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Debate

តើប្រទេសកម្ពុជាគួតែដាក់បញ្ចូលមុខវិជ្ជាវិទ្យាសាស្ត្រនយោបាយ ចូលក្នុងកម្មវិធីសិក្សាថ្នាក់វិទ្យាល័យដែរឬទេ?

សូមស្វាគមន៍មកកាន់ការតទល់មតិរបស់កាហ្វេនយោបាយ! នេះគឺជាការធ្វើការតទល់មតិលើកទី១របស់យើង​​​ ហើយប្រធានបទគឺ៖​ «តើប្រទេសកម្ពុជា​គួតែដាក់បញ្ចូល​ មុខវិជ្ជាវិទ្យាសាស្រ្តនយោបាយ​ ចូលក្នុងកម្មវិធីសិក្សាថ្នាក់វិទ្យាល័យដែរឬទេ?» ដែលមានវត្តមាន​ កញ្ញា​ សាមឿត ស៊ាវម៉េង​ ខាងស្រប​ និង លោក វណ្ណ​ ប៊ុនណា​ ខាងបដិសេធ ដោយម្នាក់ៗ​ជ្រើសរើសយកទឡ្ហីករណ៍តែចំនួន៣ប៉ុណ្ណោះ​ យកមកបកស្រាយ។ សូមបញ្ចាក់ផងដែរថា ទឡ្ហីករណ៍ដែលពួកគាត់បានយកមកដេញដោលនេះ មិនមែនជាមតិផ្ទាល់ខ្លួនរបស់គាត់នោះទេ ដោយសាតែយើងត្រូវកំណត់ឲ្យមានអ្នកស្រប និងអ្នកបដិសេធ។ គោលបំណងនៃការតទល់មតិ គឺដើម្បីលើកកម្នូពស់នូវវប្បធម៌សន្ទនាប្រជាធិបតេយ្យក្នុងចំណោមយុវជននៅកម្ពុជា។ សូមអានការដេញដោលមតិនេះឲ្យបានល្អិតល្អន់ជាមុនសិន​ មុននឹងអ្នកទាំងអស់គ្នាបោះឆ្នោតឲ្យបេក្ខជនរបស់យើង។​ នេះដោយសារតែអ្នកទាំងអស់គ្នាអាចបោះឆ្នោត​ បានតែម្ដងប៉ុណ្ណោះ ដោយប្រើប្រាស់គណនីហ្វេសប៊ុក។​ ក្រុមកាហ្វេនយោបាយ​ មិនមានសិទ្ធិនិងមិនអាចដឹងបានទេ​ថា អ្នកណាបានបោះឆ្នោតបេក្ខជនមួយណា។​ ការបោះឆ្នោត គឺអនាមិកទាំងអស់! រយ:ពេលនៃការបោះឆ្នោត​ គឺពីរសប្ដាហ៍ ហើយអ្នកដែលទទួលបានភាគរយច្រើនជាង​ គាត់គឺអ្នកឈ្នះ។ អ្នកអាចចូលរួមបញ្ចេញមតិយោបល់ទៅលើការដេញដោលនេះ នៅខាងក្រោមបាន!

koffee

What Does It Take for the Cambodian Economy to De-Dollarize? 

Written by: Song Daphea, Junior Student majoring in Political Science and International Relations at Paragon International University Edited by: Sao Phal Niseiy, Editor-in-Chief at The Cambodianess and Deputy Editor-in-Chief at Thmey Thmey News Photo Credit: Rie Ishii My very first experience in Thailand was shocking as I saw my dad rushed to find the currency exchange counter in one busy Thai district. I turned to my dad and asked him: “Pa, why can’t we just pay them in dollars like in our country?”  I remembered he replied with a slight giggle, “In Thailand, only Bahts are allowed here. But in our country, we use dual currencies.” I asked again, “Then, why can’t we use only one like them?”  Although my dad never really answered my last question, we can find out the answer together in this very article. And we are going to find out how to use only the riel instead of using other foreign currencies. You and I are aware that our country welcomes both the riel and the dollar. But we now should think of how we can start using only our very own money.  Generally, dollarization is never an uninvited guest. Its presence indicated that a particular economy is at risk. In the case of Cambodia, there was a chain of instability and risks occurring one after the other. But dollars stepped foot in Cambodia during the transitional period (UNTAC). It was when up to 1.7 Billion USD poured into our economy through the UN-led missions. That was also when dollars began to earn the trust of our people and made a way to become one of our main currencies.  Economically speaking, Dollarization in Cambodia is a big help through which we could find a better substitute to diminishing inflation, attract FDI, and, ultimately, restore the economy. In addition, the dollar has been aiding our economy, and it eventually allows us to learn to stand on our own.  Nevertheless, persistent dollarization also has significant disadvantages. First of all, we do not have an independent monetary policy. Every dollarized economy generally is influenced by the United States. In other words, if the U.S. were to depreciate its dollars to expand its liquidity or to increase exports, consequently, the Cambodian economy or any other dollarized economies would experience inflation due to the reduction of the dollar value.  Secondly, it is the loss of seigniorage, a term given to describe the difference between the value of the money and the product cost of making it. In other words, seigniorage is the profit that the government gains from generating the money. For example, to produce 10,000 riels, it would cost the government 1000 riel for production expenses. So, the seigniorage would be 9,000 riels. With this gain, the government can allocate it to the national development program based on its priorities. But, when the dollar is highly regulated within our economy, the loss of seigniorage would go up, suggesting that the national revenue is not fulfilling.  Therefore, the question is, "how can we de-dollarize our economy?" There are some practical solutions I would like to raise. First of all, having a great core or a healthy macroeconomic framework is the best starting point. Since Cambodia has had limited control on monetary policy driven by the steady progress of dollarization, it is better to establish credible financial institutions. This practice should be a priority because it will help the people to place their trust in the riel and also for it to circulate with proper regulations and transparency.  Moreover, a closer step to de-dollarizing our economy would be finding a currency to back up for the riel. I refer to the currency that is universally recognized and can be kept as our reserve in case of extreme unexpected events happening to the riel. In other words, we need to find an anchor currency. According to Rasheed J. Griffith and LOR Samnang’s Monetary Policy and Rielization, Cambodia can carefully pick an anchor currency. The authors explored a few options that could be the possible anchor currency for Cambodia, such as the USD, Yen, Yuan, and Asian Monetary Unit. Moreover, the country must also analyze the economic well-being afterward. Secondly, the exchange rate system is another factor. As Nombuleo Duma stated in his paper for the IMF, the exchange rate system in Cambodia is relatively fixed to the USD. In return, this strategy has stabilized the inflation rate and prompted more investments into the country. However, this explains why Cambodia is still the most dollarized country. When the real exchange rate is stabilized relative to the inflation rate, the dollar is preferable. This action is contradictory to the de-dollarization strategy. On the other hand, if the exchange rate is too flexible, it will cause an uproar in the economy. Therefore, finding a suitable exchange rate policy is necessary.  But what is more important here is the people. We all know that people are a driving factor of the value of the riel. Thus, I think that we can do so much better to navigate the value of our currency. Even though we have been using dollars way too much, we can alter this by embracing a shift in our preferences, habits, customs, and mindset.  When it comes to our habits, I want to stress a little bit here. In some religious rituals, most people tend to make an offering in which replica cars, houses, and paper money are burned for their deceased ancestors. The replica paper money people commonly burn is the dollar. Sometimes, it can be other foreign currencies such as dong, euros, yen, or yuan, but not the riel. It already symbolizes that even the departed prefer the dollars.  Furthermore, shoppings and price tags, as well as most daily transactions, are in dollars. It can serve as significant evidence that the use of riels should be further encouraged among the people in Cambodia. It is time for us to use our currency if we want to achieve proper de-dollarization.  Nevertheless, one thing Cambodia should avoid is forcing de-dollarization. Unlike other countries, the dollar has a long presence and has taken deep roots in our country. Therefore, any reversal in practice is going to be time-consuming, and, of course, enforcing de-dollarization will only end miserably. By saying this, we can study history to see the backfires some countries encountered. Lao PDR, in particular, attempted to impose swift de-dollarization by issuing a decree to make the kip the official currency in every transaction. In the end, the demand for it depreciated remarkably.  Finally, I also want to emphasize that some factors suggest Cambodia is on the right path to de-dollarization. One is the removal of small-dollar banknotes as the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) has tried to get rid of $1, $2, and $5 banknotes from the economy since 2020. Last but not least is the establishment of Bakong, a blockchain-based technology that allows users to transfer, peer-to-peer transact, and pay via the digital platform. Apart from de-dollarizing and promoting the riel, Bakong aims to include the unbanked households and boost digital payments. This system has so much to achieve and can even foster digital transactions, cybersecurity, and stricter monetary policy. Indeed, Bakong could be the catalyst for our country to drive a complete de-dollarization.  All in all, dollars have a long presence in our country. Thanks to its existence, we could achieve a lot. However, I believe it is high time to begin regaining our independence in terms of monetary policy. It, of course, is going to be time-consuming and arduous to do so, but there is a saying: "good things take time". So does de-dollarization, which can happen gradually without harshly enforcing. Instead, we should take the time to develop credible financial institutions, find a suitable currency exchange rate, introduce an enduring reserve currency, and instill the spirit of the riel among our people. 

Politik

Why Should We Normalize Political Discussion?

Written By: Samoeurth Seavmeng, 3rd Generation Leader of Politikoffee 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: Politikoffee Some of us have probably been told by our parents since we were children not to talk about politics. When we go to school, we are prohibited from discussing it with our classmates and teachers. After we graduate and get a job, we might get fired if we discuss politics in the office. For some people, in their entire lives, they might have never experienced talking about politics with their friends or acquaintances. In Cambodia, besides our socially accepted norms portraying politics as neither safe nor useful, our country bans political discussion among students and teachers. The numerous arrests and imprisonment of political activists and former CNRP members have made this practice worse. In this context, I believe the forbiddance and arrests have affected the mindset of every Cambodian citizen. Public discussions on topics such as Cambodian elections, corruption, governance, politics and public service delivery have been conducted by very few organizations in Cambodia for the public to join. When the discussions are conducted, the discussants generally would not dare to get deep into those sensitive issues. Some even censor themselves. These raise a few important questions: Why is talking politics not a habit among many Cambodian people? Why is politics considered a sensitive topic? What are the benefits if we discuss politics? The word discussion means exchanging ideas or views with other people or giving opinions on certain issues. Therefore, a political discussion means exchanging your ideas and opinions about politics. This does not necessarily mean attacking, criticizing or going against any individual or group of people. Having dialogues or discussions about politics with friends does not mean we have to be deeply involved in politics. Beneficially, political discussion helps increase our critical thinking skills and knowledge about our nation’s social and political affairs. It makes us become informed citizens. Once we have the knowledge of those issues and keep ourselves updated about their happenings, we can potentially keep politicians accountable for their actions. The more we know about politicians, the more they become more responsible Some people categorize politicians as “cheaters’’. We might often hear people say, “Politics is Cheating”. That is why people hate politics. Consequently, it makes politics too bad and even unbearable to discuss. Politicians could behave irresponsibly because they probably think we are politically illiterate. We do not have any ideas about what is going on, and especially we do not have an opinion about their actions. Not all politicians are bad, though. Politicians can also do good goods and we have many good politicians as well. For example, the global movement to end discrimination against women and LGTIQ+ people, the legality of same-sex marriages in some countries, and the campaigns to end gender inequality are some good things that politicians have done to make their society and the world a better place. It is important to understand that we all have the power to make them do that if we work together. When we become politically literate, more or less, politicians will become more accountable for their actions. It is because they know we have our eyes on them, and we know what they are up to. When politicians are elected to lead the country, they pledge to serve our national interests, not themselves. They are obliged to make good policies to serve us, address social problems and develop the country sustainably and inclusively. Social problems such as flooding, gang-rapes, traffic jams, unaffordable housing, and high price of petrol are all in the hands of politicians. They have the power to address all these issues. They have the power to influence private companies and other stakeholders to solve all these problems. As stated in the Oxford Handbook of Political Communication “Through political discussions, citizens’ opinions and perspectives are represented in their government, and in turn their government is more responsive to its citizens.” However, if we do not know our country’s political system and governance and policies and priorities of major political parties, it is hard for us to track politicians’ actions and keep them accountable. In contrast, if we know those affairs well and we keep ourselves updated about their actions, politicians will be more careful with every move they make. They are aware that we are checking their election campaign promises. We are informed and responsible citizens. We let them know that we have the power to elect them and we also have the power to vote them out of office. We need to let them know that we care about our country’s affairs just as much as they probably do. Political discussion may also make people become closer with one another and create a culture of sharing knowledge amongst peers with peers, colleagues with colleagues and family members and family members. They will become more understandable, open-minded and tolerant. As a result, it will reduce tension, conflict and misunderstanding. Ultimately, we will create a peaceful society where people do not get angry easily and are willing to have frank discussions to find solutions instead of coloring each other or getting into fights. We will also stop labelling people who do not have the same political beliefs or ideology as our enemies. Moreover, sharing knowledge about sociopolitical issues with colleagues can perhaps make the office environment more enjoyable and less stressful. Together for a politically literate society We are now more informed of what is happening in our country. Nevertheless, when it comes to politics, I believe we are still afraid to discuss it with our friends, colleagues and relatives to avoid “conflict” which potentially harms our friendships, professional networks and family bonds. Want it or not, our daily life cannot be separated from politics, thereby requiring our attention and participation. The importance of political discussion at the workplace:​​ The purpose of discussing politics is not to cause conflicts or misunderstanding. It is to exchange ideas, information and opinions on political issues affecting our country. It is also to ease possible tensions and misunderstanding. Some people working in administration, finance and business, for example, might not keep themselves updated with the country’s status quo. They probably think it is not relevant to their work. However, the issues such as gang-rapes, traffic jams, flooding, unaffordable housing, high price of petrol have significant impacts on their lives. Therefore, having colleagues who are knowledgeable about social and political affairs could help them be informed and take appropriate actions if required. We need a majority of us to voice our concerns, from everyone and from every sector. Once our voices are heard, it is hard for them to ignore. Increasing political literacy in our society: Everyone should be able to talk about politics in public and private places. Those who do not work at offices can discuss with their peers and learn more from better informed friends. This does not necessarily mean we should discuss it all the time. We can do it when it is the right time. For example, we can engage in political discussion when there are concerns about social problems that are left unaddressed by politicians. I believe that when a culture of discussion becomes normal in our society and when everyone is aware of our country’s affairs, politicians cannot escape from their duties. Creating a good habit for the next generation Children impersonate their parents and people around them quickly, and adolescents look up to their seniors and surroundings. Accordingly, if we want the next generation to pay more attention to issues affecting their lives, we need to start normalizing political discussion from now on. Political talks with parents and relatives help to broaden knowledge and increase critical thinking for youth who will obtain crucial knowledge of their country’s affairs and politicians who lead their nation. This makes them familiar with politics and will not get easily influenced by anyone. I believe many young people are told by their parents to vote for a political party, which they probably have no idea what the party’s policy is about. Some do not care and just follow their peers or neighbors when it comes to voting. Our future will become more complicated with the rise of advanced technology, artificial intelligence, vicious diseases and uncontrollable climate change. Hence, we need informed, responsible and politically-minded people who could deal with those issues wholeheartedly. We cannot let private companies create policies for us. Regular political discussion is significant because it will result in better informed citizens who will be able to hold politicians accountable. More importantly, the next generation of Cambodians will become highly innovative politicians and policymakers who will be able to initiate important policies for Cambodia. Thus, normalizing political discussion is extremely crucial for Cambodian society. Not only does it give benefits to the Cambodian citizens to keep politicians accountable, but it could also transform the society to be a politically literate one. Suggestions I believe if we normalize political discussion, it will help improve the current and future landscape of politics in Cambodia. The world is rapidly changing; therefore, we need more innovative politicians and policymakers to enhance Cambodia’s competitiveness on the global stage. Normalizing political discussion is a great start. However, achieving it is not easy and it will take time and commitment. Therefore, in order to create an open political discussion environment in our society, we need active participation from everyone. First, we should try to know more about our duties in participating in politics and civic engagement. We should not consider politics as something only for politicians. Cambodia is our country so it is essential that we contribute to developing and improving it. Second, those who are more knowledgeable of sociopolitical affairs should share with the ones who know less about political issues. They should try to share with other people to make them well-informed of social and political issues impacting the country. Not everyone has the privilege to learn and keep themselves updated with important status quo. This action will also strengthen civic and political engagement of Cambodian citizens. “Sharing is Caring” is not only caring about other people but we care about our country’s affairs as well. Third, young people will inherit everything from the current politicians and leaders. It is crucial for them to participate in their country’s political affairs and development. Youth should start discussing politics more often with peers and do it as much as they can. Once they are able to do it, the next generation will follow suit. Consequently, they will be able to join in directing the country in the way they want it to be. Finally, the Cambodian government plays the most significant role to empower and promote political discussion. It should encourage the citizens to talk more about it rather than prohibit it. When the citizens become political-literate, they will help in providing valuable input that politicians need to lead the country to achieve sustainable development, prosperity and greatness.

Politik

Cambodia Needs a New Political Culture. So, What Should It Be? 

Written by: Han Noy, a 2rd-year student majoring in International Relations 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:  Happystock/Fotolia Cambodia used to be one of the greatest empires in Asia during its peak from the 11th to 13th century. Its territory roughly covered most of the mainland Southeast Asia countries, including now parts of Vietnam, Thailand and Laos. However, this glorious history did not last long. The power of the Khmer Empire swiftly declined by the 14th century, subsequently leading to endless suffering and the deprivation of sovereignty, territory, and independence since then. Based on our historical records, following the fall of the Angkorean era, the country suffered prolonged civil wars and persistent power struggles among our political elites.  More importantly, after regaining the independence from France in 1953, our people highly anticipated that the nation would have lastly lived in harmony, prosperity and peace under the reign of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk.  It, however, was just a good dream and hope as the coup staged to depose the prince from power in 1970, led by General Lon Nol and Prince Sisowath Siri Matak, drove Cambodia into the Vietnam War. Five years after the coup, Cambodians ended up witnessing the rise to power of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime, during which there was widespread starvation and ruthless persecution of almost two million innocent Cambodians. After that, Cambodia could not even realize the perpetual peace as war among different political factions persisted along the Thai border until 1997 when there was a national reconciliation and integration.  Currently, Cambodia has finally attained what we call a negative peace—a condition at which war is absent. However, its political landscape remains very tense, conflictual, and polarized. Therefore, this part brought up a question for Cambodians, should the country seek to adopt a new political culture? I raised this question because the current political culture now is ineffective and obsolete, failing to function and respond to the needs of the public amid the fast-changing world. Therefore, I am writing this article to explain why it is requisite for the country to embrace a new political culture.   What is political culture? The term ‘political culture’ commonly refers to the beliefs and views of people of the country toward the political system. It generally consists of political ideals and operating norms of a political apparatus in a country. So, psychological and subjective dimensions of politics are what political culture is about, and political culture can be shaped by both the collective history of a political system and its members. Jürgen R. Winkler (2020) argues that political culture is ‘the shared views and normative judgments’ of people on the political system. He also highlighted that the notion of political culture is not about discussing how people think of political actors such as a president and prime minister, but it mainly focuses on how they contemplate the political system and its legitimacy. Meanwhile, American political scientist Lucian Pye considers that political culture encompasses fundamental values, feelings and knowledge that guide the political process. On the other hand, the study of political culture has also been circulated widely since the establishment of Western democracy. The first classic study of political culture is on ‘The Civic Culture’(1963) by Gabriel Almond and Sydney Verba, both of whom are American political scientists. Almond and Verba explicitly categorized political culture into three pure types such as parochial, subject and participant. In a parochial political culture, people are not allowed to do anything, and they know only about the existence of a central government. Regarding the subject of political culture, citizens are aware of themselves not just as participants but also as a subject of the government. Meanwhile, in the participant political culture, people hold the belief that there is an interconnection between them and the system in which the system can impact them while they also can contribute to it.  In a nutshell, political culture is mainly about the beliefs, opinions and feelings--all of which can shape the political process of a country. Moreover, it also manifests why and how leaders and policymakers behave toward any issues facing them. Proposed new political culture for contemporary Cambodia  Despite our country suffering much in its dark history, we continue to go through a lot of struggles due to the political culture our politicians have chosen to take on. In an exclusive interview with Khmer Times, Preap Kol, former executive director of Transparency International Cambodia, pointed out that our current political culture is risky and could lead to national disunity as it involves making baseless accusations, which he labeled as “coloring culture.”  I concur with what he raised. Also, I recognize that our country is surely in much need of a new political culture. So, in the next part, I am offering some perspectives of the new version of political culture, which I believe fits our current national context.   First, the cultural dialogue needs to be fully espoused by our political elites as it is very essential in contributing to national development​. It is because it allows all parties to put national interests and survival before their interests. Besides, the culture of dialogue helps strengthen the cooperation and promotes national unity among Cambodian citizens in general and political elites in particular. For instance, Cambodian politicians chose to embrace the political dialogue in 2015 following the years-long political deadlock resulting from the controversial election in 2013. During that time, the political atmosphere appeared to be hassle-free. And more importantly, many members of the opposition party were freed from jail. Therefore, we will be able to end and prevent any conflicts and distrust among ourselves by fully adopting the culture of dialogue. It, of course, should be considered as the best option for our new political culture. Second, our country should also seek to build a culture of inclusive political institutions. A nation collapsing or thriving mainly depends on the strength of political institutions. When a country allows the client politics and patronage system to take root, rampant corruption, injustice and struggle for power will continue to subsist, leading to poor governance. Any modern governing system should be constructed on a merit-based system that is full of competent technocrats, not based on political connections.  Furthermore, clientelism will only undermine good democratic practice. It happens since some democratic components such as accountability and transparency will be hindered, while powerful and wealthy people will just use their wealth to buy ballots as they seek to protect their interests while ignoring the interests of the public. Hence, building and fostering the culture of inclusive political institutions are significant for the country's success. As Acemoglu and Robinson single out in their book titled “Why Nations Fail”, the key determinant of why some nations are rich and others are poor is the selection of two types of political institutions, namely inclusive and extractive institutions. Therefore, the institutions we choose will determine the future of our nation.  In conclusion, political culture is indeed our views, beliefs and perceptions towards our political system. More importantly, it also shapes our political behavior because it maps out how people should interact with the government and involve themselves with political affairs.  In the Cambodian context, our political culture is already obsolete, meaning we need to create a new framework of political culture that can guarantee a better future for our nation. As I already suggested earlier, instigating cultural dialogue and erecting inclusive political institutions will be the key to our well-off national development.  However, to make it a reality, all stakeholders should work together to promote the new concept of political culture through mobilizing different approaches. I believe that this new political culture could be made known to the public through education programs, public events and the commemoration of historical events. Once these efforts are made, the spirit of our new political culture will be ultimately attained.  

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Koffee

Cambodia Should Foster Youth Environmental Engagement

Written by: Chea Sameang, a graduate with a Bachelor's degree in International Relations from 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: LICADHO In Cambodia, youth civic engagement seems to have increased significantly over the past years. They have become more interested in partaking in social works as well as expressing their opinion on social media platforms on different topics while trying to get involved in any activities that aim to raise the wellbeing and quality of life of people in their respective communities.  However, youth engagement in environmental protection appears to be facing more challenges with shrinking civic space and increasing restrictions. Some of them have also risked being arrested and imprisoned.  As can be seen, three environmental activists who are members of the environmental NGO Mother Nature Cambodia—Sun Ratha, Ly Chandaravuth, and Yim Leanghy—were arrested two days before the Queen Mother’s Birthday. All of them were formally charged with plotting against the government and insulting the King under articles 453 and 437 of the Criminal Code, ostensibly after they had documented water pollution in Tonle Sap River.  Moreover, this is not the first case that involves the arrest and imprisonment of environmental youth activists. Five other members of Mother Nature Cambodia were also sentenced to jail for incitement to cause serious social chaos as they planned protests against the filling of Boeung Tamok Lake in Phnom Penh.  Personally speaking, it has now become more common in Cambodia that environmental youth activists are accused of being anti-development or allegedly trying to topple the government. But what I want to emphasize is that it is outrageous when young and environmentally-concerned citizens have to face unfavorable conditions, having to confront apprehensions and incarceration for taking part in safeguarding the environment and natural resources.  Any negative actions taken against them by the authorities only discourage other people, especially youngsters from expressing their opinions freely and meaningfully, and this action would prevent them from thriving to become more active and environmentally responsible citizens in the future.  Regarding the prosecution of environmental youth activists in Cambodia, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Campaigns, Ming Yu Hah already warned that legal actions are not only the attempt to intimidate members of Mother Nature Cambodia but also “the entire generation of Cambodian youth who have dared to stand up for human rights and environmental justice.”  Thus, if the onslaught against young people continues, I would say, it will impact the future of Cambodian youth. And the next generations will not have enough courage to demonstrate their passion and commitment to protecting the environment and natural resources Moreover, the enduring fear of being arrested and jailed would only continue to trigger the so-called self-censorship. They soon will lose interest in actively participating in tackling issues facing our society. Environmentally speaking, we only will end up failing to address the environmental problems such as growing deforestation and pollution if the involvement of young people is lacking. Of course, the majority, if not all of us, will be the ones who eventually will be badly affected by this failure.   Environmental Activism Is Indispensable  Based on my observation, it turns out to be less and less common for young people to show concern and express ideas on sensitive yet essential issues such as the environment, politics, and human rights. Frankly, they turn out to focus more on other things, including social trending and any topics that are less beneficial to society.  Even though this can be a bit disappointing and depressing, I remain hopeful that we can change this and work together to promote environmental activism in our country.    Currently, we need more voices from youth in resolving social issues and their active participation in civic engagement. And it is essential to keep promoting and supporting environmental youth engagement if we want to see their more proactive role in addressing the environmental issues. Here I would offer three humble reasons why youth environmental engagement is crucial.  First, it can serve as a role model that allows young people to influence or inspire others. By granting them space and supporting their active participation will aspire them to be mindful of the environment, voice their concerns with reasons, and take appropriate actions to deal with all challenges. A prominent example is Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who has become a role model for youth globally for her effort, confidence, and bravery in leading the global climate strike movement and demanding climate actions. If the country can free up more spaces for young people to discuss, debate, offer solutions as well as defend the environment, it will both improve its natural resource management and create a more inclusive and open society.  Second, it enables a diversity of opinions expressed by young people on environmental issues. Through debating and discussing, I think, people will not only be able to expand their knowledge but also change their mindsets as well as their behavior toward the environment. These changes are very instrumental for our country to build a better and more resilient future for our younger generations. Third, granting our youngsters opportunity and space to interact in environmental protection also improves the public image of our country. While young people in other countries earn appreciation and support for their efforts and actions, Cambodian youth, who care about the environment and are courageous enough to speak up against anything that impacts the environment negatively, face arrests and prosecution. Therefore, if this continues, it will only further damage the good image of our country.  As a developing country, Cambodia has a population of around 15.8 million —two-third of whom are under the age of 30, meaning that we need to listen to their considerations carefully. Furthermore, we also need their active participation in safeguarding nature and preventing all kinds of environmental destruction as the government alone can’t solve all problems facing our environment.  All in all, the attempt to block the environmental youth campaign in any form must end, and the government should also drop all charges against those arrested environmental activists. Doing so allows the government to demonstrate that it recognizes the importance of youth in any stage of the development process and indicates its genuine efforts and intention in working in partnership with the youth in tackling environmental problems and creating a sustainable future for younger generations. 

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‘I used to talk about politics on Facebook, but now it’s scary’

By Adam Bemma, Alijazeera 23 Aug 2018 Phnom Penh, Cambodia – Samoeurth Seavmeng sits at a conference table wearing black horn-rimmed glasses. Meng – as she’s known online and to friends – glances at her smartphone and begins to speak to 10 other young Cambodians gathered at Politikoffee, a weekly forum held in a leafy diplomatic enclave of the capital Phnom Penh. “It’s very hard to talk about social media. Sometimes people post fake news on Facebook and sometimes people post true news, so it has advantages and disadvantages,” the 22-year-old activist said. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen often alleges “fake news” to discredit criticism of his ruling Cambodia People’s Party online. He has even threatened that authorities have the technology to track and arrest a Facebook user within six minutes of a post. This has sent a wave of fear and intimidation through Cambodia’s public sphere, where once critical voices have begun to self-censor. Politikoffee is an offline space where Cambodians feel free to debate and voice dissenting views without fear of arrest.  “Before, I used to share and talk a lot about political and social issues on Facebook, but now it’s a little bit scary to talk about these sensitive issues because I’m afraid I’m going to get in trouble,” Meng said. Internet censorship Cambodia’s government monitors social media. Last May, Cambodia’s Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Information, issued a regulation to monitor Facebook. The government stated that it wants to control information that is deemed to “threaten the defence and security of the nation, relations with other countries, the economy, public order, and discriminates against the country’s customs and traditions.” The Cambodia Center for Independent Media stated in its 2017 report that seven Facebook users were either arrested or sought by authorities for sharing information and opinions on the social media platform. In 2018, an election year, the number is unknown. “The directive was actually released after they were already identifying, monitoring, charging and imprisoning people,” said Naly Pilorge, director at LICADHO, a human rights monitoring group in Cambodia. During the election in July, 17 news websites – including RFA, VOA and Cambodia Daily (already closed down in 2017) – were ordered offline for 48 hours. Critics believe internet censorship is intended to stop outlawed Cambodia National Rescue Party supporters inside the country from sharing, liking or commenting on election boycott campaigns. “The directive came afterwards to legalise what they were doing in practice already. And it changed the habits of the average [social media] user,” Pilorge added. “The people online that we interact with, we see that there are differences. Definitely people are afraid, hesitant, paralysed. Ourselves included. We’re cautious.” In the lead-up to this year’s election, all independent media was shut down. The main opposition leader was jailed for alleged treason. Two former Radio Free Asia reporters and an Australian filmmaker were jailed for alleged espionage. Several human rights and political activists languish inside Cambodia’s prisons – guilty until proven innocent according to LICADHO. “What you’ve seen over the past year and a half is, for example, a minister or the prime minister decides a post is critical or is unacceptable and will immediately denounce a Facebook post,” Pilorge said. “Within 48 hours this individual is being arrested, charged, imprisoned in pre-trial detention and sometimes convicted.” Increasing regulation  Though the election is over, censorship online is prevalent. Prime Minister Hun Sen was re-elected last month in a vote criticised by the UN as fundamentally flawed. “If the situation for freedom of expression worsens, maybe we will have something that we can do together in order to inform [Cambodians] which tool or application they can use without getting into any trouble,” Meng said. Cambodian digital security trainer Moses Ngeth teaches journalists, activists and human rights campaigners how to secure accounts, and protect data online.  “I train them how to do very basic device security for smartphones, password protection. I tell them to be careful when posting something to social media and not to share any personal information,” he said.  Ngeth believes this new mandate will give the ruling CPP legitimacy to pass its much-anticipated draft cybercrime law. “People cannot talk on the radio, or on television. It leaves only Facebook. That’s why they increased regulation of social media,” Ngeth said. Cambodians can still be arrested, charged, jailed or fined for Facebook posts under criminal defamation, royal defamation laws, or incitement. “I think it’s natural to have fear, but when I see someone is arrested for saying something on social media I don’t feel comfortable. I think that people should feel free to express themselves,” said Kounila Keo, a Cambodian blogger and communications consultant. Prime Minister Hun Sen has amassed over 10 million followers on Facebook. Sam Rainsy, the exiled former CNRP leader who ran in the 2013 elections, claims that many are not even Cambodian and may be fake online profiles generated abroad – an accusation the prime minister refutes. “What [the prime minister] said … ‘When you post, I can know the location’ – it’s one of the funniest things I’ve heard from him,” Ngeth said. “Using Facebook to know the location, it’s not possible,” Ngeth said. Prime Minister Hun Sen and members of the CPP are using Facebook to bypass traditional news media such as newspapers, radio and television, viewed as hostile to the government, to reach Cambodians directly with their messages. “The prime minister and other public figures campaign on Facebook,” said Ngeth. We're not doing anything to harm society. We're doing it to make society a better place, especially for youth to be able to share ideas and contribute. SAMOEURTH SEAVMENG, KNOWN AS MENG, ACTIVIST Back at the Politikoffee debate, the upcoming cybercrime law is considered for discussion in a future forum. Meng wants members to be able to communicate online without being punished for spreading “fake news” for commenting on the draft law. “Now we’re thinking about [developing] a new tool, or a new kind of app, that we can be sure will be safe for us to talk about any issue because we mostly discuss politics,” Meng said. “We’re not doing anything to harm society. We’re doing it to make society a better place, especially [for] youth to be able to share ideas and contribute.” Original Link: https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2018/8/23/i-used-to-talk-about-politics-on-facebook-but-now-its-scary

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