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Cambodia's Changes Not All Positive, Rights Leader Says

Cambodia has changed greatly since first elections were held in 1993, nearly 15 years later, not all those changes have been positive, a rights activist said Thursday.

Cambodians do enjoy more freedoms than they did before the UN-sponsored elections, and their access to information is better, but problems like human trafficking, AIDS and the theft of land have followed, said Seng Theary, executive director of the Center for Social Development.

"For example, Cambodia has a big problem with human trafficking that did not exist before Untac," she said. "Now that the infrastructure is better, the rich people can go out to the countryside and grab the poor people's land."

Seng Theary was born in Cambodia and lived through the Khmer Rouge regime. She emigrated to the United States when she was nine and but returned to Cambodia as an adult and became the head of CSD in 2006.

Despite the problems, Seng Theary said she has high hopes for the future of the country, especially through the motivation and open-mindedness of the young.

"The older generation in Cambodia is afraid of change. But the new generation is not afraid," she said. "They seize the opportunity in front of them."