The International Republican Institute is urging the ruling party and opposition work toward political reform.
Jessica Keegan, the group’s Cambodia country director, told VOA Khmer in an interview in Washington that the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the Cambodia National Rescue Party should seek common ground as they negotiate reforms.
“This is a really critical time in Cambodian history, in the sense that there have been some compromises for the two parties to come together to work toward reform,” she said. “What’s really important right now is that the two working groups in both political parties, both within the CPP and CNRP work together and find common ground to work together towards development and reform to really push Cambodia a direction that will be meaningful for development.”
The two parties are currently at odds over a dozen points regarding political reform, particularly in the formation of the National Election Committee, which plans and oversees elections.
Keegan said more political reform will come from the country’s youth, which IRI will continue to train, particularly with the Youth Council of Cambodia. IRI is a US-based group supported by USAID.
“I think and it’s very important that Cambodian youth stay engaged and stay active, because there’re roughly 9 million Cambodian youths in Cambodia under 30 years old,” she said. “And so civic engagement, political engagement, these types of activities are going to be crucial in terms of Cambodia’s development in the future.”
That means working with youth to help them assume positions of leadership, “both within civil society and within politics,” something IRI has been doing for at least a decade, she said. “And so we work to empower young people to provide a forum for them to have a voice and to speak up about issues of concern in their communities.”
Kouy Kimroeun, acting director of the Youth Council of Cambodia, told VOA Khmer by phone from Cambodia that, with IRI’s support, the youth organization has trained some 45,000 people in 13 provinces since 2001.
“We organized these forum is to promote people, especially with the foundation of democracy, good governance, and about the participation in communities and also about the importance of communities,” he said.
Currently there are 30 YCC representatives across Cambodia, he said.