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readers' submissions


One of the Answers to Why Cambodia Has Sluggish Development

by Lay Vicheka

March 15, 2005


“Paris Agreements On A Comprehensive Political Settlement of The Cambodian Conflict” signed on 23 October 1991, marked a significant freewill agreement between Cambodia and the witness-states of the world, that Cambodia would unconditionally stand for liberal democracy. Era of positive change, big or small, I believe, is visible in Cambodia; Cambodia’s government is turning the principles of democracy into practicality. But is it paralleled between the time-spending, resources (especially finance), international involvements, and the achievements received by the government? The majority, including me, would say “no”, and that means the achievements would be greater. And what are the obstacles of democratization? Many obstacles are acutely seen, but media-extremism, as I name, will be the heated discussion below. 


One of the most acute obstacles to authentic democracy for Cambodian government is “media-extremism”. What does it mean by the word media-extremism? Media-extremism here, I mean that most of the media networks of Cambodia are completely left-wing or completely right-wing. If the newspaper is pro-government, that newspaper always says good things about the government, and if the newspaper is pro-opposition party, the opposition party is always right and the government is always wrong. I found some positive and negative things in both the government and the opposition party, and the media should say those things out objectively. 

I don’t want this fourth power to be controlled by any party, but I want this power to free and factual. Of course, media is heterogeneous, anti-bureaucratic, creative, intellectual, all that are an effective potential to solving a small recent conflict. But people can be wrongly or fictionally steered, if the media has no liberal mind and tries to remove the nature and reality from the audience. The newspaper, is professionally operated, must be objective and fact-based; state wrong if it is wrong, and right if it is right.    

Another problem is that the opposition party has no access at all to television, which today is the most powerful fourth power in Cambodia. Democracy is different from communism in equal conditions, provided to the contenders. I’ve never seen the opposition party has their says in the state television networks at all, this means that all the Cambodian television network is belonged to the government, not representing the people’s interests. Information is knowledge, but that knowledge can craze the people’s minds, if it is not fact-based, but unconditionally support the government. 

Non-objective information would bring hardships to domestic and international viewers and analysts. Transparent information, I think, would attract more investors, because national and international investor would decide whether to invest the money or not according to the information they get. Imbalanced information would make those prospective investors doubtful. Political and economic analysts are on the same track; they can accurately and precisely analyze the politics and economic growth of one country, in accordance to the information they get. Because this problem, most of the political and economical viewers of Cambodia turn to trust the sources of international institutions, especially the UN, more than the domestic sources.    

Freedom of publication is one of the most effective measures of why other regional or European worlds are much more developed than Cambodia. “No one can see the colour of his/her eyes, until he/she is helped by the mirror”. People is the mirror of the government, their expressions would fill the loopholes of the government. A liberal-mind government would be a role model to make state’s people liberal-mind as well. Constructive critics, endorsements, inventive ideas…etc are some of musts to enhance the government. So far, I have seen that Cambodian people are not keen or scared with their heart-based expressions or some even think that their expressions are nonsense to the government. Book-publications, as I have seen, is really inadequate, because of inferior education, lack of libraries and printing houses, the majority of Cambodian people are not bookworms, and finally people have lack of chances to publishing their written books. Publishing retard of Cambodia would negatively affect the quality of education, which is the indispensable mechanism to development. Moreover, I have never seen the opposition party publish anything at all, except in a few newspapers.          


Paris Peace Agreement, and openness to regional and global integration, I believe, Cambodian development will never shrink. However, Cambodia would face a lot of challenges, before it can prosper. One of the tools to prepare itself for regional contentions is “to reform and empower press system”, by separating it from any political party, empowering the professional press labourers. And judiciary institution has to be a genuinely separated from legislative and executive power, so it can ensure the profession-based rights of the press workers. “Cambodia has a long way forward, but before it takes a first step, Cambodia has to have willpower; otherwise time and resources will be extravagantly wasted.


The author is a second year student of law at the University of Phnom Penh.

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