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Much Room in Politics for Women, Youth: Analyst

Ou Virak, head of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, on "Hello VOA".

Women and youth still have only minor roles in Cambodian politics, which remains dominated by men, a prominent rights activist said Monday.

However, there are two new emerging forces that will prove to be powerful political forces, said Ou Virak, head of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, as a returning guest on “Hello VOA.”

A huge percentage of young people remain disengaged from politics. Many don’t know who their local commune leaders are. And few are actively involved in upcoming election campaigns.

“If the youth don’t know what their commune councilors are doing, [they feel] there is no point for them to vote,” Ou Virak said. “The youth tend to feel that they would rather leave political issues for others to handle.”

That’s especially true in Cambodia, where politics is associated with corruption and violence, he said.

Nevertheless, “people should not shy away from politics,” he said. “If they want to change their community, they have to get involved in politics.”

Those who tend to get involved, though, are men over the age of 30, he said. But youth who have international experiences and middle-level businessmen have the potential to become a greater political force.

“These two forces together will push for change in Cambodian politics in this decade,” he said.