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US Ambassador’s Council Faces Disengaged Youth

Cambodia students hold the Cambodian national flags as they attend the Independence Day celebration at the Independence Monument in the capital Phnom Penh.

About 70 percent of Cambodia’s population is below the age of 30, making them a powerful constituency.

PHNOM PENH - The new US ambassador to Cambodia, William Todd, has initiated an Ambassador’s Youth Council, aimed at engaging young people in issues of national importance. But the new initiative faces a number of challenges, including the attitudes of youths themselves.

The ambassador would like to see more young people involved in social and political affairs that affect them, the embassy’s spokesman, Sean McIntosh, told “Hello VOA” Monday.

“If the young people realize what kind of benefit it is for themselves and for their country to take the interest in the serious issues, then those young people will come around and start being engaged,” Sean McIntosh, spokesman for the embassy, told “Hello VOA” on Monday.

Say Mony hosts 'Hello VOA' from Phnom Penh, on 27 August, 2012
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About 70 percent of Cambodia’s population is below the age of 30, making them a powerful constituency, but few in that demographic are socially or politically engaged.

Chheng Niem, a Facebook user, wrote recently, “Cambodian youth spend too much time on entertainment.”

McIntosh said Monday that Cambodia’s youth have the potential of getting more involved in issues once they see how they matter to them and have someone to inspire them.

Critic warn that getting people involved in serious issues faces a number of challenges, including their disillusionment with corruption and poor governance.

“From the primary to tertiary education, young people see only corruption due to the current bad leadership in Cambodia,” a caller named Virak said on “Hello VOA.”

“Corruption causes problems for a country when the country wants to have further development,” McIntosh said. “With any realization of the negative impacts of corruption, young people want to change that.”