PHNOM PENH —
With more elections just around the corner, Cambodia’s leaders will have to shift their focus to the youth, a powerful new force in a rapidly changing country, political analysts say.
“The youth are actually the ones who will set the future for the Cambodian political scene for the next election,” says Chheang Vannarith, a lecturer in Asia-Pacific studies at the University of Leeds, in the UK. “They’ll choose a political party that can offer them what they need.”
They are demanding change through the use of technology, he says. Both Prime Minister Hun Sen and his political rival, Sam Rainsy, are on Facebook, where many young people get their information. Both use social media to get their message out.
Cheang Sokha, executive director of the Youth Resource Development Program, says many politicians are changing their focus to the youth, with 30 percent of the country between the ages of 15 and 29—a number expected to rise to 40 percent by 2020.
That’s a lot of power, and a huge question mark for politicians, who are already thinking about local elections in 2017 and national elections in 2018.
Cheang Sokha says that gives Cambodia’s youth a lot of power. “They need to be active in observing the pre-election, the election and the post-election, to make sure that the politicians complete their responsibilities.”
Young people must exercise their political rights, he says. “Those who ignore their political rights, they aren’t completely using their citizen privileges. It’s a wrong perception when youth only focus on their studies and ignore political issues.”