Monday, November 05, 2012

Summary of 21st Anniversary of Paris Peace Agreement


This year is the third year Khmer-Canadian Youth Association celebrated the anniversary of Paris Peace Agreement (PPA). This year, the theme focused on "How peace mean to us? And how we can build peace?" Many speakers who come from various disciplines and different backgrounds shed us light and gave us great input on this Peace Commemoration. Sophan who is the president of the Youth Association and chair of the PPA Commemoration committee stressed on the importance of PPA comparing to the great civilization of the Angkor Era. He also valued the PPA as the renaissance of Cambodia. Further to his statement, the Youth will keep organize the Peace Commemoration annually to provide public with right understanding and help build peace together collectively. This concerted effort will not only ensure that Cambodia can get fruition from the PPA, the world will also share this peace process.
MP Wayne Cao who is the member of parliament of Alberta government gave us a great importance on the decline of two countries who signed the PPA but Cambodia is still alive. The Russia union and Yugoslavia have been split, but he observed that Cambodia has been stronger by the PPA. He emphasized that the cold war has been died while the connectivity of people in the world has become more visible. On his sight back home of birth in Vietnam, Mr. Wayne Cao reflected on his life and his friend which both have born in the same location but made a living in different situation of political circumstance and economic development. Mr. Wayne highly appreciated the Peace Commemoration and he will join this celebration in years to come.
Ms. Janyce Konkin who has extensively worked in Cambodia for "Initiative for Change" described the importance of building peace within individual first before expanding it to others such as family, community, nation and the world. In this context, Janyce shed us insight on both practical knowledge and academic theory. As her MA major focused on peace research, her conclusion wholly rests on individuals who must initiate peace within themselves first before outreaching to others. But she accepted the original interdependent of inside peace affects outside peace, and outside peace also affects inside peace. Her theory is not different from that of Lord Buddha and late Cambodian monk Maha Ghosananda. For the PPA, according to Janyce, it is a good instrument for peace development in Cambodia.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Youth can enforce democracy

Koul Panha
Monday, August 29th, 2011
By Kristine Felisse Mangunay
Philippine Daily Inquirer
“The youth have the power to enforce democracy for a better society. They have to get involved in politics so they can be trained to become leaders,” he said.

He was only 8 years old when his father, a clerk at Cambodia’s Supreme Court, was killed by the brutal Khmer Rouge regime.

Thirty-five years after that murder, some of the leaders of the murderous regime are on trial for war crimes while the boy has become a fighter for democracy—one of this year’s winners of the Ramon Magsaysay Awards, dubbed Asia’s version of the Nobel Prize.

Though decades have passed since his father was killed, Koul Panha has not forgotten. He was on the verge of tears when he spoke of those dark times in his country during an interview with the Inquirer at the weekened.

Koul’s father was picked up by soldiers of the Khmer Rouge in 1976 and ordered to gather beans.

“My father knew that he would be faced with great danger. After a few days, I received information from the villagers that he was killed,” Koul said.

“The senior villagers told me that my father did not let the Khmer Rouge guards and soldiers kill him easily as he fought back.”

The image of how his father must have died has remained indelible in Koul’s mind. It taught him the value of democracy.

Fight for democracy

The Ramon Magsaysay Foundation cited Koul for his efforts at promoting fair and honest elections in Cambodia.

Five other recipients of this year’s awards for outstanding work in their respective fields come from India, Indonesia and the Philippines. The awarding ceremony will be held on Aug. 31 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

The awardees will each receive a certificate, a medallion and a cash prize.

It was the death of his father that pushed Koul to decide to be at the forefront of Cambodia’s struggle for democratization.

Koul believes the brutalities and the human rights abuses that he, his family and other Cambodians experienced while living under the thumb of the communist regime could be prevented in a stable, democratic country.

For this, he said, the advancement of a free electoral system was crucial.

Courageous leadership

In a fragile democracy like Cambodia … a sustained work to aggressively campaign and advocate free, fair and meaningful elections is necessary in order to promote democracy,” Koul said.

In its citation, the Ramon Magsaysay Foundation praised Koul for “his determined and courageous leadership of the sustained campaign to build an enlightened, organized and vigilant citizenry who will ensure fair and free elections—as well as demand accountable governance by their elected officials—in Cambodia’s nascent democracy.”

Images of how dangerous it was to live under the Khmer Rouge were still clear in Koul’s mind as he recalled a time in 1975 when his family hid in a trench amid rumors that Phnom Penh, the capital, was going to be bombed.

When the Khmer Rouge took over the city that year, his family was forced to leave their house without being given a chance to take their possessions with them.

“My mother complained and protested when the Khmer Rouge ordered us to leave our house,” he said. “My father stopped her, telling her that if she protested she could be shot.”

The following year, the Khmer Rouge took away his father and shot him.

Free elections

Led by Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia between 1975 and 1979. It is said to have caused the death of 2 million people—or as much as one-fourth of country’s population—from starvation, overwork, torture or execution.

The Khmer Rouge were driven from power in January 1979 by a Vietnamese invasion.

After graduating with a BS Chemical Industry Engineering degree in Phnom Penh in 1991, Koul joined the nonpartisan Task Force on Cambodian Elections. This eventually became the Committee for Free and Fair Elections (Comfrel).

In 1998, Koul became its executive director.

“A main motivation for joining (this) came from my own experience. When I was a child, Phnom Penh was bombed many times. I did not want this to happen again,” Koul said.

Comfrel network

After earning his master’s degree in Politics of Alternative Development, Koul committed himself full time to Comfrel’s mission.

Under his leadership, the organization became the country’s leading independent center on electoral matters, now with a nationwide network of partners and more than 50,000 election volunteers.

In the 2008 elections, more than 10,000 of the center’s volunteers were deployed to cover 60 percent of the electoral precincts.

Cambodia’s democratic progress has been slow and turbulent since the fall of the Khmer Rouge. It was only in 1993 when it held its first national elections. Since then, it has held five other national and local polls.

These elections were characterized by fraud, violence and factionalism.

Young democracy

“Cambodia’s democracy can be referred to as a young democracy,” Koul said. “This democracy began recently, a short period after the genocide, post-conflicts, human rights abuses and oppression.”

Owing to the country’s lack of democratic tradition, Koul had had to contend with harassment from parties who deemed political and electoral reforms acceptable only if they served their own interests.

Koul said that Comfrel began lobbying for the restoration of political stability and for a government commitment to violence-free polls.

In 2000, it took its campaign to the grassroots by conducting electoral activities calling, among others, for gender equality in electoral representation.

Long way to go

Koul is happy to see his efforts have not been in vain.

“The major political players in Cambodia have accepted that peaceful regular elections are the proper legitimate mechanism for installing or removing a government,” he said.

He said, however, that the country still had a long way to go.

“Although there are legal frameworks and procedures for electoral democracy in Cambodia, the country still lacks strong democratic institutions … and is threatened by the return of an authoritarian rule,” Koul said.

To prevent this from happening again, Koul stressed the role of the youth and of education.

“The youth have the power to enforce democracy for a better society. They have to get involved in politics so they can be trained to become leaders,” he said.

Koul said the youth was the “hope” of every nation.

If they are informed, he said, then democracy can fully develop and the human rights violations that characterized the Khmer Rouge regime can be prevented.

Koul said winning the Ramon Magsaysay Award would be a “source of energy” for him which he could use to “work harder.”

“This will further encourage the organizations that I work for,” he said.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Ou Apsara

Apsara is the goddess of Cambodia. Trudy Jacobson in her book "Lost Goddesses: Denial of Female Power in Cambodian History" has illustrated significant positions of Cambodian feminism.Apsaras are the symbolic icon of Cambodian women that symbolize both beauty and socially responsible citizenship.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Education for the economy UNDP ៖ យុវជន​ប្រមាណ​៣០​ម៉ឺន​នាក់​មិន​មាន​ជំនាញ​តម្រូវ​តាម​ទីផ្សារ​ការ​ងារ

Education for the economy UNDP យុវជន​ប្រមាណ​៣០​ម៉ឺន​នាក់​មិន​មាន​ជំនាញ​តម្រូវ​តាម​ទីផ្សារ​ការ​ងារ

Friday, 12 August 2011 15:01, May Kunmakara and Sim Virinea, The Phnom Penh Post


Photo by: Heng Chivoan

Graduates listen to Prime Minister Hun Sen speak yesterday at the National Institute of Education in Phnom Penh.

Some 300,000 young Cambodians are entering the domestic labour market every year, but often don’t have the skill sets required by private sector employers, UN Development Programme Deputy Country Director Sophie Baranes said yesterday.

Improving human capital in Cambodia requires a concentrated effort by stakeholders such as government, private sector and education institutions, she said.

“In order to succeed, a sustainable programme of training, or higher education reform, is needed.”

Yesterday, the UNDP in conjunction with the government issued a report titled Human Capital Implications of Future Economic Growth in Cambodia, aiming to provide a roadmap to building up high quality human capital to boost the economy.

“At present, there exists a significant gap between market demand and the skills available, and existing educational institutions and curricula are often unresponsive to market demands and the need of the private sector,” the report said.

Supreme National Economic Council Deputy Secretary General Hav Ratank said the government had prioritised human resource development.

Cambodia’s intention to develop its industry requires simultaneous human capital development, he said.

Although there is much work still to be done, Hav Ratanak highlighted work done by the government to improve the situation.

He noted the education budget had increased 8 times over in the 10 years from 2000 to 2010, and added certain measures had been adopted following the global economic crisis to promote employment.

So far, the programmes have assisted 40,000 laid-off workers find employment, he said.

“Indeed, it’s necessary for the government [to assist on human capital development] … but it needs wide cooperation from all the stakeholders and development partners,” he said.

The report laid out a number of short- and long-term recommendations, ranging from stopping school drop-outs to improving vocational training and reforming higher education.

UNDP ៖ យុវជន​ប្រមាណ​៣០​ម៉ឺន​នាក់​មិន​មាន​ជំនាញ​តម្រូវ​តាម​ទីផ្សារ​ការ​ងារ

Friday, 12 August 2011 15:04

ម៉ៃ គុណមករា និង ស៊ឹមវិរីនា ​


ភ្នំពេញៈ លោក​ស្រី​ Sophie Baranes នាយក​រង​ប្រចាំ​ប្រទេស​នៃ​កម្ម​វិធី​អភិវឌ្ឍន៍​អង្គការ​សហ​ប្រជាជាតិ (UNDP) ប្រចាំ ​នៅ​កម្ពុជា បាន​ឲ្យ​ដឹង​កាល​ពី​ម្សិល​មិញ​ថា​ យុវជន​កម្ពុជា​ប្រមាណ​ជា​៣០​ម៉ឺន​នាក់ កំពុង​បោះ​ជំហាន​ចូល​មក​ក្នុង​ទី​ផ្សារ​ពលកម្ម​ក្នុង​ស្រុក​ជា​រៀង​រាល់​ ឆ្នាំ ប៉ុន្តែ​អ្នក​ទាំង​នោះ​ភាគ​ច្រើន​មិន​មាន​ជំនាញ​​ដែល​និយោជក​មក​ពី​វិស័យ​ឯក ​ជន​ត្រូវ​ការ​ឡើយ។

លោក ​ស្រី​បាន​បន្ត​ថា ការ​លើក​កម្ពស់​ធន​ធាន​មនុស្ស​នៅ​កម្ពុជា ទាម​ទារ​នូវ​កិច្ច​ខិត​ខំ​ប្រឹង​ប្រែង​​ជា​​រួម​ពី​ភាគី​ពាក់​ព័ន្ធ​ដូច​ជា រដ្ឋាភិបាល វិស័យ​ឯក​ជន និង​គ្រឹះ​​ស្ថាន​អប់​រំ​នានា​៖ «ដើម្បី ​សម្រេច​បាន​ជោគ​ជ័យ​នូវ​ការ​លើក​កម្ពស់​ធនធាន​មនុស្ស ចាំ​បាច់​ត្រូវ​មាន​កម្ម​វិធី​បណ្តុះ​បណ្តាល​ប្រកប​ដោយ​និរន្តរ​ភាព ឬ​ការ​ធ្វើ​កំណែ​ទម្រង់​ការ​អប់​រំ​កម្រិត​ឧត្តម​សិក្សា»

កាល​ពី​ម្សិល​មិញ UNDP សហ​ការ​ជាមួយ​រដ្ឋាភិបាល បាន​ចេញ​របាយ​ការណ៍​មួយ ​​មាន​ចំណង​ជើង​ថា «ទំនាក់​ទំនង​​រវាង​ធន​ធាន​មនុស្ស​ទៅ​នឹង​កំណើន​សេដ្ឋកិច្ច​នៅ​កម្ពុជា​នា​ ពេល​អនាគត» ក្នុង​គោល​បំណង​​បង្ហាញ​ទិស​ដៅ​អនុវត្ត ដើម្បី​កសាង​ធន​ធាន​មនុស្ស​ ដែល​មាន​គុណ​ភាព​ខ្ពស់ សម្រាប់​ធ្វើ​ឲ្យ​មាន​កំណើន​សេដ្ឋ​កិច្ច​។

របាយ​ការណ៍​នោះ​បាន​លើក​ឡើង​ថា៖ «បច្ចុប្បន្ន ​តម្រូវ​ការ​ទី​ផ្សារ និង​ជំនាញ​ដែល​អាច​រក​បាន​មាន​គម្លាត​ខុស​គ្នា​យ៉ាង​ខ្លាំង ហើយ​គ្រឹះ​ស្ថាន​អប់​រំ​ និង​កម្ម​​វិធី​សិក្សា​ ដែល​មាន​ស្រាប់ មិន​បាន​ឆ្លើយ​តប​ទៅ​នឹង​តម្រូវ​ការ​ទី​ផ្សារ និង​តម្រូវ​ការ​របស់​វិស័យ​ឯក​ជន​ឡើយ»

លោក ហាវ រតនៈ អគ្គ​លេខា​ធិការ​រង​នៃ​ឧត្តម​ក្រុម​ប្រឹក្សា​សេដ្ឋកិច្ច​​ជាតិ(SNEC)បាន ​ឲ្យ​ដឹង​ថា រដ្ឋាភិបាល​បាន​ផ្តល់​អាទិភាព​លើ​ការ​អភិវឌ្ឍ​ធន​ធាន​មនុស្ស។ លោក​បញ្ជាក់​ថា គោល​បំណង​កម្ពុជា​ក្នុង​ការ​អភិវឌ្ឍ​ឧស្សាហ​កម្ម​នេះ​ទាម​ទារ​ការ​ អភិវឌ្ឍ​ធនធាន​មនុស្ស​ពេល​ដំណាល​គ្នា។

ទោះ ​បី​មាន​ការ​ងារ​ជា​ច្រើន ដែល​ត្រូវ​ធ្វើ​បន្ត​ទៀត​ក្តី ប៉ុន្តែ​លោក ហាវ រតនៈ ​បញ្ជាក់​អំពី​ការ​ងារ​ ដែល​សម្រេច​បាន​ដោយ​រដ្ឋាភិបាល​ក្នុង​ការ​លើក​កម្ពស់​ស្ថាន​ភាព​នេះ​ដែរ។

លោក ​ថ្លែង​ថា ថវិកា​អប់រំ​បាន​កើន​លើស​ កាល​ពី១០​ឆ្នាំ​មុន (ឆ្នាំ​២០០០ ដល់ ឆ្នាំ​២០១០) ៨​ដង ហើយ​ថា​ វិធាន​ការ​មួយ​ចំនួន​ត្រូវ​បាន​យក​មក​អនុវត្ត បន្ទាប់​ពី​មាន​វិបត្តិ​សេដ្ឋកិច្ច​ពិភព​លោក ដើម្បី​លើក​កម្ពស់​ការ​ងារ​។ លោក​​បាន​ឲ្យ​ដឹង​ថា មក​​ដល់​ពេល​បច្ចុប្បន្ន កម្ម​វិធី​ទាំង​នេះ បាន​ជួយ​ឲ្យ​កម្មករ​ចំនួន​៤​ម៉ឺន​នាក់ ដែល​ត្រូវ​គេ​ព្យួរ​ការ​ងារ​ ស្វែង​រក​ការ​ងារ​បាន​ធ្វើ​វិញ។

លោក​បន្ត​ថា៖ «ការ ​ពិត​នេះ​ជា​ប្រការ​ចាំបាច់​សម្រាប់​រដ្ឋាភិបាល ដើម្បី​ជួយ​អភិវឌ្ឍ​ធន​ធាន​មនុស្ស តែ​វា​ត្រូវ​​ការ​កិច្ច​សហ​ប្រតិ​បត្តិ​ការ​​យ៉ាង​ទូលំ​ទូលាយ​ពី​ភាគី​ពាក់​ ព័ន្ធ​ និង​ដៃ​​គូ​អភិវឌ្ឍន៍​ទាំង​អស់»​

របាយ ​ការណ៍​បាន​ដាក់​ចេញ​អនុសាសន៍​រយៈ​ពេល​វែង​និង​ខ្លី​មួយ​ចំនួន​ដូច​ជា​ ការ​​បញ្ឈប់​ការ​​បោះ​បង់​​​ការ​សិក្សា​របស់​កុមារ សំដៅ​លើក​កម្ពស់​ការ​បណ្តុះ​បណ្តាល​ជំនាញ​វិជ្ជា​ជីវៈនិង​កែ​ទម្រង់​ការ​អប់ ​រំ​ឧត្តម​សិក្សា៕ CS

Thursday, August 11, 2011

PhD Latest Status Symbol for Cambodia’s Elites

Cambodia Daily

August 12, 2011

Colleges and universities in the US and Europe often battle grade inflation, but in the tight-knit world of the Cambodian elite, a bigger problem might be developing: PhD inflation.

High-ranking government officials and businessmen are increasingly amassing doctoral degrees. State-run news agency Agence Kampuchea Presse has prefaced the names of officials with their “Doctor” or “PhD” titles, and Khmer-language newspapers frequently run large advertisements congratulating the growing number of new doctorate holders.

Prime Minister Hun Sen himself has a PhD from the National Political Academy in Hanoi, as well as at least nine honorary doctorates from institutions in a number of countries.

Senate and CPP President Chea Sim now boasts three PhDs and two honorary PhDs, including a PhD in political science from the Southern California University for Professional Studies and a PhD in “high leadership in the Senate” from the Open Seminary University of Cambodia.

“Samdech [Chea Sim] did not request or do anything to get all these PhD degrees, but the universities provided them to him,” his Cabinet chief, Kunthea Borey, explained.

Ros Chantrabot, a historian and prominent member of the Royal Academy, said the abundance of PhDs is becoming such an issue that the government recently established a committee to oversee the quality of officials’ doctoral theses.

There are currently about 2,000 PhD candidates in Cambodia, Mr. Chantrabot said. “In a small country like Cambodia, there are too many PhDs, which can lead to PhD inflation,” Mr. Chantrabot said. “Will these PhDs help Cambodia develop as a nation, or be a cancer on the nation or society?

In late 2009, a Malaysia-based organization called Isles International University awarded PhDs to 19 senior officials, lawmakers and businessmen including CPP Senator Mong Reththy, former deputy municipal governor Mann Chhoeun and senior lawmaker Cheam Yeap.

Isles handed out another batch of doctoral and master’s degrees last week to 14 government and parliamentary officials, including Pen Pannha, chairman of the National Assembly’s legislation committee, and Koam Kosal, Cabinet chief for National Assembly President Heng Samrin. Mr. Heng Samrin also picked up an honorary PhD at the ceremony.

By way of comparison, only one US president has ever held a doctoral degree, and only two of the current 16 US Cabinet officials have PhDs.

Isles International, which has a long history of making false claims about its accreditations status and institutional affiliations, is the current incarnation of Irish International University.

As Irish International, besides granting an honorary doctorate to Mr. Hun Sen, the organization established a joint PhD degree program with Build Bright University, charging Cambodian students extra fees for “Irish” doctorates. In 2006, the Irish government repudiated Irish International University’s claim that it was a recognized university in Ireland.

Since changing its name, Isles International has also falsely claimed to be affiliated with Belgian royalty and to have offices in the European Parliament.

Multiple PhD holder Mr. Yeap, the National Assembly member, said all of his degrees were earned through honest hard work. Mr. Yeap said he earned a “Post PhD” from Isles International in 2009. He also holds two PhDs – one from Northern Colorado University and one from California Global University, which offers online degrees and bills itself as “a global provider of USA education.” In official National Assembly communications, Mr. Yeap is referred to by the title “His Excellency Post Dr. Cheam Yeap.”

Mr. Yeap insists that all his degrees are legitimate. He proudly cites the title of his postdoctoral thesis: Strategy of Economy in Cambodia. “I never used money to buy it,” he said. “My PhDs had proper theses with my own writing, and I defended my theses presentations to professors.” All three theses are now available at the Senate Library, he said.

According to Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a researcher for political and strategic affairs at Singapore-based Asean Studies Center, it is very common for politicians in Thailand to purchase academic degrees, but the situation is worse in Cambodia. “It seems that having a PhD is…certainly to be used as a basis of promotion. But there is a serious negative impact on the overall educational system of the country,” he wrote in an email.

SRP lawmaker Son Chhay called the mania for PhDs “out of proportion in Cambodia” and said he was concerned the degree would eventually lose their value. “People can get PhDs without really studying, you know? You can see that the issue is a kind of business operation here…and we see there are some fake universities giving out PhDs to the very rich and very powerful.”

Independent political analyst Chea Vannath said PhDs were now coveted as the titles His Excellency and Oknha (“tycoon”) were a few years ago, comparing them to other luxury items. “Either they have so many PhD degrees, or they have so many houses or cars. It’s just the human ego to show off their belongings.”

Monday, August 08, 2011

Struggle of Cambodian Youths in Making a Living


Dancing king
Penh Thavrith, 23, leads a group of youth through an evening dance routine at Riverside. Photo by: KENNETH INGRAM
AS darkness falls at Riverside, a small generator is wheeled into a vacant sidewalk space along with an amplifier and two powerful speakers. Neon lights from shops along Sisowath Quay provide a colourful backdrop as a small crowd starts to form.

“We chose this location because we can’t afford club fees and other [public] places are already full,” explains Penh Thavrith, 23, who says that his group of four young Cambodians have permission from commune officials to host exercise classes there each evening from 5:30pm until 8:00pm, seven nights a week.

“The people who come out here [to dance] are mostly 17 or 18, but we have some as young as two years old,” Penh Thavrith says, trying to catch his breath. “As soon as they can walk we will take them,” he laughs.

Asked about older participants, Penh Thavrith says they are welcome to take part, but that the music his group plays tends to attract younger dancers.

“The older people can go down the street and join other exercise classes,” he says, pointing down the sidewalk to another group of a dozen people following the lead of an aerobics instructor. A number of public exercise classes are held outdoors throughout Phnom Penh each evening and most are being led by the city’s youth. Penh Thavrith says they are a great way for him to earn extra money but carry other benefits for his customers.

“This is good for their health,” he says, pointing to the crowd of teenagers, many sporting sweat-soaked T-shirts.

“I want teenagers to know how to dance because those in the Pol Pot regime didn’t [get the chance] to,” he adds as an additional motivational factor.

The dance group says they incorporate pop music into their routine from a music station on TV, drawing a crowd of about 60 people in one night.

“The fee is 1,000 riel per person,” Penh Thavrith explains. “But some people [about 30 percent] don’t pay … we can’t really do anything about that,” he adds, indicating that the group relies on participants abiding by the honour system.

Named LAPdance after Penh Thavrith’s older brother Lap, a back-up dancer on a local TV station who teaches the others how to move, the group earns about 40,000 riel [$10] a night. Members acknowledge that the profits are not shared equally among them as seniority and experience accounts for how the money is split between the various instructors.

Urban mining
Phearith, 18, stands beside a collection cart containing roughly half-a-day’s pay: $1.25 worth of recyclable cans and bottles. Photo by: KENNETH INGRAM
DAYBREAK in Phnom Penh. Like a starter’s pistol, the first shafts of light cast upon the city each morning signal the beginning of a race, as people scour the streets for aluminium cans and plastic bottles. Wheeling collection carts as they sound a plastic toy in their hand, members of this largely ignored workforce squeak by, capitalising on discarded resources.

“You can rent or buy the cart,” explains Phearith, an 18-year-old who says he arrived in Phnom Penh one year ago with over a dozen friends from Kampot province, looking for a fresh start. With no capital, Phearith says he rents a cart each day as part of a business arrangement with the owner of a recycling depot.

“I collect cans and bottles but I must sell them to the [cart’s] owner directly,” he explains.

Canvassing neighbourhoods over a period of four to five hours every day of the week, Phearith says the resources he amasses are weighed at the depot and pay by the kilogram. Managers at the depot say the salvaged material is then forwarded to Vietnam for processing.

“One kilogram of aluminium, or 65 beer cans, is worth 5,000 riel,” says Phearith’s younger friend who stands nearby with another cart. “We buy cans from people at their homes and also collect the ones we find in the street,” Phearith adds, stating that he pays people 100 riel for every two cans they feed his cart and that five large plastic bottles get the same return. Collecting over a hundred metal and plastic containers each morning, Phearith earns about $2.50 on a typical day.

“I think it’s harder as a construction worker,” he says, describing his experience on construction sites in the past as “backbreaking” labour. “The pay was a little more, about 15,000 riel a day [$3.75] but it was too hard on me,” says Phearith, adding that there is a limited selection of jobs for him and his friends in the city. Asked what he would prefer to be doing, Phearith pauses to think.

“I have no higher education and quit school in grade three because I was sick a lot,” he replies. “I have no idea what else I can do.” Taking a moment to rest in the shade beside a large concrete wall in BKK1, Phearith is unwilling to reveal his full name because he says that people who collect cans are looked down upon by others, who see them as poor and uneducated. “It’s better than being a burglar,” says his 24-year-old friend who also pulls a cart for a living. “Collecting cans is easy. Anyone can do this,” Phearith adds, his eyes following a few motorcycles that drive past.

Double identity
Nob Nora, 23, works as a security guard by day and operates a public telephone booth by night. Photo by: KENNETH INGRAM
TAKING his first shift at 6am, Nob Nora orders noodle soup from a street vendor outside the building he monitors as a private security guard 12 hours a day. Dressed in a dark blue uniform, he looks much younger than his 23 years.

“I came to Phnom Penh [after graduating high school in 2009 in Kampong Thom] to generate money and pursue a higher education,” he explains, adding that his father died almost 17 years ago and he has no living memory of his mother.

“This job pays me $80 a month if I don’t miss any shifts,” Nob Nora says, adding that there is a $10 penalty for missing a day of work but it is less severe if he provides 24-hour notice. He has mixed feelings about security work, citing a bad experience with another company that posted him near Riverside last year.

“Sometimes I had to wait longer than two months to get paid and had no choice but to quit,” he says, explaining that his wage is enough to survive but not enough to help achieve his long-term goal of attending university to study information technology. In an effort to earn extra money, Nob Nora saved $75 to invest in a metal telephone booth and two cordless phones.

“I had seen someone with a telephone booth set up outside the Night Market last year and there was only one public phone so I decided to give it a try,” he says. Once his 12-hour security shift ends at 6pm, Nob Nora makes his way home only to change out of uniform before heading back outside – most evenings – to run the booth near Phsar Reatrey, the weekend night market located at Riverside.

He has little contact with others despite the bustle around him, except for customers and a few people who take money from him each evening.

“I pay 400 riel to government officials like everyone else along this street,” he explains. “One is a hygiene officer and the other is an order officer, both from the municipality.” Asked if he agrees with the fees, Nob Nora says that it is a part of life in the city and was worse only a few months ago.

“It’s OK but before I didn’t think it was fair. I used to have to pay 1,400 riel a night,” he says, explaining that two private security guards near Riverside used to demand 1,000 riel from him. “I haven’t seen them for a few months now and I don’t know where they went,” he says.

Between 15 and 20 customers visit his telephone booth on an average night, where he makes about 10 cents per minute from local calls.

“I charge 300 riel (13 cents) per minute,” he says, explaining that most customers use his phones to connect with mobile networks that have been blocked by their own providers and that some cannot afford a mobile phone. Most of the people using his phones are Khmer, but Nob Nora says that the odd foreigner has stopped by to place a call.

“It’s mostly the same faces I see here,” he says. Fridays and weekends are the most lucrative for his phone booth, when he can earn between 10,000 and 20,000 riel per day compared to 5,000 and 6,000 riel on a weekday. Inconspicuous and impeccably dressed, Nob Nora stands by his booth until about 11pm before calling it a night.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Freedom and the challenges of teen pregnancy in Canada

FREEDOM is the lifeblood of human enterprise. Free-market countries have higher standards of living, social development and productivity levels. Some, though, contend that freedom is a double-edged sword.

Greater independence from parents and guardians can lead to the creation of a more open, more progressive society in which young people are free to engage their talents and amass practical knowledge.

But some say too much freedom can lead to undisciplined and incompetent adolescents.

In Canada, adolescents enjoy a wide array of freedoms, sexual, romantic and otherwise. But high teen pregnancy and divorce rates have some policymakers worried.

Still, statistics show that national teen pregnancy rates have been declining. A study from 1996 to 2006 showed a drop of 37 per cent, compared with a 25 per cent decline in the neighbouring US.

This doesn’t necessarily mean teenagers are less sexually active. In fact, a study found about 50 per cent of teens aged 16 and 17 engage in sexual activity.

These findings confirm what has become only too visible in daily life: teens holding hands, hugging, kissing and generally revelling in young love, all in public.

The teen-pregnancy study includes statistics on births, abortions and miscarriages. The Canadian government views all three outcomes as having a negative impact on society.

If newborns survive the delivery process, teens are often unprepared to act as parents. And miscarriages and abortions can result in various diseases and complications that can stall the mother’s education and development.

Teen pregnancy affects individuals, families and entire communities, placing a social and economic burden on the whole of society.

According to the study, the welcome decline in teen pregnancy can be attributed to an increase in awareness about sexual health and protection among teenage girls, as well as increasingly easy access to clinics and family planning counsellors. Young women are using their freedom to make safer decis-ions, entering the adult world of sex and romance armed with more information and more confidence.

The story may be different in Cambodia. Canada is fairly open to adolescent sexual activity and independent decision-making, but the issue is rarely talked about in Cambodia, where cultural conservatism and embedded tradition keep teenage sexuality under wraps.

For this reason, teen pregnancy rates are higher and show little sign of declining. Until the Kingdom begins some sort of dialogue on teenage sexuality, young women in Cambodia will continue to have their education interrupted and their freedom curtailed.

About Sophoan Seng
I am the single son of a farming family from Siem Reap. I spent more than 10 years as a Buddhist monk. I graduated with a master’s degree in political science from the University of Hawaii and am a PhD candidate at the same university.

My interests are social-capital research, the empowerment of young people for social change, and grassroots participation to developing democracy. I am a freelance and president of the Khmer Youth Association of Alberta. I can be reached at

Source of this article: Phnom Penh Post LIFT