Cambodia’s youth outstrips the rest of the population by a growing margin, but youth advocates say their voices still go unheard.
“Youth voices are excluded from any decision-making processes in social development, from the grass-root to the national level, because the elders often think that the young lack experience or have a low level of education,” Preap Kol, president of the Outstanding Youth Group, told “Hello VOA” Monday.
Preap Kol, who is also the founder of the newly-established volunteer youth group, said youth today are well educated and capable of contributing to social development, but their elders often think of them as useless.
The lack of youth voices is very noticeable at the village level, where the young are only asked to carry out decisions of the elders.
“The social environment and the conservative beliefs of the local authorities and community elders prevent [youths] from contributing to development,” according to a 2009 UN Situation Analysis of Youth in Cambodia.
Meanwhile, youths also face limited rights to peaceful demonstration against government policies, Preap Kol said.
“If students or young people need to stage any protest, they have to get through many barriers, so their rights and freedoms are not as fully utilized as in other democratically developed countries,” he said.
However, a caller to “Hello VOA” who gave only his first name as David, from Battambang province, said in some cases the youth themselves are not brave enough to use their rights for social causes.
“Students now are not as brave as those in the past in my generation,” he said. “Some who have already reached 18 years of age do not even care about voting.”
Preap Kol agreed, saying many young people have not paid attention to the political development of the country, leading to their exclusion from certain processes.
Nevertheless, older generations would do well to listen to the young in order for the country to progress, he said.
“Youth voices need to be integrated into as many development planning processes as possible,” he said.