other living things.  First, due to the high cost of recycling, it is good  to reduce the numbers of individual plastic consumption rather than totally relying on recycling, although recycling is another alternative. We can start with the reduction of plastic consumption by minimizing daily consumption like plastic straws, plastic utensils, plastic bags, and plastic cups. Since food delivery is popular in modern society, individuals should have their own portable utensils and metal straws that are easy to carry around. Therefore, in the case of Cambodia, in any order from delivery apps such as Nham24 and FoodPanda, we can request the restaurant to not include plastic utensils for us. This may be a bit uncomfortable for some people, it is one effective way to contribute to minimizing the numbers of daily plastic consumption. Each one of us should now consider using a metal bottle instead of a plastic cup to reduce the use of plastic. In addition to that, companies, schools, and other institutions are key actors that can help individuals to reduce plastic bottles by setting a water purifier refill in the office or school to let individuals fill up their fresh water in their metal bottles. The use of cotton or cloth bags for shopping products is also another good way to replace the use of single-use plastic bags. Moreover, for essential goods such as dishwasher soap, scrub, bodywash and shampoo, there are alternatives from several refill stores around Toul Tompong areas in Phnom Peng city that offer goods and services for customers to go and refill them. It is essential to save our planet and each of us has an important role to play.  Second, we need to adhere to the concept of reuse. The idea of reuse is extremely important to avoid the single use of plastic that tends to be dumped into the ocean or other water resources after use. We can apply this concept by reusing plastic that we have in our home multiple times and try to reuse it for other purposes before throwing it away. For example, the water bottle can be used to store new water or other liquid, or it can be used for gardening purposes. The bubble wrap that is received from delivery can be used to protect furniture and other glass products.  Thirdly, it is the concept of recycling which involves industrial or machinery processes. Every single-use plastic such as the cutlery, straws, and bags can be recycled in most advanced economic countries in Europe and America. Unfortunately, there may not be recycling companies in some middle income and low income countries. Cambodia is a case in point. To the best of my knowledge, single-use plastic is mainly used daily but there is no recycling process available  in the country. Regarding this issue, reasons for the unavailability of recycling processes are due to the high cost of investment and the requirements for highly skilled labor in the field. In spite of this, not all plastic can be recycled. According to SL Recycling, the types of plastic that are commonly recycled include  Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET), High Density Polyethylene (HDPE), and Polypropylene (PP). Thus, reducing the amount of plastic is still one of the most essential alternatives among the 3Rs of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.    The way forward Moving forward, human beings must come to realize that in some cases the use of plastic is not necessary, but we are just consumed by the idea of convenience without thinking of the consequences of excessive plastic use. Since the single use of plastic can have serious consequences for humanity and the environment, it should be minimized by individuals and inspired by society itself as well. Up until now, there has been very limited action toward sustainability, especially in countries that have a low literacy rate. Many people tend to think that environmental issues are not as important as political or social issues.  Thus, to achieve sustainability, it requires all of us to take action without procrastinating. It can start from youth who can introduce their parents and relatives to the concept of 3Rs. Youth themselves also have to practice the concept of 3Rs, and contribute to voluntary work related to environmental issues so that plastic  awareness can spread widely, and at the same time, they can learn  more about many important social issues through their working experience as volunteers. This type of knowledge is not available in school. Nevertheless, the Cambodian government needs to introduce and implement laws to curb the excessive use of plastic. It needs to find effective ways to educate the citizens and control their plastic consumption in an effective way. It is also important to attract foreign investment to develop Cambodia’ capacity to recycle plastic. The non-governmental organizations and international organizations also play a crucial role in making the world a better place for all. They must raise the public awareness of the impact of single-use plastic, offer financial support to low economic development countries to tackle their plastic crisis, and produce more informative videos to educate the masses about the risks of plastic pollution.  Together we can work toward a sustainable future in which we control the use of plastic by reducing, reusing and recycling it. We should not be complacent and let plastic control us and destroy our world.     *This blog is produced with the financial support from the European Union and The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency through Transparency International Cambodia and ActionAid Cambodia. Its contents do not reflect the views of any donors.  

Why Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations Theory Cannot Explain the Realities of Global Politics in Contemporary World?

Written by: Rada ROFEK, a 3rd year student in International Relations and Political Science at Paragon International University. Edited by: Heng Kimkong, a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at Cambodia Development Center and a PhD Candidate in Education at The University of Queensland, Australia. Photo Credit: Chinese Dragons — Symbolism, Types, Culture, Legends, Art from China's Highlights  When the world entered the post-cold war era after 1989, many scholars put in their intellectual efforts to explain the future patterns of international relations and global politics. Unlike Francis Fukuyama’s “The End of History and The Last Man” which emphasize political ideologies as the main unit of analysis, Samuel Huntington in his renowned book “The Clash of Civilizations” gives an explanation on the future shape of world politics based on the notion of civilization. In brief, the book states that people’s religious and cultural identities will be the primary source of conflicts among different groups in the world after the cold war. This is due to his belief that different languages, traditions, cultures, histories, and religions tear people apart. Specifically, Huntington argued that "Western" culture and “Islamic” culture are the two most encompassing civilizations. He stressed that clash of civilizations is unavoidable since these two worlds could cause global conflicts. As the Muslim world is unified for a greater Islamic civilization, Huntington accused Islamic extremists of posing the biggest threat to global peace and predicted that the Muslim world will have a conflict with the West as they are trying to challenge Western dominance and oppose universal Western ideals. Correspondingly, Huntington’s idea seems to be accurate due to some historical events, especially the 9/11 and the start of the Middle East conflict at the beginning of the 21st century. As a result, more and more people started to debate the possibilities of the clash between the Western and Islamic world. However, a more critical review is needed to understand the reality of contemporary global politics.  In practice, Huntington’s theory seems to be very controversial, prompting many scholars to debate and critique his theory. First and foremost, the Clash of Civilizations theory is believed to go against one of the dominant schools of thought in international relations theory, that is, realism—the belief that global politics is always a field of conflict among states seeking to pursue their national interests. However, Huntington dissented from the realist approach by basing his analysis on alliances rather than national interests. Secondly, another weak point is that Huntington’s theory is overgeneralizing because using civilizations as units of analysis to analyze global politics is too enormous. On this note, the term “Civilization” is also not clearly identified. To give an instance, would the rise of Muslims in Western countries be considered as Islamic or Western Civilization? In addition to this, followers of  Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are monotheists who aggregately see themselves as the descendants of Prophet Abraham. They are birthed on the same geographic area in the Middle East and have co-existed for thousands of years, but the point is what makes Huntington to contemplate them as no longer one single civilization. While repeatedly citing Islamic Civilization as the main source of future conflicts, he disregarded historical designs, principles, and laws that the West promulgated in the last century, especially after World War II. Thirdly, Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations theory which values cultural interests appears to not be coherent with the reality of today's contemporary world politics. In the first place, to analyze this extensive issue, the realist approach is still realistic as generally seen in today’s time. States do not really pursue cultural but mostly national interest, and nation-states are still the most vital actors in global affairs. Thus, it is more practical to predict that a clash of interests can be identified as the main source of conflict rather than the clash of civilizations stated by Huntington. On a more important note, in this post-cold war period, there is no doubt that economy is the dominant factor in shaping international relations. In fact, strong states are trying their best to maintain their status quos and hegemonic power, while weak states are striving to develop their economies to play a more important role in world politics. Therefore, Huntington’s theory appears to partially accord with the reality of the present world. Last but not least, stating that cultural and religious identities are a primary source of future conflicts shows a sign of overgeneralization and incomplete analysis which is not entirely applicable for the multifaceted nature of global politics in today's contemporary world. Conflicts could arise due to various factors such as competing national interest, territorial disputes, ethnic clashes, conflicting values and ideologies, and racial and religious contradictions. By defining a single factor or a combination of these factors to be the dominant source of conflict is not sufficient to explain the current global politics. Furthermore, future conflicts can also be possible as a result of states fighting one another for the interest of their own people for example, to ensure access to renewable sources such as water. To conclude, Huntington’s theory of Clash of Civilizations is not only limited but potentially dangerous as it creates a sense of otherness and opens the door for prejudice and a new enemy existing in our minds. Therefore, as the world is at the peak of the globalization era, more interactions are expected.  Thus, instead of being frightened by Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations theory, people everywhere — regardless of their differences in culture and religion — need to learn how to live and work together with tolerance and peaceful co-existence in this complex and multicivilizational world.

Understanding the Path towards E-Governance in Cambodia 

Written by: Virak Kanhapich, a 3rd year student majoring in Global Affairs at The American University of Phnom Penh Edited by: Sao Phal Niseiy, Editor-in-Chief at The Cambodianess and Deputy Editor-in-Chief at Thmey Thmey News (Photo Credit: Ministry of Post and Telecommunications website)   Many governments across the globe have been committed to building e-governance, and Cambodia is one of them. After Cambodia obtained an official membership in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1999, it has made tremendous efforts to use information technology and embarked on enormous administrative reform to ensure that it could make the goals reality. Although the government has made tremendous efforts, little is known to the public on how effective and efficient it can be in delivering public services since the term is still relatively new.  Before moving on to the substance, I would like to draw attention to the definition of e-governance and its background in Cambodia. As defined by Business Jargons, e-governance refers to the integration of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) into all governmental processes to simplify and enhance the efficiency of public services in response to the needs of the people.  In the Cambodian context, the government also acknowledges the advantages of e-government, and the adoption of this concept began in early 2000 with the introduction of the National ICT Development Authority (NiDA) and the Government Administration Information System (GAIS) project, which includes the unveiling of applications such as the Electronic Approval System (EAS), real estate registration system, resident and vehicle registration. However, the programs seemed to fall short in meeting their full potential due to the lack of transparency and accountability.  According to an analysis by Dr. Leewood Phu, who is a tech adviser for the Cambodian government and NiDA Board Member, the administrative system was an obstacle because there are many complicated administrative processes in all sectors, be they the government offices, departments, and ministry level. Other factors such as missing documents or unreasonably withheld or delayed documents contributed to inefficient adoption of the concept. However, with the government keeping e-governance a top priority, the future looks more promising. Currently, more and more public services in Cambodia are getting in line with the digital transformation. Some ministries have been able to make use of digital technology to serve people. The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, in particular, has been able to effectively provide educational information and support its education policy implementation while receiving feedback from the public using social media platforms. On the other hand, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has offered the ‘eVisa’ service, online information for visitors, consular services and information on doing business, making it more convenient for visitors and investors.  The Commerce Ministry also provides access to trade-related aspects online, including services, general information, trade, and investment information. Most importantly, as human interaction has been restrained during the COVID-19 pandemic, e-governance becomes even more critical in preventing the virus spread. As can be seen, the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications has unveiled the “Stop Covid” QR Code system, which records the locations of people who have been affected or potentially exposed to the virus. The application assists the authorities in carrying out contact tracing, enabling quarantine and treatment to be done effectively and instantly. Unquestionably, the adoption of e-governance is essential, but the complex nature of digital conversion can intimidate the aim to embrace technological integration into the governing system. But achieving it will bring much more notable benefits.   And with the introduction of e-governance, there can be more improvement in administrative efficiency and effectiveness because the system becomes more functional, sustainable and responsive, according to Mr Oum Chan Mono, a Senior Researcher at Cambodia Development Center.  It is worth taking Bangladesh as an example. Bangladeshi ministries have adopted the foundational work of the government flagship program known as a2i, which focuses on simplifying public services given to the people. With the scheme, the Digital Service Accelerator was introduced to assist the country’s version of the integrated ‘stack’ of digital identification, services and payment platform. That allows the South Asian country to save more than $8 billion over the last 10 years through an incredible reduction of the time, cost and number of visits required to access public services. It is noteworthy that electronic services could save up to 70 percent of transaction costs in traditional government settings, according to the Institution for Electronic Government.  Another success story that we should take into account is Estonia who achieved the successful implementation of e-government. In 2000, the same year when Cambodia began to manifest interest in e-governance, very few Estonians understood the benefits of the concept, and only a small number of one-third Estonians were using the internet or had digital literacy. But the country could manage to put in place the e-governance system to date. A study by Mr. Sun Kim, a lecturer for the faculty of Social Sciences and International Relations, indicates that owing to the Estonian government’s objective of digitalization, the country relied on well-educated academics in computer technology and assured strong cooperation between the private and public sectors. Two decades later, digital public services have become considerably present, with 99 percent of the services available online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This greatly benefits the people. While other countries have suffered from failures in delivering public services to people during the pandemic, Estonia has managed to avoid public setbacks with its well-organized and easily accessible online governing system.  With the above mentioned examples, without considering the accessibility and digital skills, the use of digital technology in governing systems offers immense benefits. In contrast, those without proper digital skills or access to such technology can also be left out or marginalized. Cambodia, whose significant number of people lack proper digital skills, is not exempt from that challenge. Both at the national and local level, the use and the delivery of public services is a struggle as it requires sufficient knowledge of digital literacy, infrastructure and competent manpower for the services to converge.  And as more than 70 percent of Cambodians live in rural areas, access to online services becomes a leading challenge. Therefore, the public institutions need to simplify the policy agendas and implementation strategies to effectively and efficiently communicate with all levels, according to a public policy analyst, Mr. Chheang Vannarith. He added it is crucial to understand that e-governance is not simply an installation of computers nor a collection of information; thus, there are several barriers to a high level of e-government in Cambodia.  So, where are we now? In this age of digital transformation, private sectors and the youth have played a crucial role as they are the main driving force of changes and most adaptive to digital usage. But in Cambodia, the overall digital adoption among established private firms is still limited.  Moreover, the country still has insufficient human resources in digital technology, and there are also lacking areas in terms of accessibility to electricity or the usage of digital devices. Therefore, the implementation of the digital transformation in the governing system will definitely be bumpy and arduous.  And the public sector has just begun embarking on the push of digital transformation. But the ongoing pandemic has also boosted the process. As can be seen, the government has taken a further step to accelerate the digitalization of governance to maintain public safety through a switch from traditional paper systems to new digital ones.  And if scrutinized closely, the country also has really made some progress in both e-government development and e-participation. In terms of e-government development, Cambodia graduated from the middle E-Government Development Index (EGDI) group to the high EGDI group in 2020, according to the United Nations E-Government Knowledgebase for 2020. In the E- Participation Index (EPI), given that its score is still below global and regional averages, Cambodia could move up 42 positions. One of the prominent examples to prove this improvement is the widespread use of Facebook by numerous government institutions and agencies in delivering information to the people.  Moreover, I also notice that the rise of digital literacy among young people is on its way. And through additional support, it can quickly gain more momentum and become promising for the digital switch in the country in years to come.  So what should be done more to accelerate the process?  So far, it is quite encouraging that the government recognizes the importance of this transformation. Minister of Economy and Finance HE Aun Pornmoniroth has already acknowledged that the successful construction of digital governance in Cambodia will allow the government to be more robust, pliable and accountable. But I still believe that more tangible actions need to make this goal a reality. First and foremost, it requires the government to build up a greater political commitment, take a leading role in promoting active involvement and engagement among different stakeholders and undertake concrete actions in facilitating e-government innovation and planning.  Furthermore, to mitigate the challenges and meet the needs of the people when it comes to the present digital gap, existing policies should be evaluated and adjusted, and it entails a change to the education system to foster digital skills for youngsters. Not only young people, the government should also pay more attention to supporting senior citizens to help them acquire and improve digital knowledge through different programs or initiatives at local levels. If Cambodia could ensure a sustainable push for raising digital literacy among people and policy reforms, the path towards e-governance can be smooth.   Because the outcome generated from embracing digital governance will be greatly beneficial and rewarding for Cambodians in the long run, it is still worth the drive even though the roads are rocky for now.     *This blog is produced with the financial support from the European Union and The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency through Transparency International Cambodia and ActionAid Cambodia. Its contents do not reflect the views of any donors.  

The Psychology of Climate Change: Why It Is Difficult to Act Collectively

Written by: Seak Por, 4th year student majoring in International Studies at The Royal University of Phnom Penh Edited by: Sao Phal Niseiy, Editor-in-Chief at The Cambodianess and Deputy Editor-in-Chief at Thmey Thmey News (Photo Credit: "Ermo" by Noel Feans is licensed under CC BY 2.0)   The Psychology of Climate Change: Why it is difficult to act collectively  The ‘boiling frog’ syndrome is possibly a good metaphor for how we have been dealing with climate change. When a threat is imminent, and destruction is right at the front of the door, resources and attention are pouring in from all directions. That is similar to the current battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. It is not to regard this as a bad phenomenon, but a reminder that we should also not overlook or ignore the current ‘slowing boiling’ climate change issue that is silently tormenting human races.  Climate change refers to the changes in the climate patterns of the earth, particularly those that occur more rapidly than the natural process. Climate changes from time to time over the century. However, the change we refer to is the rapid changes from the mid to late 20th century onwards, which contributed to the increasing temperature, making it a crisis that requires an urgent solution.  What science tells us about climate change   Scientists have long reached a consensus on the reality of climate change: 1) the earth is getting warmer; in fact, the earth surface temperature has already risen about 1.18 degrees Celsius on average; 2) the most extensive​ proportion is due to human activities with the releasing of the greenhouse emission by individuals and industries, the deforestation and other activities. While 1 or 2 degrees Celsius might seem minimal to you, this is the average number, and some regions are experiencing worse than others. The impact of climate change is far beyond just being ‘warmer’. It negatively impacts the whole ecosystems, biodiversity, food security, the resource and more. The evidence of the impacts of climate change has also already been noticeable, including the warming ocean, the shrinking ice sheets, the retreating glacier, the rising of sea level, declining arctic sea ice and other extreme phenomena. The scientists have warned of the irreversible impacts and the threshold for a dangerous average global increase in temperature of 1.5 degrees Celsius.  What has the world been doing?  In response to climate change, governments across the globe have adopted two main approaches: “mitigation” or reducing the flow of greenhouse emissions and “adaptation” or learning and adapting to live with climate change.  We all know that climate change is a global issue and requires a global effort. One of the most prominent global efforts is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) adopted in 1992, and currently, it has 197 parties. Another one, a legally binding international convention within the UNFCCC, is the Paris Climate Agreement adopted in Paris in 2015 with 191 parties. The ultimate objective of UNFCCC is "to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous interference with the climate system."  On the other hand, the Paris Agreement aims to limit the collective greenhouse emission to well below 2 degrees Celsius and preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. Under the agreement, member states agree to cut down the emission based on their respective national plan known as the nationally determined contributions (NDC). The parties agreed to increase the level of their climate agreement by 2020, and the ambition will continue to be raised through a five-yearly cycle known as "global stocktake”, which works as a check-up mechanism for the agreement. The process will be starting in 2023. The state of net-zero emissions, which means the amount of greenhouse produced is equal to the amount withdrawn from the atmosphere, is expected to start between 2050 and 2100. What is the problem now? Even though global governments have made efforts to tackle climate change, the ultimate problem is we are running short of time while our current actions are not enough to reverse the trend.  The evidence is crystal clear. In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) -- the intergovernmental body of the UN -- published a Special Report on 1.5°C, which asserted the hazardous impacts of global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. According to the World Economic Forum, research of the modeling of the projection of planet temperature has found that under the current rate, the earth would likely cross the threshold for dangerous warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius between 2027 and 2042.  But, regardless of the scientific warning, the attention and actions taken by the individual and government to deal with climate change appear to be inadequate.   So why is it so difficult for everyone to act? There can be various aspects and discussions of why it is so hard for everyone, including individuals and governments, to act fast and hard enough to deal with this crisis. But psychological explanations can provide another layer of explanation from the individual perception and attitude aspects.  Firstly, at the individual level, the bystander effect comes into play in people's perception towards taking action. The bystander effect explains the influence of the presence of others on the willingness of each person to act. People are less likely to help a person if other people are surrounding them than when he or she is alone. It is because individuals tend to believe the others are inclined to offer help. Similarly, in the case of climate change, even though most people do believe in climate change, people are less likely to act hard enough because of the tendency to let others do it. Additionally, people might have a sense of fulfillment and contribution for small acts they have done, such as purchasing a few eco-labeled products and stop short to do more because of the tendency to let others do the "big" works. Secondly, for many people, climate change and its effects seem much distant for most people. The construal level theory of psychological distance proposed that people consider events and places that are psychologically distant from them as more abstract than the things that are psychologically close to them. Generally, given that climate change impacts have been here, there are few major and direct disruptions that many can associate with. Therefore, this psychological distance of the climate crisis demotivates people from acting hard enough.  Thirdly, acting for climate change requires behavioral change that is in contrast to human psychology. Status quo bias explains people prefer things to remain as it is as change can be scary. When associated with the psychological distance mentioned above, without huge motivation, behavioral changes are less likely in the face of status quo bias. From mitigation to adaptation approaches to climate change and from individual levels to firms, acting hard to tackle this problem requires both the changing in behavior and resources contributed to the change.  Additionally, acting to address climate change offers a long-term benefit, but it compromises the short-term benefits. For example, to act more responsibly, people need to sacrifice comfort in their present-day activities, including the use of fossil fuel. The temporal discounting concept explains the individual tendency to discount the rewards or benefits in the future and overvalue the current rewards or benefits.  This can be seen more often in governance and policy implementation. Given the short time in office under a democratic system, many governments have less incentive to act on climate change as the interventions can only yield results in the long run. It is far different from focusing on economic development or other works as these can provide more visible results quickly.  Lastly, at the international level, the well-known collective action problem can shed light on the lack of a strong willingness to tackle climate change. This crisis is a collective action problem in which all actors would be better off cooperating, but there has been the tendency to free-ride due as well as the conflicts of interests among states. Some regions are hit harder than others, and developing countries are the most vulnerable. Developed countries, while being least affected, have incentives to take further actions. In contrast, the developing countries with fewer resources are compelled to act more, compromising their economic interests. Like any collective action problem, climate change needs strong central actors to regulate.  So, what next?  All reasons I raised earlier provide some insights on one of the aspects to consider when planning or addressing climate change. Psychological aspects shape the behavior of every individual ranging from the leader of a country to the general public.  As we are working together to address climate change, it entails a behavioral change. One of the initiatives is promoting psychological understanding -- the human reward system and nature -- to encourage people to reduce their carbon footprint.  To ensure effective climate communication, the deployment of both methods: the top-down approach (scientists to the public) and the button-up approach (public to the government) is the most effective way to alter the public perception. We need to recognize that addressing climate change is not just the responsibility of the government but also every individual. By understanding these aspects, each of us will be capable of reevaluating our perceptions and responses to act more responsibly. Youths, meanwhile, continue to play a vital role in highlighting the impact and altering the perception of the decision makers.    *This blog is produced with the financial support from the European Union and The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency through Transparency International Cambodia and ActionAid Cambodia. Its contents do not reflect the views of any donors.  

Why Cambodia Should Promote More Sustainable Business Practices?

Written by: Yin Verak, a 3rd year student majoring in Business Administration at Paññāsāstra University of Cambodia Edited by: Sao Phal Niseiy, Editor-in-Chief at The Cambodianess and Deputy Editor-in-Chief at Thmey Thmey News (Photo Credit: "Researchers in a rice field in Cambodia" by IFPRI is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)   The world has begun to recognize the need to keep business profitable while minimizing the negative environmental impacts. Therefore, the concept of sustainable business becomes more and more significant for many countries across the world, including developing countries. Cambodia, in particular, has some businesses that try to embrace the sustainability concept. The actions include management of waste as well as promotion of clean and green initiatives and eco-friendly businesses.    These can be a part of innovative solutions to help and reduce environmental problems in Cambodia, enabling us to repair the environmental damages resulting from our poor environmental performance. According to the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) in 2020, Cambodia was ranked 139 out of 180 countries, with a score of 33.6.      Global warming has been growing as one of the most scorching topics for global leaders to discuss and seek practical solutions as many countries have already been struggling to deal with the adverse effects of this disastrous problem. The level of global temperature has been increasing noticeably, resulting in the rapid melting of glaciers. Meanwhile, the weather has also become more extreme and less predictable than it used to be many decades ago. We have to recognize that our planet earth has suffered severe damages, and our environment has undergone harmful pollution. These can produce more natural disasters, the collapse of ecosystems, gradual environmental degradation, undermining the welfare of current and younger generations.  But all of these concerns have been predominantly driven by human activities -- one of which is business. Generally, the business sector has been one of the largest sources of pollution. Many industries and companies overuse hazardous chemicals and mismanage these savage elements, leading to the release of millions of tons of toxic gas and liquid into the atmosphere and oceans.  Plastic pollution, needless to say, is also produced by business activities because plastics are more affordable, versatile, and durable. However, plastic becomes a global problem because the excessive amount of plastic waste ends up in waterways and oceans. On the other hand, several business owners only focus on their profits and how much money they can make rather than pay attention to the virulent damages they pose to the environment, the public and the world. In the meantime, not many of them are held accountable for their environmental and social destruction. That’s why it becomes increasingly critical that more businesses can manage to embrace the sustainability concept to help solve global environmental problems. In business, sustainability refers to doing business without negatively impacting the environment, society and community. Clean and renewable energy, for instance, is one of the most sustainable practices in the energy sector, which could lead to lower carbon emissions and reduce the impact on the environment. Likewise, eco-businesses such as fiber-based packaging, recyclable products, eco-friendly products, organic catering, green industry and so on can be superseding single-use plastics, eventually. Hence, as a developing country, Cambodia should take further steps to promote these sustainable and innovative solutions.  Why is sustainable business beneficial for Cambodia?  Fostering sustainable business practices will significantly contribute to the inclusive development of society in many ways. Here I raise three vital benefits Cambodia can gain if it can manage to put forward this concept on a broader scale.   Firstly, sustainable business is beneficial for the environment. Cambodia is one of the most vulnerable countries to natural disasters and climate change, and it has seen rising plastic pollution due to its rapid development. In Phnom Penh alone, around 10 million plastic bags are used daily, and people are more comfortable using them with no guilt. Hence, introducing sustainable solutions is necessary to address environmental concerns. Furthermore, sustainable business is the best choice to reduce reliance on natural resources, minimize avoidable waste and its terrible impacts on the environment. I believe it will help us restore our natural ecosystem, making our country clean and eco-friendly for all of us to live.  Secondly, sustainable business can enhance social welfare and foster a cohesive society. The top priority of sustainable business is to create positive impacts on society and the environment. Besides, it involves seeking solutions that aim to promote more green spaces and reduce pollution--all of which are efforts to safeguard public health. Sweden can be the best example as sustainable business practices have been widespread in the country. By doing so, Sweden manages to achieve many things such as environmental sustainability, gender equality, anti-corruption, and sustainable social innovation. Plus, Sweden has been ranked 1st out of 150 countries as a sustainable country based on the environmental, social and governance (ESG) indicators. Last but not least, this innovation can pave the way for more sustainable employment, more sustainable resource consumption and robust economic growth. Besides, pursuing sustainability can also contribute to the further improvement of environmental and technological innovation and boosting business productivity and competitiveness.   All in all, sustainable business ideas are one of the key drivers of environmental recovery, sustainable economic development and advancement of social welfare of people across the world. However, as a developing country, Cambodia still faces many challenges when it comes to cherishing these concepts. Those challenges include financial constraints, lack of public awareness and limited participation of the public and relevant stakeholders. Although there are many difficulties, it doesn’t mean Cambodia can’t effectuate the concepts and accomplish them. To realize the goals, as a business undergraduate student, I think that it requires that we take more actions and work collectively. Even though the private sectors are the leading force in championing sustainability concepts, the government and civil society groups also have a responsibility to offer more support and cooperate. It is because the nexus of these three is how they will accomplish much greater success for constructing our sustainable society altogether. Moreover, business owners and consumers also need to keep the environment in mind, and they have to inspire the habit of sustainability among the public while seeking to minimize the harmfulness derived from their business operation because all human beings live interdependently.    “Making a difference by starting with sustainable innovative ideas.”    *This blog is produced with the financial support from the European Union and The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency through Transparency International Cambodia and ActionAid Cambodia. Its contents do not reflect the views of any donors.  

Together We Can Protect Our Freedom of Assembly 

Written by: Chea Sameang, a graduate with a Bachelor's degree in International Relations from Paññāsāstra University of Cambodia Edited by: Heng Kimkong, a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at Cambodia Development Center and a PhD Candidate in Education at The University of Queensland, Australia (Photo Credit: Cambodian Center for Human Rights)   Behind a country that always claims to adhere to democratic principles and respect human rights, violence is common and human rights restrictions seem to increase. Many activists have been attacked, assaulted, harassed, and banned by the authorities even though they gathered in peaceful assemblies​ to demand justice and the release of their spouses, family members, and other activists. Some of them have been accused of incitement and plotting against the government, resulting in their intimidation or arrest.    Although freedom of peaceful assembly is protected by the international human rights law and the Cambodian law, it seems to be ignored by the Cambodian authorities which claim that there are no “prisoners of conscience” in Cambodia.  Many international non-governmental organizations and non-governmental organizations have been trying to urge the government to release those activists, especially amid the outbreak of COVID-19; however, the broader crackdown on activists by the authorities appears to continue.  Crackdowns on activists Since 2017 when the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was dissolved as it was accused of plotting to topple the government, more than 130 people have been charged with plotting and incitement crimes, many of which were linked to the failed attempted return of exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy in 2019.  There have been many protests in front of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and other places to call out the authorities to release those activists who are considered to be prisoners of conscience.   The arrest of Rong Chhun, a trade unionist, and political activist, on July 31, 2020, was an interesting case. He was charged with incitement that could lead to social unrest after he talked about the border demarcation issue between Cambodia and Vietnam.  After his arrest, there has been a peaceful assembly in front of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court and other locations led by family members of detained political activists and women activists, called Friday Women of Cambodia, to seek the release of Rong Chhun and other jailed activists.  As reported in local news outlets, many peaceful protestors were arrested due to their gathering and protest. For example, activist Chhoeun Daravy was arrested on August 13, 2020. She was beaten and dragged by her hair when she was taking part in a peaceful demonstration calling for Rong Chhun’s release. Other activists such as Khmer Thavrak and Eng Malai (also known as So Metta) were also arrested one day after attending a non-violent protest to demand justice for Rong Chhun. Crackdowns continue  Since 2017, the crackdown on the opposition and activists has increased. The use of force and violence appears to become prevalent as they are often applied as a tool by the authorities to restrict and threaten the protestors to stop them from gathering or protesting.  Based on a report by the U.S Department of States, called 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Cambodia, only 40 percent of the respondents in a survey said they felt free to assemble peacefully, compared with 65 percent in 2016. This is due to the increasing restrictions by the government, making them feel less secure and afraid of being arrested if they participate in a protest.  Thus, it seems that the Cambodian government is targeting activists in order to threaten them or make them feel tired or scared of protesting rather than support and provide them with the opportunity and freedom to exercise their rights. Prum Chantha, the wife of jailed opposition activist told VOD English that she and other women protestors were disbanded by security guards and they were also pushed by the security into a flowerbed in front of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights during a gathering to seek intervention from the Human Rights Commissioner to release their husbands and families.  Ouk Chanthy, the wife of a CNRP member, told Radio Free Asia that during her protest to seek the release of her husband, she has suffered both mentally and physically after being violently dispersed by the authorities. These few cases show the difficulties and challenges these Cambodian women face as they try to exercise their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly to call for the release of their husbands and family members. The increasing restrictions by the authorities have made their lives even more difficult.  Together we can protect our freedom of assembly  Freedom of assembly is one of the most fundamental rights among the three fundamental human rights, such as freedom of association, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly.  According to the Guidelines on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly, freedom of assembly is defined as “the intentional and temporary presence of a number of individuals in a public place for a common expressive purpose”. However, based on Article 4 of the Cambodian law on peaceful assembly, the term refers to “a gathering or a march conducted by a group of people to publicly demand, protest, or express their sentiments, opinions or will by using various forms or means peacefully”.  As declared in Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 41 in the Cambodian Constitution, and Article 21 in International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and it shall be recognized.  No restriction may be placed on the exercise of this right.  Thus, as freedom of assembly is enshrined by the Cambodian Constitution and international laws, it should be protected and supported by all stakeholders such as government bodies, NGOs, INGOs, and development partners.  The following are three suggestions to remedy the situation in order to give more spaces for the activists and protestors to exercise their freedom to peaceful assembly. First, the government should not overuse the criminal code to accuse, arrest, or label protestors but it must re-examine its broad over-use of Article 495 of incitement charges and other criminal codes over those activists. In accordance with its international and domestic legal obligations, the Cambodian government must protect those protestors' rights to appeal and release them from jail to meet their families in suitable times and protect those protestors during their protest rather than apply the use of force or legal measures to silence them.  Second, INGOs and NGOs must take more proactive resolutions to discuss and negotiate with the government to seek fruitful resolutions rather than put more barriers to the government in the situation where the government is under increasing pressure from the international community. Moreover, INGOs and NGOs can work together to create more activities such as #Campaign to Stop Violence on Women Assemblies to support those activists who have been arrested to make them feel that civil society organizations are not leaving them behind.  Thirdly, everyone on social media plays a crucial role as well. They are one of the most important actors who can share ideas, recommendations, and suggestions through Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms to raise awareness in constructive and peaceful ways to support environmental activists and human rights defenders. Moreover, they can also write their op-ed articles and send them to some news outlets which can publish their ideas rather than keep silent and let politicians shut their mouths.  Conclusion  Nobody wants to protest if they are living in happiness and harmony. They stage a protest because they experience injustice. Thus, if the government genuinely wants to promote and improve the environment for the fundamental freedom of human rights in Cambodia, especially the freedom of peaceful assembly, it should not practice a rule by law approach, but instead apply the rule of law approach. To have an inclusive and just society where people can fully enjoy their fundamental human rights, the restrictions and arbitrary arrests of protestors and activists must end. Individual citizens also have a crucial role to play. Each of us has to make our voices heard if we consider freedom of assembly as an indispensable part of our fundamental rights that we cannot live without. Together we can push for positive change, and together we can protect our freedom of assembly and other fundamental rights.    *This blog is produced with the financial support from the European Union and The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency through Transparency International Cambodia and ActionAid Cambodia. Its contents do not reflect the views of any donors.  

Prisoners of Conscience in Cambodia: A Case Study Analysis

Written by: Tol Chhourkimheng, a graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Education from The Royal University of Phnom Penh Edited by: Heng Kimkong, a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at Cambodia Development Center and a PhD Candidate in Education at The University of Queensland, Australia (Photo Credit: Mother Nature Cambodia Facebook Page)   Introduction “I no longer believe in the court. I no longer believe in the law— I only believe in the law of Karma,” Batt Raksmey, Thon Ratha’s wife, told RFA’s Khmer Service. Thon Ratha is a member of Mother Nature Cambodia. He was arrested and accused of “incitement to cause social chaos” after denouncing the exploitation of Ta-Mouk lake.  Recently, many people, such as environmental activists and human rights defenders, have been arrested. While the authorities arrested them for charges of incitement to cause social chaos, insulting the King, and plotting against the government, some consider them as “prisoners of conscience”.  Prisoners of conscience refer to “persons imprisoned for the peaceful expression of their political, religious, or other conscientiously held beliefs, or for their identity, even though they have neither used nor advocated violence.” Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stated that “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. […]” Article 3 stated that “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” Article 41 in the Cambodian Constitution stated that “Khmer citizens shall have freedom of expression, press, publication and assembly. […]” These articles are proof that everyone is born with equal rights without any forms of discrimination and prejudice. Moreover, they have the right to exercise their freedom of expression.  The majority of prisoners of conscience in Cambodia were imprisoned because of the accusations and charges of incitement. Chin Malin, spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said that “in Cambodia, peaceful expression is a right, not a crime. But on the contrary, an expression that affects the rights of others, national security, and public order…it is a crime.” This demonstrates that Cambodian citizens can exercise their freedom of expression as long as it does not affect or abuse the rights of others, national security, and public order.  As reported in a local media, civil society organizations (CSOs) issued a joint statement to request the Court and the Royal Government of Cambodia to release all prisoners of conscience. The statement emphasized that “in modern society, democratic countries that are guided by the rule of law recognize that the crimes of which prisoners of conscience are accused of or have been convicted for should not be considered crimes at all. Rather, these non-violent individuals are regarded as active citizens who contribute to the improvement of their societies”. “Article 51 of the Cambodian Constitution states that ‘Cambodian citizens are the masters of their own country.’ However, citizens cannot be so if they are unable to participate in society and share their thoughts on political, economic, and social affairs.”  This statement illustrates that Cambodia is a democratic country in which citizens can express ideas, exercise their freedom of expression, give constructive feedback to the government, and participate in social development. Those active citizens and youth highly contribute to the development of their country.  The Case Study Analysis On 3 September 2020, three environmental activists of Mother Nature Cambodia were arrested. Mr. Thun Ratha was accused of publishing the information without legal permission whilst Ms. Long Kunthea and Ms. Phuon Keoraksmey were arrested because they were about to walk from Wat Phnom to request a meeting with the prime minister to share their concerns toward the numerous environmental effects, including the Ta-Mouk lake. They were accused and charged of “incitement to commit felony” based on Articles 494 and 495 of the Cambodian Criminal Code. The authorities justified the arrest that the environmental activists caused social disorder and chaos, as they denounced the exploitation of Ta-Mouk lake and raised their social concerns and peaceful walk plan.  On 5 May 2021, Long Kunthea and Phuon Keoraksmey were sentenced to prison for 18 months for “incitement to commit a felony or disturb social order” and fined 4 million riel each while Thun Ratha was sentenced to 20 months and fined 4 million riel under the same charge. Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson and Chea Kunthin were sentenced in absentia under the same charge, with warrants issued for their arrest. Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson was sentenced to 20 months in prison whilst Chea Kunthin was sentenced to 18 months, and both of them were fined with 4 million riel each.  On June 16, 2021, another three environmental activists from Mother Nature Cambodia were arrested while documenting waste run-off into Tonle Sap river in front of the Royal Palace. According to municipal court spokesperson Y Rin, Sun Ratha and Yim Leanghy were charged with plotting against the government and insulting the King, whilst Ly Chandaravuth was charged with plotting against the government.  People might wonder: How did these environmental activists cause social disorder and chaos? How did their actions link to democracy? To analyze the case of prisoners of conscience, except for the few new cases of allegedly plotting against the government and insulting the King, I use the principles of democracy, international human rights law, and the Cambodian Constitution. First, Ta-Mouk lake is a state-public property covering 3,239.7 hectares according to sub-decree No.20. The lake belongs to the public, so everyone has the right to raise their concerns, voices, and opinions over the exploitation of the lake. Freedom of expression plays an essential role in a democratic country. Article 41 in the Constitution stated that “Khmer citizens shall have freedom of expression, press, publication and assembly. No one shall exercise this right to infringe upon the rights of others, to affect the good traditions of the society, to violate public law and order and national security. The regime of the media shall be determined by law.”  This statement means that Cambodians can exercise their freedom of expression with no restrictions unless it affects the rights of others and good traditions of the society, and opposes the public law, order, and security. The democratic country has to respect the diverse opinions and voices of its citizens resulting in sustainable development. Thus, the different ideas will lead to the various strategies and mechanisms which help to address the systemic issues rooting in the society. According to a book on Good Governance published by the Ministry of Interior in 2003, citizens’ participation in social decision-making and the process of decision-making is extremely vital since all the information about citizens’ demands and needs will be raised to the authorities before a decision is made.  Moreover, the peaceful walk caused neither trouble nor social disorder. The peaceful walk is under the rights to peaceful assembly and association which is one of the fundamental freedoms protected by the international human rights law. Article 4 in the Law on Peaceful Assembly declared that “The peaceful assembly refers to a gathering or a march conducted by a group of people to publicly demand, protest or express their sentiments, opinions or will by using various forms or means peacefully.” In addition, Cambodia has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 21 in ICCPR demonstrated that “The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.” This indicates that a peaceful walk is protected under the Law on Peaceful Assembly and ICCPR, and citizens can exert this act as a way to indicate their freedom of expression or their concerns regarding any specific issues to the government.  Thus, I believe this is the case of freedom of expression from citizens since their act did not cause trouble or deaths to anyone. Meanwhile, no pieces of evidence have been proved that their action put anyone in danger, injury, or death. Youth should be encouraged to be involved in social development because they are the new generation to circumvent the issues on the ground and give weight to the government’s reform policies which are also stated in the National Policy on Youth Development prepared by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports. It is worth noting that imprisoning youth and activists might pressure the large majority of other youth to hesitate and lose commitment to step up for positive social change. Witnessing the democracy of a country, Cambodia should put its citizens above all else and respect the differences of the citizens’ voices. The diverse voices mean that not everyone always goes along with the government. The open spaces for controversial ideas will urge the government to consider inputs from various sources for decision-making.  Conclusion Cambodia is a democratic country in which the citizens can exercise their freedom of expression, speak out their concerns, provide constructive feedback and participate in social development. Obviously, the Cambodian Constitution and international human rights law promote the legalization of freedom of expression. Youth are the main actors and active citizens to monitor, mobilize, and inform the government’s decisions and behaviors. Therefore, they should be motivated to constructively and meaningfully engage in their community. Positive developments should start from everyone and the state should value and appreciate its citizens’ efforts. We cannot expect the next generation to hold the responsibilities for this country whilst the elder ones ignore them.   *This blog is produced with the financial support from the European Union and The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency through Transparency International Cambodia and ActionAid Cambodia. Its contents do not reflect the views of any donors.  

Gender Inequality Should Not Be Overlooked Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic

Written by: Sok Chhengleang, a 4th-year student majoring in International Relations at the University of Cambodia Edited by: Heng Kimkong, a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at Cambodia Development Center and a PhD Candidate in Education at The University of Queensland,  Australia Photo Credit: "Cambodia Women's Empowerment Project - Bamboo Crafting" by UN Women Asia & the Pacific is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 It has already been several months since February 20 when the third outbreak of community transmission of COVID-19 occured in Cambodia. As I observed, the government and healthcare workers have been working persistently to combat COVID-19 by implementing measures and regulations such as curfews, lockdown and zoning systems to curb the community outbreak so that the country can hopefully reopen the economy as soon as possible. Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic has severely affected our daily lives, particularly by restricting our socio-economic activities, leading to panic stocking, food insecurity and other issues. While hundreds of new infected cases are confirmed every day, I believe the pandemic becomes a major obstacle to hinder the progress of narrowing the gender inequality gap. In particular, while all infected patients suffer from the virus, women tend to be the most affected victims of the pandemic.  How Does the Pandemic Increase the Challenges for Cambodian Women? During this hard time, the loss of jobs may befall people in general, but most remarkably, Cambodian women will become more financially vulnerable, which can exacerbate gender imbalance in the family and community. Simply looking into the garment industry, a key sector which accounts for 80 percent of Cambodia's export revenue, women made up 85 percent of the more than 650,000 workers. This sector has contributed substantially to Cambodia’s economic growth and the survival of many Cambodian families. However, due to the pandemic, many garment factories have been suspended and even closed down. It is estimated that 200 factories would  either discontinue operations temporarily or lower productivity. This has led to a loss of many jobs that serve as the only source of income for many workers. Many women working in this industry have faced challenges on a daily basis even before the COVID-19 crisis. With the advent of the pandemic, their lives face greater challenges from a dual crisis: health and economic crisis. Thus, the pandemic has increased challenges and difficulties for many Cambodian women. Their lives have become more dependent and vulnerable. While the loss of jobs has become a main concern for balancing gender roles between men and women, another issue has arisen, that  is, gender-based violence -- “harmful acts directed at an individual based on their gender”. Staying home is now not easy for women who  lost their financial independence due to their job loss. Economic stress from financial insecurity and psychological stress, including anxiety and fear of infection, have already disheartened them. Beyond these, they become helpless and subject to sexual assault or violence that might be committed by their partners while being stuck at home. According to a recent report by the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, one in five women in Cambodia have suffered violence from their partners, family members, colleagues, acquaintances or public officials, and  the rate of incidence has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, the pandemic has constrained women’s ability to access sexual and reproductive healthcare services or even menstrual hygiene materials. Considering the case of maternity, there are increased risks for pregnant women who may have difficulty accessing proper healthcare during their quarantine or self-isolation. A growing number of women were reported to have canceled their appointments for fear of getting infected with the virus. The stress that pregnant women face and their lack of access to appropriate health services will drastically affect the health and well-being of the mother and the fetus; thus, maternal and infant mortality rates are likely to rise . While countries around the world embrace digital platforms to offer opportunities for students to continue their education, Cambodia is no exception because the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports (MoEYS), with support from relevant stakeholders, has introduced digital learning apps and broadcast educational programs through television and radio to provide Cambodian students with access to educational opportunities. However, 1.4 million Cambodian students were reportedly unable to access e-learning platforms during the pandemic. Hence, there is a probability that students whose access to the internet or digital infrastructure is limited would abandon their studies. If this happens, families may prefer daughters to sons to quit school if they have financial limitations during this difficult time because when daughters stay at home, they can help with the housework as they are more attached to household responsibilities then sons. Thus, the saying “women evolve only around the stove” that we all have been trying to break for a long time will be reinforced and unfortunately take over our society again. In sum, the longer the pandemic lasts , the worse gender inequality becomes. Conclusion and Suggestions I have always believed that everyone deserves to be equally appreciated regardless of their gender, race, and social status, but witnessing these kinds of incidents happening on women, it seems that gender inequality has deteriorated because women and girls are involuntarily positioned to become the most vulnerable victims of  the pandemic. In fact, women deserve to be protected, and to address the issue of gender inequality, a collective action is needed. Below are a few suggestions.  Firstly, the Royal Government of Cambodia and relevant stakeholders should consider strengthening the social protection system and continue to provide  short-term emergency relief to targeted vulnerable groups. Making information related to gender issues and ways of seeking help available in both rural and urban areas can be  part of the solution to gender inequality, This can be conducted through both community campaigns and online platforms including social media. Perpetrators of sexual assault and violence against women should be held accountable for their wrongdoings with fairness, transparency, and responsiveness from the authority. Health services should prepare appropriate rooms which can guarantee that pregnant women would feel safe mentally and physically when coming to hospitals for their health services or quarantine. The issue of mental health should no longer be stigmatized but discussed among the community, family members, and even peers. While trying to offer online learning opportunities, MoEYS should address the issue of how the pandemic affects the dropout rate of female students and seek immediate solutions. Secondly, women themselves should not hesitate to seek help if they feel they are subject to any violence or abuse. They should choose to either inform the authority directly or indirectly so that they can intervene on time. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs has provided a hotline that allows people to report any case related to violence across the capital and provinces so women can make use of this service for their own well-being Thirdly, I believe actions taken by relevant ministries alone won’t be enough if all individuals don’t fully participate. As such, we can contribute to make the voice of women more powerful by spreading relevant information and raising public awareness of these pressing issues such as gender-based violence to make them become subjects of intolerance for all. Moreover, if we happen to witness such violence or injustice against women, be their helpers, report to the authorities, and protect them at all cost because no more women  deserve to suffer from any gender-based violence or discrimination.  In conclusion, despite the many difficulties that we encounter during the pandemic, gender inequality should not be overlooked because this issue has negatively impacted our society for such  a long time. While the goal to achieve equality for women has yet to be achieved,  the pandemic has worsened the situation, making it even more difficult for the government and relevant stakeholders to improve gender equality in the country. Thus, I believe joint efforts from everyone is the way forward. When we join hands together, we can take steps to create a safe, equal, and equitable society for all.

Why Critical Thinking Is Important for Cambodians in Digital Age

Written by: Ly Houv, a 4th year student majoring in International Studies at The Royal University of Phnom Penh Edited by: Sao Phal Niseiy, Editor-in-Chief at The Cambodianess and Deputy Editor-in-Chief at Thmey Thmey News (Photo credit: "More than 250 young Cambodians who received a 'Grade A' on the 2016 National High School Exam visited the Embassy on Sunday for a special event to promote study in the United States." by USEmbassyPhnomPenh is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0)   The digital information age is one of the best moments in this century. People can get information much faster and easier than ever before. Previously, people received information through radio, newspaper, TV, and other channels. It took time and was insufficient if compared to the present digital information. Thanks to technological advancement, people can now access as much information as they want by just simply taking out their smartphones and searching for it on the internet.  We are indeed living in an era in which information is widely available and accessible. When we have a question or problem, our first solution is to google it or to watch YouTube and learn how to do it. It completely changes the traditional way of how we obtain information and knowledge. The presence of the internet has provided us with a more responsive and convenient search engine. It has made our life easier when it comes to acquiring new information.  But when information is superfluous, it also becomes troublesome for us to identify and analyze which information is reliable and credible. As we know, with the help of technology, anyone can publish any information on social media platforms and websites. It is tricky to verify the quality of such information. As a result, false information, fake news and propaganda have been often taken by many, affecting their ability to make a good decision.  I think there need to be some interventions to help people do better while consuming information. One of the interventions is to help people develop their critical thinking. With this skill, people will be able to tackle all of these digital information concerns.  What is critical thinking? So, what is critical thinking, exactly? Critical thinking is the general term for a wide range of cognitive skills and intellectual dispositions. People need this ability to identify, analyze and evaluate argument and truth claims effectively, allowing them to find out and overcome personal biases. People with critical skills can provide and confer convincing reasons to support their claims and make a reasonable and intelligent decision on what to believe and what to do.  For example, when people were young, they tended to be passive learners rather than active ones. It is supposed that they absorb and memorize the lessons and paste them back into the exams. In contrast, it is more open at the university level as students tend to become more active in learning. The main goal is to teach students how to think rather than what to think. That is how to become independent and self-directed thinkers and learners.  I am not an expert in critical thinking, but I know this is one of the most valuable skills we use in every aspect of life. Therefore, I want to share some of my experience and perspectives on critical thinking capacity and why I found it crucial.  As a social science student, critical thinking is a required skill in our academic journey. Following this discipline, I need to read and research most of the time to understand the lessons and complete the assignments. One of the examples, in the research process, it is not ideal to rely only on one source and use it as core information in your research paper. So that it requires us to extract information from many different sources as we want to guarantee credibility and reliability. In addition, I also have to learn a lot of political and economic theories throughout my courses. Thus, with a critical thinking mind, I can analyze every theory more effectively and systematically. Meanwhile, I also can apply this skill to explain international events using abstract theories.  Why is this skill important for Cambodians?  In Cambodia, there is a rapid increase in internet users. According to a BBC Media Action report in 2021, there are up to 3.86 million social media users in the country -- 87% of whom are young Cambodians aged between 15-30 years olds. Facebook is the most popular platform, and its users are equal to 88% of total social media users. Also, Facebook is no longer a place for only young people. There is an increasing number of elderly users now, meaning that Facebook is the most common and most considerable platform for information sharing and advertisement.   But as I mentioned earlier, anyone can create and spread information online, so does Facebook. They can create a Facebook page for less than a minute free of charge to share news content as well as do live streaming, and some even share conspiracy theories they translate from anonymous English sources. Most of these self-proclaimed news pages are unregistered, and their contents are loaded with fake news and misleading information. Why are they doing that? The reason is that they want to make a profit as they are clickbait sites. Therefore, they have no credibility and professional ethic to provide their news content. Their main objectives are to gain popularity to attract more viewers while generating more profits.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, more people have been exploiting the situation to spread fake news on COVID-19, especially on infections and vaccines, because they expected to gain more engagement and attention. Sometimes, it is easy to identify whether the content is fake by looking at how they design and organize the content, platforms, and web links. However, as mentioned above, all Cambodian users come from different ages and backgrounds. Some of them may have the ability to identify fake news or fake content, but many believe and fall victim to those content. That's why we need to have a critical mind in determining all of the false information and protecting ourselves.  I think it necessitates an ability to reason, be rational, and understand the logical connection between ideas when one wants to improve how to think critically. Consequently, we should always be skeptical about any content that we are reading. For instance, we should always question who writes it, who says it, what it is all about, and why? Is the information logical? Are there any other sources reporting similar information? Therefore, if you can answer these questions, you would have sufficient knowledge and ability to analyze and identify this information. Not only fake content we need to care about, some opinions and content can also be biased. Western media can sometimes be biased and try to promote their ideology to influence other non-western countries' political systems. Therefore, we really to maintain a critical mind and examine rigorously every angle of the issue to make sure that we can comprehend it precisely In my perspective, to help people improve critical thinking skills, the most vital step is integrating the courses on critical thinking in the school curriculum so that young people will have an opportunity to acquire sufficient knowledge and build a critical mind. It will surely pave the way for them to pursue an academic journey successfully. In addition, young people are strongly encouraged to actively partake in debates and public speaking events because doing so will help them develop their critical thinking. Last but not least, taking into account that critical thinking is a learned skill, we should introduce it to the general public, including senior citizens. Doing so will require all stakeholders to initiate and support extensive education and training on critical thinking skills, which involves practicing basic and simple steps. This, of course, enables people to develop this skill better eventually.       *This blog is produced with the financial support from the European Union and The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency through Transparency International Cambodia and ActionAid Cambodia. Its contents do not reflect the views of any donors.  

What We Can Do to Eliminate Online Violence Against Women and Girls

Written by: Vanly Keomuda, a 4th year student majoring in International Studies at The Royal University of Phnom Penh Edited by: Sao Phal Niseiy, Editor-in-Chief at The Cambodianess and Deputy Editor-in-Chief at Thmey Thmey News (Photo credit: "#orangeurhood Cambodia" by UN Women Gallery is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)   The emergence of information and communication technology (ICT) tools such as the internet and social media platforms has opened up new social and economic opportunities and changed the way people interact and communicate. As the internet space has grown, its usage has moved beyond serving our daily interaction to becoming an advocacy platform as it can provide the space for women to express themselves and seek new opportunities. Although the internet presence offers new possibilities, when people use it with limited literacy and ethical standard, it could serve as a double-edged sword that can cause harm and exacerbate online violence against women and girls (VAWG) alike. What is online violence against women? There is no single uniform definition for online VAWG, but the United Nations’ report of the special rapporteur on violence against women defines online VAWG refers as “any act of gender-based violence against women committed, assisted or aggravated in part or fully by the use of ICT, such as mobile phones and smartphones, the Internet, social media platforms or email, against a woman because she is a woman, or affects women disproportionately.” In short, online VAWG refers to any act of violence against women and girls perpetrated in part or fully through ICT. Actually, online violence against women is different from other forms of violence against women because the perpetrators can carry it out anonymously without being punished. Moreover, they can conduct the act of violence without any physical barrier or requiring much time and effort. Therefore, it becomes harder to control online VAWG, and it causes more harm to women and girls. Regarding online harassment, there is still a lack of comprehensive data on violence against women online. But, the majority of the available studies have shown that women are more vulnerable to online violence than men. The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)'s survey in 2020 shows that 85% of women have experienced or witnessed online VAWG, in which 38% have reported personal experience while 65% others reported knowing other women targeted online.  In addition, the predominant tactics of online threats against women include misinformation and defamation (67%), cyber harassment (66%), hate speech (65%), impersonation (63%), hacking and stalking (63%), astroturfing (58%), video and image-based abuse (57%), doxing (55%), and violent threats (52%). During the COVID-19 pandemic, a report indicates that there have been emerging trends in online violence against women as people have been spending more time online and on digital devices.  As a part of the globalized world, Cambodia is not exempt from this negative phenomenon. Unfortunately, the study and data on online VAWG remain limited and understudied. According to a study by LIRNEasia in 2018, up to 29 percent of Cambodian female internet users aged 15-65 have experienced online harassment compared to 23% of their male counterparts. They have experienced it in the form of being cyberstalked (67%), being called offensive names (14%), being sexually harassed (1%), being purposefully embarrassed or criticized in another way besides being described offensive names (17%), and being physically threatened (2%). Even with the high percentage of prevalent online VAWG, the issue remains overlooked, and most cases continue to be unreported. The result from the EIU study revealed that only 1 in 4 women spoke of violent behavior on online platforms while only 14% of them reported the issue to an offline protective agency and 78% percent of respondents said that women are unaware of the options to report harmful online behaviors. Besides being underreported, law enforcement agencies and courts often fail to take appropriate corrective actions to address the online VAWG issue. Why does online VAWG matter? While many consider that the online space can enhance inclusive opportunity and the voice to promote their freedom of expression, the online VAWG instead hinders such possibility, prompting women to miss out on the benefits that the internet space has to provide. In essence, the impact of online VAWG is generating psychological, social, and economic effects for women in particular. In terms of psychological and social impact, a study by UN women revealed that women experiencing acts of online violence would have higher levels of anxiety, stress disorders, depression, trauma, panic attacks, loss of self-esteem, a sense of powerlessness in their ability to respond to the abuse, and in some cases, the victims may also develop suicidal tendencies.  Furthermore, online VAWG could also result in physical harm to women and encourage women to exclude themselves socially. According to the EIU study, up to 10% of women enduring online violence reported that they experienced offline physical abuse because of the exposure of some of their private information. As for economic harm, online VAWG could also force women to go offline or restrict their online presence, resulting in a larger gender digital divide and limiting their ability to access new opportunities like employment, education, healthcare, and community. Around 20% of the women in the EIU survey said that they stop using online platforms, while in Cambodia, 11% said that they would reduce the use of the website where they experienced online violence. Some of the cyber violence, including explicit images of the victim, could also cause employment loss or difficulties in seeking employment for women. On top of individual impact, online VAWG could also have a macro-economic reverberation as it links to the loss of income of women. What can we all do to help? Because of the nature of the online space that is timeless, anonymous, and borderless, online VAWG causes serious harm to women and exacerbates gender inequality; therefore, dealing with the issue requires the involvement and commitment of everyone. The best practice recommended by the Broadband Commission Working Group on Gender concentrates on 3Ss--sensitization, safeguards, and sanctions in mitigating online VAWG. First, sensitizations refer to preventive measures that aim to change social attitudes and norms through awareness-raising and a deeper understanding of online abuse against women. This measure could be done through public awareness campaigns, providing training on cyber-security and cyber violence against women, and integrating online ethical standards as part of the formal education in the country. We can achieve sensitization only when there is close cooperation and active involvement from governments, civil society groups, private sectors and the general public. Governments and civil society organizations should warrant a commitment to improving public education on online VAWG. Meanwhile, the private sector and the public should maintain the responsibility to monitor their online behavior. Second, safeguards require oversight and monitoring measures that can keep up with the evolving and scope of the online space. This mechanism necessitates closer attention of the government, civil society organizations and the internet industry to maintain responsible and ethical standards for online behavior. In addition, they also have to develop technical solutions that encourage and facilitate reporting of the abuse. Third, sanctions involve the adoption and utilization of laws and regulations on cyber violence against women. It demands that governments adopt particular rules, regulations and other governing tools while ensuring vigorous and effective implementation, enabling the process of addressing the problems of online VAWG to be carried out promptly. Considering everything, as countries have been going through digital adoption and adaptation, online violence against women and girls needs more attention and actions from all stakeholders. Hence, women would not be left behind but, instead, could reap more benefits that ICT has to offer. To learn more about online violence against women, please visit the below links: Online and ICT facilitated violence against women and girls during COVID-19 Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences on online violence against women and girls from a human rights perspective Online violence against women in Asia: a multicountry study   *This blog is produced with the financial support from the European Union and The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency through Transparency International Cambodia and ActionAid Cambodia. Its contents do not reflect the views of any donors.

To Promote Justice for All, We Should Not Call Justice for One, But Justice For All.

Written by: Thea Sokna, a 3rd year student majoring in International Relations at The University of Cambodia Edited by: Heng KimKong, a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at Cambodia Development Center and a PhD Candidate in Education at The University of Queensland, Australia   Photo Credit: Scales of Justice by Sheba is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 The COVID-19 community outbreak that started on 20 February 2021 has forced the Cambodian government to lockdown the capital city and a few provinces for weeks. During the lockdown, people must stay home to contain the spread of COVID-19, making them have more time to use social media, especially Facebook. Meanwhile, despite the pandemic, inappropriate behaviors are being popularized on various online platforms including YouTube, Facebook, Telegram and most notably the newly-launched mobile app, called “Tik Tok”. While the presence of inappropriate behaviors increases on social media, people tend to keep an eye on social issues as well.  Public attention on a few recent cases regarding sexual offense and family violence is a telling example. Even though most Cambodians are dissatisfied with their own judicial system, their demand for justice for the victims has been prominent on social media networks. This increasing and ongoing provocative movement is a positive sign of public participation in raising awareness of social issues such as sexual harassment that needs to be addressed; however, spotting on one particular event may bury other crucial phenomena or issues under the ground. In fact, it seems grossly unfair to ordinary victims who have encountered the same injustice or abuse, but they rarely have the chance to get public attention and can hardly gain access to the legal justice system due to some barriers such as intimidation, violence, fear of exposing the truth to family members and the authority, fear of losing reputation and so on.  Based on a report by the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO), one-thirds of sexual assault cases in Cambodia were perpetrated by family members, but the abusers were  not prosecuted by the full weight of law due to family pressure and financial reliance on the victimizers. This has often led the victims to withdraw their complaints, leaving the perpetrators unpunished. The findings in the report clearly show how unhealthy Cambodia’s legal system is and the injustice many Cambodian families face when dealing with such immoral misconduct. Therefore, we should not turn the spotlight on only one event by ignoring the rest. In other words, people need not necessarily focus only on one recent case regarding sexual abuse. Instead, they should endeavor to explore and seek justice for victims of other previous and current criminal cases to bring about justice to all of them, regardless of their social status. Last year, the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights published a report stating that “one in five women in Cambodia had suffered violence from partners, family members, colleagues, acquaintances or public officials.” Now, let’s imagine if there are a thousand women, that would mean 200 women had suffered violence, and that can be considered as 200 cases separately. Then why do people pay attention to only one case by ignoring many others? Women make up 51.19 percent of Cambodia’s population of almost 17 million, so how many Cambodian women would suffer from sexual abuse and violence if we only pay attention to only one or two special cases?  Justice is not preferred and deserved only by the rich, the famous, or the powerful, but it shall be entitled to all human beings equally without distinction as to race, nationality, religion, gender, and social status. Having said these, it does not mean that we need to oppose the current public’s impulse towards “making all women safe” – a social media trend that was triggered by an attempted rape allegedly committed by a tycoon on a young television presenter. Nonetheless, we should examine similar crimes committed in the past, contemplate  the trend on the effectiveness of law enforcement in addressing all of the issues happening so far, and find ways to actively participate in strengthening the justice system in Cambodia rather than listen to a single story and  react to it thoughtlessly and irresponsibly. Meanwhile, the public should be obliged to provide support for other victims such as the environmental activists, political activists, human rights activists and journalists who have done the best of their efforts to fight for the benefits for our nation as a whole. They have been arrested, harassed, and some are detained and charged with different arbitrary allegations and detention. They are the victims who deserve our full attention and care.  Non-governmental organizations and civil society organizations, especially rights groups, have already expressed concern over arrests and harassment of activists and journalists. But justice has yet to be served.  Since the outbreak of COVID-19 that began in early 2020, human rights violations have been a hotly debated topic among government-based commentators, social and political observers, and social activists. Again, the continuous social media claims for fair and impartial trial is a marvelous transitional change showing a sign of progress concerning how Cambodian people attentively show their interests and willingness to promote social justice. It also shows how they participate in encouraging law enforcement officers and the judicial branch to maintain the rule of law,  provide equal protection for all, and ensure the due process of law. In short, sensitive social phenomena such as sexual assault or violence against women and vulnerable people may easily capture the public attention, predominantly when it happens to a particular celebrity or high-status person in Cambodian society. As it can be observed, this kind of public’s customary habits might sometimes have its negative effect due to inappropriate and aggressive manners and words expressed unethically on social media. In an optimistic view, recommended solutions would be to avoid obsessive reactions to one event alone by critically looking at the larger landscape of the problems and its pattern in order to generate rational ideas and to draw logical conclusions. Being a well-informed and active citizen in a fragile democratic country like Cambodia, it is important to be rationally matured as Paul Wellstone, an academic and a former US senator, once said, “as free citizens in a political democracy, we have a responsibility to be interested and involved in the affairs of the human community, be it at the local or the global level.”      

Young People Are the Solution to End Corruption

Written by: Yin Verak, a 3rd year student majoring in Business Administration at Paññāsāstra University of Cambodia Edited by: Heng Kimkong, a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at Cambodia Development Center and a PhD Candidate in Education at The University of Queensland, Australia (Photo was taken on November 8, 2020 after a discussion with Mr. Ok Serei Sopheak, Good Governance Specialist, under the topic: "Good Governance at Sub-national Level" in Battambang province )   “I hate corruption. I don’t want to see any corrupt activities in my country anymore. I despise corruption. Corruption is dangerous for the country’s development. Corruption is an unspeakable issue.” There are what I have heard from different people who expressed their thoughts and perspectives about corruption. But the problem is, have they done anything to stop corruption? Or are they just words?    I believe that most people have known about how corruption negatively affects our country and our livelihood. Almost every sector of our country, even justice, education, healthcare, public services, and natural wealth, are seriously impacted by this unspeakable issue. Organizations, communities, individuals and the country as a whole are no exception. Corruption can undermine transparency, creditability, accountability, consistency and prosperity of the country. Besides, it brings many consequences to our country’s economy, society, politics, and governance, leading to an increase in poverty. According to the Transparency International, corruption is defined as “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain”. Corruption erodes trust, weakens democracy, hampers economic development and further exacerbates inequality, poverty, social division and environmental crisis. Corruption can be found everywhere including in the government, education system, business, healthcare sector, the media, politics, the courts, civil society, and so on and so forth; moreover, most people have engaged in it both directly and indirectly. People usually say that corruption is terrible. Additionally, they also know how serious and dangerous corruption is for their nation, their fellow country people, the world and even themselves. However, have they ever been involved in it? The answer would be “YES, they have, and many are probably still engaging in it.” I personally believe most, if not all, people have engaged in corruption and experienced this issue at least once in their lives. Moreover, I literally think that people engage in corruption because it’s beneficial for them. Politicians, public servants, NGO workers, business people, government officials, journalists, judges, lawyers, and anybody can engage and participate in corrupt activities. Corruption hurts everybody, affects everything and brings about many unspeakable consequences into this whole world. It can take from us, especially young people, the opportunity to learn, develop, grow, improve, seek, and obtain better lives and brighter futures. The young generation play a vital role in contributing to their country’s development. They also represent the future of their own country; essentially, they will be able to become potential leaders of tomorrow. To be the potential youth, they need fair and abundant opportunities in everything; however, everything will be ruined if there are corrupt activities. In fact, corruption not only curtails our opportunities, but it also badly affects every aspect of public services. It devastates the education system, leading to the low quality of education, mismanagement of the school system, lack of availability and quality of educational goods and services, unqualified students and teachers, educational inequality, high rates of unemployment, and so on. Besides, in terms of corruption in the healthcare sector, the judicial system and politics, the more money you have, the more opportunities, justice, power and the best quality of healthcare services you will get. Therefore, people who are in the low income group or in poverty have no chances to obtain quality and equitable access to public services, even if they are the citizens of the country just like the rich and the powerful. Environment, moreover, has also been harmed by the act of corruption. Natural resources, ecosystems and natural wealth are stolen and damaged by corrupters. All of these negatively impact our country’s development, to say the least. There are also a lot more consequences of corruption on people and every aspect of society.  Therefore, it is time to stop any kinds and any forms of corruption in order to save our country for the next generations. Young people are the solution to combat corruption As young people in this generation, we need to start from now to be the solution creators or initiators to fight against any forms of corruption; most importantly, we need to normalize anti-corruption campaigns and make them a norm in our society as well as in this whole world in order to build equality and transparency for all. Young people have to strengthen, renew, refresh and renovate all systems and factors of their own country; especially, the laws, policies, mechanism, procedure and so on in order to make them stronger and more efficient. We also need to ensure the successful and effective policy implementation. Below are some suggestions for youth to make a difference in their country and to fight against corruption. First things first, it all starts within ourselves. We need to be truly and strongly educated, which means we should have knowledge, ability, skills and experience to understand the causes and effects of corruption, as well as understand the laws and mechanisms that the government uses to fight against corruption. We also need to examine and take part in enhancing the implementation of those mechanisms and other strategies to combat corruption. The goal is to innovate the solutions, figure out how to solve all of these problems and enhance the transparency and accountability in all sectors of society. Moreover, we have to value moral, transparent and honest activities as always. Particularly, we need to be committed and avoid engaging in corruption so that we can contribute to minimizing corrupt activities in our society. If we take part in this good social cause actively, sooner or later corruption in our society will be gone.  As young people, we can also inspire and influence other people based on our understanding and commitment to an anti-corruption mindset. We can mobilize other youth to raise public awareness, build understanding, and motivate as well as empower others to be strongly, physically and mentally active in promoting transparency and the anti-corruption system in the country; specifically, we have to act to bring about inspirations and movements against corruption in all aspects in our society. To do so, we can utilize social media platforms because social media is a powerful, effective and quick way to reach out to others. Therefore, we can post and share blogs, vlogs, quotes, pictures, news, perspectives, opinions and so on through the platforms. Moreover, we need to report any activities related to corruption through the internet in order to expose this issue and let others know how bad it is and how we all can work together to solve it. We can conduct online campaigns to engage other youth to form a critical mass to fight against corruption and corrupt people. We can also form small groups in our local communities or large groups with international youth who want to stop the same issue. Additionally, we can discuss, learn from each other and share our points of view or solutions with our friends, colleagues, families, and other youth. This is not only for eliminating corruption but also for addressing other social issues.  We can also work closely with civil society organizations, NGOs, youth groups or even government officials to combat corruption and promote corruption-free society. We need to follow and observe how our taxes are collected and spent. Besides, we should participate and engage in any policy development and implementation activities to enhance effectiveness, transparency and accountability. Engaging in public policy debates and anti-corruption initiatives can enable us to understand the existing corruption policy, how effective the policy is, and what needs to be improved. We need to also understand the gap between the policy and the implementation to find ways to contribute to the effectiveness of policy implementation. Most importantly, we have to expand our understanding and build skills as well as experience on how to resolve and prevent corrupt practices in our communities.   In summary, corruption is unacceptable. It is undeniably, culturally and socially disgraceful. As the young generation, we need to change this diabolical habit and embrace a new system that is free from corruption. We need to step up, raise our voices and take action to ensure that our country and every aspect of our society are corruption-free. Don’t just hate corruption, but stop ourselves from being involved in it.  We need to stop it from stealing our future by starting to kill it now!   *This blog is produced with the financial support from the European Union and The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency through Transparency International Cambodia and ActionAid Cambodia. Its contents do not reflect the views of any donors.  

Why Are There Few Cambodian Women in Diplomatic Careers?

Written by: Kong Sreynou, a 3rd-year student majoring in International Studies at Institute of Foreign Languages, RUPP. Edited by: Heng Kimkong, a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at Cambodia Development Center and a Ph.D. Candidate in Education at The University of Queensland, Australia.  Photo Credit: Royal Academy of Cambodia Media Team The fight for gender equality and equal employment opportunities has been around for decades as most careers were traditionally dominated by men. The fight is bound to get even more vigorous now and in the future. The importance of having an inclusive society where everyone has equal opportunities regardless of their gender, race or sexual orientation cannot be overstated. Despite ongoing efforts by the governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), women are still underrepresented in many professions in Cambodia as is the case in many other countries. In the realm of international relations,  a career as a diplomat has always been considered to be one of the most prestigious and important professions. Although female representation in careers in international affairs serves as the public face of any given country in terms of gender representation and empowerment, the number of female diplomats representing Cambodia abroad is still low.  At present, based on the data from the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFA), there are only two female consul generals out of a total of 12 consul generals appointed to represent Cambodia overseas. The Royal Government of Cambodia attributes this low female representation to prevailing cultural and social norms that make it difficult for women to leave their home and accept an overseas posting. However, there are three main reasons that can explain the underrepresentation of female diplomats engaging in international affairs and diplomatic positions abroad.  First, it is the issue of gender bias that may have contributed to the limited number of women working in international affairs in Cambodia because those positions have been subjugated by men. Thus, it is understandable that overseas diplomatic positions have also been dominated by men. Although the percentage of women representatives has significantly increased since Cambodia began to rebuild itself in the 1990s, women still hold less than 20% of positions in politics. In this context, among 31 Cambodian ambassadors who represent the Royal Embassies of Cambodia abroad, there are only four (0.13%) female ambassadors, according to a report from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. Furthermore, women's underrepresentation in the diplomatic field can also be influenced by social norms and beliefs which stereotype women as lacking knowledge and skills to perform well diplomatically and internationally. Society also continues to doubt the ability and capacity of women in leadership positions that involve direct dealing with other nations or other nationals. Although the world is moving toward gender equality and putting more effort into empowering women in all sectors, skepticism toward women’s capability remains a critical issue. Many still question whether or not women can be equally as effective and efficient as men.  Second, it is related to individual factors as women have to encounter difficulties in navigating the demands of their family life and career. There is an extra burden for women to ensure that their career aspirations would not have a negative effect on their families. In Cambodia, women tend to have more family responsibilities. They need to look after the children and do a lot of housework. Therefore, paid employment could jeopardize their commitment to their domestic and maternal responsibilities. Moreover, they are constrained by social, cultural, and traditional norms. For example, a popular traditional code of conduct for women, called “Chbab Srey”,  lays out the ways in which a Cambodian woman should behave to be recognized as a good or perfect woman. This code of conduct and other explicit and implicit social norms have caused countless consequences on women’s well-being and their basic and fundamental rights as a person. They have been struggling to enjoy their freedom of choice, movement and expression throughout their lives. These social and cultural constraints have occurred and are contemplated as barriers preventing women from striving for their role in diplomatic positions and other careers. Traditionally, parents have always discouraged their female children to work far from home, let alone working abroad.  There are feelings of anxiety and doubt about their safety and survival because of the widely held belief that women are weak and fragile. This thinking may have somehow influenced how women nowadays aspire to involve themselves in male-dominated careers.  Third, gender disparagement is considered as another major problem that undermines women’s confidence and authority in their careers. Gender disparagement includes issues concerning verbal acts that tend to discredit and degrade women’s gender and their status. It is the demeaning comments about women and statements about women’s dress or appearance that make them lose their confidence to pursue their dream career and professional stature. It also involves repeated interruptions toward women while they are speaking. These interrupting verbal acts have lowered women’s esteem or standing. They could serve as challenges that discourage women from engaging in careers in diplomacy. Furthermore, within the male-dominated professions in the diplomatic sector, some women could also find themselves losing their confidence in voicing their opinions and ideas.  To conclude, in the light of women’s participation in policymaking, women still remain underrepresented in the foreign and diplomatic services. We can see that women are generally being barred from involvement in the realm of international relations for many reasons, ranging from the ongoing gender bias, traditional and cultural norms, and gender disparagement. Although there have been efforts to encourage and promote gender equality, available evidence still depicts the limited representation of women in politics and diplomatic careers. Thus, more efforts are needed to support and empower Cambodian women so that they can fully participate in making decisions within the realm of international affairs.      

For Gender Equality: Misogyny Must Be Stopped

Written by: Tea Sovanmony, a 3rd year student majoring in Global Affairs at The American University of Phnom Penh Edited by: Heng KimKong, a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at Cambodia Development Center and a PhD Candidate in Education at The University of Queensland, Australia   (Photo Credit: "END MISOGYNY" by UNARMED CIVILIAN is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)   Women’s status has been regulated and controlled by the concept of misogyny which refers to expressions of dislike and mistrust on women, further entrenching prejudice against women. Through misogyny underpinned by the concept of gender norms, the inequality between men and women is subtly integrated into social norms, which is a serious issue. Misogyny is common and can be seen in various platforms such as on social media and in music. The status of women has also been controlled and subjected to linguistic behaviors. Thus, it is important to stop the use of sexist language and misogyny toward women in order to achieve gender equality and put an end to the societal norms that discriminate against women.  The concept of misogyny can be illustrated through discriminatory language such as sexist derogatory slurs. Sexist derogatory slurs are terms that describe the use of bully words to depreciate women in the male dominant society. For instance, women have been the victim of misogyny on social media and bullying in their workplace or school. Some people tend to use sexist derogatory slurs like bitch, slut, or whore to describe women. These words may seem harmless, but they are very offensive toward women. They humiliate women in a way that compares them to objects or people of lowly status. The word “bitch” is objectifying women toward female dogs who are annoying and aggressive. Therefore, these negative terms can harmfully affect women’s status and devalue their important role in society.  Misogyny and sexist derogatory slurs are common in hip-hop music. In the hip-hop society, rappers tend to use sexist slurs like bitch, whore or hoe to add the coolness to their music. For example, in one album consisting of 15 songs, words such as pussy, bitch and hoe were used numerous times to depict women. The use of sexual objectification in hip hop music oppresses women under the perception of sexual use and sexism in society. Sexual objectification is the idea that subjects women to sexual pleasure and treat them as a type of commodity. This is an unfair perception that disregards women’s personality or inner beauty. In the workplace, this type of unjust perception is being used to evaluate women’s status and credibility, which eventually creates inequality between men and women as well as considers men to be better in every perspective of life.  In some cases, women have been misjudged by their monthly menstruation that is linked to their sensitivity at work. It discourages them from moving to a higher position or taking up higher responsibilities. This further contributes to the lack of women’s role models who work in higher positions in society. Therefore, misogyny frames and stereotypes women, making them appear inferior to men all the time. In the process, women are stereotyped to be housekeepers, caregivers, and objects of men’s discussion in both offline and online communities.  Thus, in order to promote gender equality, the concept of societal misogyny must be eliminated. It is unfair to label women through the presence of misogyny and portray them negatively. Women should also not be subject to song lyrics that use misogynistic language to sound cool. There is a need to promote public awareness of the use of gender-sensitive language in public communication. There should be a collective action to stop the use of sexist language in Khmer music as well. We need to also encourage and support women so they can step up and raise their voice whenever they become a victim of misogyny or sexism at schools, universities or workplaces.  Feminist responses to misogynisitic speech and behaviors such as “That wasn’t funny,” or “Actually, that’s an outdated stereotype” may also help. Moreover, as misogyny is now more prevalent online, social media giants such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram should put stricter restrictions on posts or comments that suggest misogyny or discrimation against women.  Overall, the concept of misogyny unfairly gives the power of control to men, making them superior to women in most contexts.  Hence, we all need to work together to stop misogynistic speech and behaviors. We should use language in a gender-sensitive way to avoid discriminating against women. We also need to empower them through our encouraging and inclusive words. When misogyny appears  in the workplace, on social media platforms, and in music, it perpetuates gender discrimination that tends to always stereotype women as incapable or unworthy.   To promote gender equality,  respect, value and equal opportunities need to be given to women to encourage and empower them. We need to support women to build their confidence and see their self worth. When women are empowered, not discriminated against, they will be able to contribute more to the development of our society.   Thus, misogyny should be discouraged and stopped. We all need to enhance  women’s social status and show more appreciation to them.    *This blog is produced with the financial support from the European Union and The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency through Transparency International Cambodia and ActionAid Cambodia. Its contents do not reflect the views of any donors.