Cambodia’s youth are often regarded as useful to politicians, but seldom are they given the chance to vie for elections such as those scheduled for this year and next.
This has made them “political slaves,” Yong Kim Eng, president of the People’s Center for Development and Peace, told “Hello VOA” on Monday. “They are just supporters, not decision-makers who can determine their own fates.”
About half of Cambodia’s population of 14 million is aged between 15 and 30. Politically, however, they are under-represented, he said. None of the 123 parliamentarians in the National Assembly is under the age of 40. Very few of the country’s 1,633 commune chiefs are that age.
The youth may help win elections, but they are rarely put forward to contest them, he said.
This is in part cultural, he said. “In our leadership history, we never value the young,” he said. “We think only of age, but not knowledge.”
But there is another factor. Under current election law, you must be in a party to contest an election.
“This is a big obstacle for young people,” Yong Kim Eng said. “If an independent group is allowed, there would be young people to represent themselves.”
But even then, there is no guarantee of success. In 2002, a youth-led political group, the Khmer Front Party, was formed to compete in the national elections of 2003. It won zero seats.