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Arab Uprisings a Lesson for Cambodia: Activist

An Egyptian protester boy stands in front of army soldiers who try to lead the protesters away from Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt Sunday morning, Feb. 13, 2011. Egypt's military took down the makeshift tents of protesters who camped out on the square in a

Political repression, restriction on expression and social and economic equity can all act as a “ticking time bomb” for a country’s leadership, a prominent rights activist said Thursday.

Comparing Cambodia’s situation to those of Egypt and Tunisia, which have seen major revolts in recent weeks, Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, told “Hello VOA” that all political participants here should work to ensure people’s rights.

“A wise government is one that allows freedom of expression, so that it knows the concerns of the people and their discontent,” he said.

That means all actors, from ordinary citizens and civil society to the opposition and ruling parties, should pay attention to what people are saying.

That includes addressing issues of corruption, social inequality and economic monopoly, he said.

The uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia surprised the world, deposing two long-term autocrats and sparking similar unrest across Arab states and in Iran.

In Egypt, the military waited out more than two weeks of demonstrations, before it restored some order in the wake of the resignation of the president.

A caller to “Hello VOA” on Monday expressed skepticism that Cambodia’s military would do the same under similar circumstances.

“Things that could be done in Egypt and Tunisia are not possible yet in Cambodia,” Ou Virak said.

Cambodia still struggles with a wide gap between the rich and poor, has a small number of elites, and doesn’t have the online community that helped fuel the Arab revolutions, he said.

“In Cambodia, these are still at their early stages and are not solid yet,” he said.