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Ban Limits Research Potential for Future: Academic

Sok Touch, rector of Khemarak University, on “Hello VOA” Monday.
Sok Touch, rector of Khemarak University, on “Hello VOA” Monday.

The Royal University of Law and Economics has issued a ban on more than a dozen research topics for students, but the head of a local institution says this will only hurt the country’s development.

The ban bars research on topics like drug abuse, land disputes, labor disputes and the stock market, as well as the Cambodian Red Cross, which is led by Bun Rany, the wife of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

It has provoked heated debate among Cambodian academics and students.

“It is because of such restrictions that our country is like this,” Sok Touch, rector of Khemarak University, told “Hello VOA” on Monday, referring to the lack of primary research documents in the Khmer language.

“If we want to learn more about Angkor, we have to go to France,” he said. “If we want to study a specific regime, we go to documents in foreign languages. Why? Because we have not opened up freedom for research.”

The Royal University’s ban was implemented to force students to research “new topics, not the same topics,” said Chreng Hai, the university’s research office director. “Sometimes they copy other students’ work from last year.”

The ban was not a result of government pressure, he said.

“The ban will not last forever,” he said. “It’s just for this year, and the topics will be allowed for students to write about next year. It’s just our normal procedure.”

Sok Touch, however, called that justification unconvincing.

“One can write 10 theses on the topic of just a hair,” he said. “We can’t see talent within individuals unless they are offered full freedom to research and show their work.”