Young Fear Speaking Out on Social Issues: Transparency International

Pech Pisey, TI Cambodia executive director, said young people know about the effects of corruption, public services and  environmental issues. Photo: Po Sakun

PHNOM PENH – Young people do not dare speak out about social issues even if they see them as hindering national development, a large-scale national survey by Transparency International Cambodia (TI) has found.

Under-35s make up sixty percent of the population.

Pech Pisey, TI Cambodia executive director, said young people know about the effects of corruption, public services and  environmental issues but they are afraid to talk about them because the political and social environment is restricted.

The freedom of expression, the freedom associated with social activity and dissatisfaction through demonstrations had been restricted in the past five years, which made young people even more scared.

“We asked them, due to Cambodia having a lot of that kind of problem, do you want to get involved in social work?” he said. “Very few said they wanted to participate.”

He said that the main reason they did not want to get involved was that they were fearful because of the unfavorable environment and the lack of opportunity to participate.

He said for young people to participate safely in developing nations, the government should open up freedom to participate and freedom of expression in all forms, including the use of social media.

The government should use the strength and potential of young people to participate in social work rather than restrict them. If young people are involved in every sector, the country will develop.

At the same time, civil society organizations should encourage young people to take action and participate in their local village and commune activities and encourage them to come up with policies in commune councils and commune development.

He also encouraged young people to overcome their fear and participate in giving comments to the government to improve society and make the country prosperous.

A nation can’t prosper if a third of the population is inactive. People should ask themselves if the fate of the nation should be left behind or not.

Ly Sreysrors, a member of the Young Analyst Group, said that young people don’t dare to speak out on social issues because restrictions have increased in the last five years.

She said there were many cases where people get arrested or warned if they criticize or point out the loopholes of the government, which discourages people from exercising their freedom of speech. while those who praise the government receive support or get promoted.

“It reflects in the current society that restrictions from the government on citizens’ freedom of speech and expression are tight, which makes freedom of speech limited, and some people no longer dare to speak,” she said.

She said the young people’s perspective on the government’s development is important. If the young people don’t comment, the government also finds it difficult to review its development, whether it’s right or wrong.

She said the current or upcoming new government should open up freedom of speech and listen to criticism or loopholes, which is essential to development that is transparent and has integrity so that all people can access the benefits.

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