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Current Cambodia’s Prevalent Diarrheas and My Simplified Resolutions

by Lay Vicheka

June 30, 2005

Evolving world is immeasurably facilitating people’s livelihood, especially people living in the western world. Simultaneously, many negative points are persistently attacking Third World and Developing countries, mostly in Southeast Asia, Africa, and Latin America. I was immensely taken aback after I saw UNDP’s report; “more than a billion people still live on less than US$1 a day.” Being one of the citizens living in Cambodia, one of the world’s most desperate countries, I have encountered many social barriers that have always blocked my and my country’s paths to a desiring phenomenon.

Drawing Cambodia’s Skeleton

Cambodia is located in Southeast Asia, sandwiched between two much more well-built neighbours; Vietnam on the east and southeast, Thailand on the west and southwest, and a similar-built Laos on the northeast. Cambodia covers a land area of 181.035 square kilometers (BBC, Asean), but this area is decreasing everyday, as complained by local residents. Ian Brow of Cambodia-based Oxfam, on the other hand, reported that Cambodia covers a land area of only 180,000 sq km (Oxfam, 2000). Buddhism, since pre-history, has been Cambodia’s cultural manifestation.

From 1863 to 1953, Cambodia was absolutely under French protectorate, civil war broke out from March 1970 to 1975, auto-genocidal regime of Democratic Kampuchea from 1975 to 1979 annihilated at least 1.5 millions of Cambodian lives, followed by Vietnam intervention in January 1979 revealed another kind of destruction. Paris Agreement on a Comprehensive Political Settlement of the Cambodian Conflict, signed in 23 October 1991 brought a democratic-form election in 1993, which was a spur to peace and stability for Cambodians. As the election resulted that Funcinpec Party won, Cambodian People’s Party did not agree and intend to divide the country. King Sihanouk intervened and appointed Norodom Ranarid as the first prime minister and Hun Sen as the second prime minister. This is an unprecedented miracle in the world’s history. From 1993 to 1995, Cambodia enjoyed political honeymoon between the two brother-enemy parties. Early July 1997 another blood poured on Cambodia’s land, the skirmish between the two parties unconsciously broke out. Some said that the hostility of early July 1997 was a coup d’้tat, some said it was internal fighting, and CPP stated that Funcinpec was the instigator, by accusing Funcinpec of building up anti-CPP guerillas with demobilized Khmer Rouge fighters.

Today, Cambodia enjoys a better peace, prosperity and democracy as stated in amended article 51 “The Kingdom of Cambodia adopts a policy of Liberal Democracy and Pluralism. The Cambodian people are the masters of their own country.” Cambodia has become member of ASEAN, CTBTO, ESCAP, FAO, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, IDA, IFC, IFAD, ILO, IMF, IMO, ITU, LDC, UNO, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UPO, UNIDO, WIPO, WHO and more regional and global integration was promised by the prime minister, Hun Sen in his address on Rectangular Policy. Despite these betterments, Cambodia and Cambodian people are having too many challenges to face. What those challenges are? And how to overcome those challenges? The scope of this paper is to glimpse into two things; One: “The biggest obstacles I face in my daily life and two: “Practical solutions I would propose to build a secure future for myself and for the others.”


Unemployment has now become one of the fundamental drawbacks for Cambodia’s existing plight. As one of the university students, I have always been greatly discouraged by the unemployment rate in Cambodia. Will my time-consuming endeavour produce cost-effective output? Is my education an empty promise? Would I be a “should-be” productive member of the society? These rhetorics have always subtracted most of the Cambodian students from acting as full citizens (power of the state).

From being a honourable empire that produced architectural masterpieces of the Angkor era, Cambodia now is one of the most tender or probably the tenderest tigers in Southeast Asia. UNDP reported that in 2002, imports of goods and services accounted for 67% of Cambodia’s GDP and gross domestic product (GDP) accounted for only US$ 4,215 million in 2003 (Asean).

Subsequent to Cambodia’s open-sky policy, international cooperation and assistances have been apparently and continuously flowed in, and much more have been promised. Cambodia’s population is much smaller compared to most of other regional countries. In addition, rivers, lacks, and forests and other underground resources promise plentiful stocks of at least the nation’s basis needs. Cultural assets, such as Angkor Wat, Preh Vihear temple and other existing and hidden natural assets have attracted influx of local and international tourists. Yet, unemployment is one of Cambodia’s gravest crises. The world is man-made; this means unemployment is man-made either, so in what ways can the unemployment be unmade?

1. Eliminate Invisible But Deep-rooted Demons

Cambodia has never applied the policy that super-markets can open from what time to what time, from which day to which day, and small store doesn’t have to apply the strict rules regulated by the government, yet World Bank Group reports that in 2002, foreign direct investment accounted for only USD 53,8 millions. What make Cambodia an unattractive investment destination? World Bank Group releases another report that “allegation of corruption is widespread” in Cambodia.

Cambodia needs to build better trust for impending investors, by elimination corruption, bureaucracy, amending complicated commercial regulations that are incentives to corruption. But how can these vocations be executed? From an outset, government should internationally or regionally standardize the law on investment. Chapter III, article 7 which stats that “The Council for the Development of Cambodia shall provide a response as to its decision to all investor/applicants within a period not to exceed 45 days following the date of submission of the complete investment application.” 45 days is too long compared to other countries in the region and in other parts of the world, so government needs to shorten this imposed date. Besides this, government should not restrict investment incentives to only in nine fields: Pioneer and/or high technology industries; Job creation; Export-oriented businesses; Tourism industry; Agro-industry and Value-adding industries; Physical infrastructure and energy; Provincial and rural development; Environmental protection; and Investments in a Special Promotion Zone (SPZ) as states in chapter V, article 12 of the law on investment. Encouragement restriction to just some kinds of job would condense the job diversities.

Because of job-condense, most of the students choose the fields of their studies, not in accordance to their interests or innate talents, but in accordance to the market. Market-based decision has demanded many students to study two universities at the same time. This has greatly affected the qualities of education and is one of the fundamental causes of unemployment. In my The Advantages of Serious Stance that was published in The Rasmey Kampuchea Daily, No. 3556, Thursday, 23rd December 2004, I strived to explain the present and future advantages of serious stance, by referring to some philosophers that held serious stances, such as Socrates and The Buddha: These two people could become history conquerors, because of their serious stances. Finally, I claimed that “job is not the only objective of study, but self-actualization would be the solid objective.” I chose law as my major in the university, and many disagreements have been widespread from my parents, friends and other relatives, because they think that the job prospect for law graduate is very faint in Cambodia. My self-expression through the local newspaper has urged I, myself to untiringly hold law as my only major until today.

Government should apply the free-market theory of “customer is the king.” The world is moving very fast and we have to serve the customer as fast as they desire. Not only the law on investment, other laws related to commerce, trade and investment must be regionally and internationally standardized. Complicated law would lead to legal corruption and under-the-table corruptions, which mean much more money is needed to be paid by the customers for nothing.

Secondly, there should be absolutely separate commercial court. Cambodia has only one court to deal with every kind of case: commercial, civil and criminal. This proves weakness and ineffectiveness of law enforcement and conflict settlement. How can a person have every skill? Furthermore, this single-minded court must be absolutely separate from legislative and especially executive institution, so that justice could become for apparent for our customers.

Recently, I have written a text named “Government-ness” and was published in The Kampuchea Thmey Daily, year No. 4, No. 690, Wednesday 23 March 2005.“ One of the Answers to Why Cambodia Has Sluggish Development” was uploaded in http://www.talesofasia.com/rs-67-development.htm. Another text is called “A glimpse into uncivilized action” was uploaded in http://talesofasia.com/rs-66-uncivilized.htm. In the first text, I explained that “creating justice” should be the first priority of the government. In the second text, I touched the ground of separation of multimedia power from executive power, which is one of the elements of liberal democracy. In the third text, I enquired into the rule of law would be an instrument of conflict resolution, by drawing examples from family context and increasingly from the society. I also took a glimpse into Cambodia’s tragic past, that conflict-maker never applied philosophical mechanism to solve the conflict, but conflict was to be solved by the law of the jungle. Cambodia’s bygone and recent past should be invaluable lessons for today and tomorrow Cambodia for the purpose of betterment. Revenge is never been overcome by revenge.

These social participations have immensely changed my life. They have then been incentives to my scholarship and research resistance and I was contacted by an Australian lawyer, Peter Howitt. Peter has now become my friend and professor, and we discuss about Cambodian laws. Peter has always encouraged me to learn, sent me documents to read, and taught me more law-related issues. I believe my exposures to these social participations must have been heard into the public ears, and would be some kinds of role model to value and encourage the right to self-expression.

2. Education To Produce The Genuinely Educated

Not only extreme shortage in investment that has produced unemployment rate in Cambodia, but “to few jobs for too few experts is another legitimacy to high unemployment rate.” What do I mean by too few jobs for too few experts? Cambodia’s education is unrecognized in the international stage and even in the region. Though chapter VII, article 18, provides that “Investors shall be allowed to hire foreign employees when the qualification and expertise of these foreign employees are not available in the Kingdom of Cambodia among the Cambodian populace.” Cambodian citizens, still, mostly can’t stand chances to those positions, because of the lack of intellectual competitions. So what should be done to make Cambodia’s education resurgent? I would suggest two potentials for this objective.

Firstly, government should allocate proportional subsidy, subtracted from the national revenue for higher education institution. In the Rectangular Policy of the third mandate of The Royal Government of Cambodia, subsidy for the field of higher education is not mentioned at all. This means that higher-education institution has to be totally responsible for everything. Higher education is one of the most effective institutions of every nation in the world, responsible for producing the effective and productive members of the society, so potential and standardized measures are needed to be taken to bring such the power into reality. For me, without subsidy, higher-learning institution would definitely be converted into “business establishment”, which mean profit-oriented. Profit-oriented mentality will immensely affect the quality of Cambodia’s field of higher education.

Secondly, government and higher-education institution itself should apply what I call “the university-ness.” In another of my letters entitled “Free-Market and Cambodia’s Higher-Education” to The Kampuchea Thmey Daily, I criticized most of the Cambodian universities and institutes of not daring to apply the strict disciplines necessary for students’ capacities. Most of the universities and institutes apply the theory of “customer is the king”, but higher-learning shall not be business. I also complained that institute and university have different status and criteria, but most of the institutes have changed their titles from institutes to universities without applying the standardized status and criteria.“ Though Cambodia has no law and order to regulate the field of higher-learning, institute and university itself should be conversant about this, because most of the senior staff are PhD or master’s graduate from the worldly celebrated universities” I added. This is another of my exposures to social participation, that is a motivation to demand for endless insight into what I call “university-ness” and, of course, I adopted my own constitution to meet the international standard, while I am a student of an unrecognized university.

Not only I myself, this social participation has brought quite a large number of my friends to curiosity and conversation on “university-ness” was, indeed, instigated by me.

“An ineffective domino would never produce a positive domino effect”

Sky-High Gasoline’s Price

Cambodia’s today (2005) gasoline costs 3,300 Riel (about USD 80 cent) per litter, whiles my mother’s plus my father’s monthly salary account for only about USD 50. This price is extremely high compared to Cambodia’s GDP which is about US$ 4,3 billion (World Bank Group). Gasoline is the basic need for Cambodian populace, so it should not be expensive at all; otherwise people can’t survive. Extremely expensive gasoline would lead to other price-increase in principle goods and services, specifically food, electricity, water, transportation, health care, and increasingly education (academic textbooks, access to internet, extracurricular documents and other stationery).

It is reported that gasoline in Thailand and Vietnam is much cheaper than Cambodia. Lao, on the other hand, is more expansive than Cambodia, because it has no sea. Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam all have sea and especially these three countries are neighbours, but why can’t Cambodia’s gasoline be as cheap as in that of Vietnam and Thailand? And in what ways can the gasoline’s price be decreased to be on par to that of Thailand and Vietnam?

The solution is clearly seen. Government should apply one of the elements of “free-market economy” which is free and fair competition. Gasoline in Cambodia is totally monopolized by Sokimex Company, chaired by Sok Kong, president of Cambodia’s chamber of commerce. Every gas company in Cambodia has to unconditionally follow the price imposed by Sokimex Company. Monopoly is not an element of liberal democracy; it is practiced only in Socialist countries.

The problem was to be settled, when quite a long time ago, after Prime Minister Hun Sen announced for any company that could decrease the gasoline’s price to about 1,700 Riel (about 47 USD cent), a Russia-related company guaranteed that it could supply for this price, and even less than that. Everyone was happy, except perhaps Mr. Sok Kong, his counterparts, and other Sokimex’s stakeholders. The prime minister’s response was extremely unexpected; he not only did not accept the crisis-solution (which he himself, proposed), but also threw malicious metaphor to the Russia-related gasoline company. This paradox showed us that the government, specifically the prime minister himself was not responsible for what he spoke, and did not willingly intends to solve the people’s problem at all. Sok Kong, as claimed by a huge number of people, has close relationship with the prime minister. And a large number of the prime minister’s relatives are owners of the gasoline companies and stations. So, if he allowed the Russia-related company to operate in Cambodia, his fellowmen and relatives would have been badly hurt. The prime minister is seen, by this hypothesis, place his personal agenda in prior to the public agenda. So how can this be solved?

In my research paper, entitled “Plato; Life and Wisdoms” for the Third Cambodia’s National Nou Hach Contest (2004-2005), I took a deep ground into Plato’s political philosophy, in order to express that who should be the ruler and what the ruler’s obligations are. My most important point was to express that ruling is an awe-inspiring vocation, so not everyone can reach the ruling position. The ruler must have, if not really philosophical, but at least some kind of philosophical mentalities, that’s why rigorous and protracted philosophical and scientific enculturation is need to be executed before becoming the ruler. Ruler must have mature mind, they must not be self-indulgent, and otherwise ruler and common populace would not be able to distinguish from each other. And the most important vocations of the ruler are the order of the state and the welfare of the people, as expressed in my research paper. I didn’t mean to totally follow Plato’s political philosophy; otherwise our government would become totalitarian, but I thought that some points he/she could possibly follow.

On the similar ground, in my One Reason Tennessee Prospers, that was published in http://pages.prodigy.net/nhn.slate/nh00073.html, I took one of the legitimacies why Tennessee, a state of The United States of America, prospers. This is another of the philosophical approaches to “leader’s willingness for the public good would attract the volunteerism of the inhabitants. Combination of these two merits would lead the whole state, and increasingly the whole nation into victory”.

My comprehensive research into Greece’s ancient philosophy and other varieties of topics have made me more conversant to what is really politics, so that I can have some analytical knowledge to view current Cambodian politics and politicians, and, I believe, my paper would at least bring dim light to today’s Cambodian leaders.

Legal Loophole and Ambiguity

Long been under the French colony, Cambodia has adopted Civil Law system. In Civil Law system any committed wrongdoing that is not stated in the law, the committer is innocent. Moreover, the judge has no precedence like that of the Common Law system; it is more likely that the transgression committer would absolutely be innocent. Cambodia are lacking many laws; such as, anti-domestic violence law, anti-corruption law, many business-related laws, etc. Such a loophole would make “culture of impunity” widespread in Cambodia.

More ironically, though some kinds of offense are stated in the law, the remedy is not stated. This is another of the Cambodia’s legal loopholes that would create injustice. For example, in article 7, paragraph 2 of Cambodia’s law on investment states that “any Government officials who refuse to review and respond to an investor's application past the above mentioned period of time (45 days), without proper justification, shall be punished by law.” Yes, we see that the wrongdoer shall be punished by law, but what kind and the level of punishment is not stated at all. This would make the wrongdoer innocent, and even difficult for the judge to impose the punishment either. Another example I want to draw is from law on organization and functioning of the ministry of information. Chapter 2, article 11 states “press shall not publish any information that would lead to social disorder, inspire one individual or many to commit violence.” This article is too ambiguous. What is the information that would lead to social disorder should be clearly stated. Journalism is such a sophisticated job, so what really social disorder is too broad. The bad-wisher could interpret this article to hurt any individual he/she hates.

Legal loophole not only could turn the law unjust and create cultural impunity in Cambodia, but also make the students really difficult to have a good handle on Cambodian law. In one of my general subjects called “business law”, the whole document from the beginning to the end of the term, is totally taken from foreign law, namely British, French, or American business law. Would our knowledge be turn into know-how, by totally studying foreign business law in Cambodia? Indeed, the more informant we are the better we become, but knowledge of only the foreign business law without even a single sense of my country’s business law, would never be good. Social order is one of or probably the forefront commitments of today’s Cambodian government, legal loophole, on the other hand, has dramatically contributed to Cambodia’s disorder. Two matter-of-fact approaches below intend to fill Cambodia’s legal loophole and ambiguity.

1. Renaissance Is Never Too Late

Renaissance (rebirth of lost literature and culture of the western world) started in the western world in about 14th, 15th and 16th century. From that time onward, mental competence has taken deep root in the western mindset. Cambodia, similarly, is never too late to start “legal renaissance”. More laws, intended to Cambodia’s prosperity, shall start today under the third mandate of The Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC).

My A Glimpse Into One Uncivilized Action, which was published in http://talesofasia.com/rs-66-uncivilized.htm, I touched a deep ground into the disadvantages of Cambodia’s legal loophole and ambiguity. In the above publication, my most imperative intension was to express that absence of anti-domestic violence law would turn the offense into habit. Without the law and punishment law, nobody can punish the wrongdoer, so the offense could become habit of the uncivilized family. Yes, there is resolution, but resolution by cultural value is not effective, because cultural value has no “sense of force and punishment.”

2. Be Receptive To Constructive Criticism

In my short story, entitled My Father’s Last Dream for the Third Cambodia’s National Nou Hach Contest (2004-2005), I coined a quote “almost every happiness in the world is initiated by the closes happiness.” What do I mean by such a quote? History has told us that self-indulgence has been the deep-rooted value of most of the Cambodian leaders. This quote particularly intended to insert more value into the surrounding criticisms. Most of Cambodia-based NGOs and I have seen that it is too rare for the Cambodian government to accept the constructive criticisms from individuals or legal entities. Prime Minister Hun Sen, however, has persistently protested the criticisms and proposals by saying that those NGO express themselves to gain benefits. Yes, Cambodia has such NGOs, but we can know that which NGO is profit-oriented and which NGO is not profit-oriented. There must be good points and bad points from local and international NGOs, and the government does not have to accept all the criticism and proposal, just adhere to the points that intend to build the public good. But it has clearly seen that too little or none of the criticisms or proposals that the government has adhered to.

Sensitivity to criticism and I-am-always-right sentiment is one of the reasons to Cambodia idle development. Immediately after I saw these kinds of peccadillo, I wrote One of the Answers to Why Cambodia Has Sluggish Development and was uploaded in http://www.talesofasia.com/rs-67-development.htm. In this essay, I took a surface-grasp into Cambodia’s multimedia extremism; completely pro-government or completely anti-government and I also criticized the imbalanced voice of the political parties. One party never listens to another party, especially between Sam Rainsy Party (opposition party) and Cambodian People’s Party (governing party).

For the similar purpose, in my One Point That The Royal Government of Cambodia Should Follow America that was published in The Kampuchea Thmey Daily, year Nบ4, Nบ685, Thursday 17 March 2005, I drew one example into American politics: Democratic and Republic Party, just have different name, but they share the same propensity which is to bring prosperity and order for American people. So they exchange ideas and policies for the America’s good. Cambodia, on the other hand, the governing party and opposition party are completely different; Sam Rainsy, opposition party leader once said: If have Hun Sen no Rainsy. This is the most important reason to the country’s upheavals.

These social involvements have brought me deeper into the world’s politics and, of course, I was the one who instigated further discussion on the topic with my friend Peter. And this dialogue has dragged me even further into the evolving world’s affairs and politics.


A land of smiling people was totally demolished and replaced by a land of tear, because of brother-enemy conflicts. A forward-looking Cambodia has just been emerged in the 1990s, while most of the western world has reached its control age. Converting itself into part of the world’s society, Cambodia must face uncountable challenges, but “can-do spirit”, I think, will overcome every obstacle. Yesterday Cambodia wouldn’t be repentance, but it would be unschooled lesson for today and tomorrow Cambodia. We are in the middle of a new drama, and to make this drama worth-seeing, drama’s directors, actors/actresses and subordinates must closely cooperate.


Bygone and recently past history has made today Cambodia one of the most stigmatized countries in Southeast Asia and the world. An emerging Cambodia must be prepared for challenges; more hard works ahead. The purpose of this paper is; one: to express my day-to-day obstacles and two: my opinion-based solutions to solve those mentioned drawbacks.

In every section of paper, my personal obstacles are started by drawing examples and evidence from existing Cambodia’s context and all of the statistics and data are drawn mostly from United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and Oxfam. In reasoning my second purpose (opinion-based solutions), I deploy all the three approaches: personal reflection, which I refer to my social participation in Cambodian context (newspapers, national contest) and in the international stage (essays on the world wide webs), and how this social participation has changed my life and the others and how they would affect the government. Policy analysis: I take a view into the Rectangular Policy and other social-economic issues of the third mandate of the Royal Government of Cambodia, and depict my own constructive criticism, and try to fill in the government’s intentional and unintentional loopholes. Academic enquiry: I extract some philosophy and history lessons and compare to existing Cambodia, particularly I intend to look at different results of philosophy-oriented and self-indulgent solutions of the past Cambodian government to the 2005 government.

In my conclusion, I admire to the elements that have produced present/destitute Cambodia. Specifically, in this section, I touch a deep ground of self-destructive, foolish and short-perspective war of Cambodia during the advanced civilization of the western world and much betterment of the regional countries, namely Asean countries. I throw out the connotation of believing in self-confidence and brother-brother cooperation between the leaders and the inhabitants, sooner or later, will definitely find the way out to the state of betterment. “Internal and imbalanced apartheid are primary sources of today Cambodia’s image.” Would Cambodia be different with different history? This is a lesson and life inquiry for all.


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

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