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Youth Can Mobilize for Change, Democracy Advocate Says

Hoeun Sopheak, an advocate for the US-based International Republican Institute. Courtesy of Hoeun Sopheak.
PHNOM PENH - Cambodia’s young generation is now a majority of the population, giving them political clout, if only they use it, a youth advocate says.

The next generation can push their government to make changes that young people want to see, Hoeun Sopheak, an advocate for the US-based International Republican Institute, told “Hello VOA” on Monday.

The IRI, a pro-democracy organization, produces the youth-oriented “Next Generation” TV program.

“If youth are not concerned about what’s going on in the country and do not demand what they want, the leaders will decide for them,” Hoeun Sopheak said.

Youth advocates say an increasing number of younger Cambodians care about news and events in the country, but fear prevents many from further engaging in politics or social good.

“They just dare not to express their opinions or comments on certain activities or events involving some powerful individuals, because they fear their personal security is at risk if they did so,” said caller Srey Veoun, from Prey Veng province.

Youth Can Mobilize for Change, Democracy Advocate Says
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Some youth say it is their parents that prevent them from talking about politics.

“The parents were traumatized and are still afraid of politics, so how can young people not be affected by their parents’ trauma?” asked Facebook user Kimleang Leng.

Hoeun Sopheak said that too much worry over personal safety, if it prevents speaking out, can prevent the country from moving forward.

“If we remain fearful of speaking out, our country remains the same,” she said, adding that parents should encourage their children to have their say on issues affecting their lives. “Youth are also the owners of this country,” she said.

Over 9 million Cambodians, about half of them young people, are expected to cast their ballots in the July 28 national elections.

“It is the right time for young people to use their power to select their capable representatives to run the country,” Hoeun Sopheak said.