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Youth Political Expression Hampered, Opposition Says

Hun Many, head of the CPP-affiliated youth group called Union of Youth Federation of Cambodia, poses in a group photo with members of the UYFC in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, November 9, 2015. (Aun Chhengpor/VOA Khm

A number of young people were detained in 2016 for making social media posts deemed to be inciting violence.

The opposition has said freedom of expression among its youth wing is limited compared to more seasoned activists.

Speaking at a forum on youth participation in politics in Phnom Penh, Chum Chan Darin, an opposition representative, said young activists faced pressure and legal threats when they engaged in politics.

“For instance, If we express an idea, we will be in trouble whereas the others shouted and swore in the media, and they are still fine,” he said.

Ruling party representative Taing Samoung rejected the suggestion, claiming both sides enjoyed equal rights.

However, he added that there were limits to freedom of expression.

“The anarchic expression and demonstrations are different from democratic demonstrations. I think freedom was offered to all young adults but it’s the youth itself that does not know how to express their ideas in a democratic and acceptable way,” he said.

Bong Chan Sambath, a member of the political discussion group that hosted the forum, Politikoffee, called for greater youth participation in politics.

“The youth can serve as a reminder to the government that they cannot do what they want since people are watching,” he said.

Chak Sopheap, director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said it was encouraging to see so many young people becoming engaged with politics.

“The engagement on social media, there are good and bad effects. Some opinions are accusatory or defensive, so the media is not purely good. But we should be joining together to encourage and guarantee that youth can participate in politics, actively and meaningfully, rather than accusing or detaining them,” she said.

Numerous young people were detained last year for making social media posts deemed to be inciting violence.