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តើប្រទេសកម្ពុជាគួតែដាក់បញ្ចូលមុខវិជ្ជាវិទ្យាសាស្ត្រនយោបាយ ចូលក្នុងកម្មវិធីសិក្សាថ្នាក់វិទ្យាល័យដែរឬទេ?

សូមស្វាគមន៍មកកាន់ការតទល់មតិរបស់កាហ្វេនយោបាយ! នេះគឺជាការធ្វើការតទល់មតិលើកទី១របស់យើង​​​ ហើយប្រធានបទគឺ៖​ «តើប្រទេសកម្ពុជា​គួតែដាក់បញ្ចូល​ មុខវិជ្ជាវិទ្យាសាស្រ្តនយោបាយ​ ចូលក្នុងកម្មវិធីសិក្សាថ្នាក់វិទ្យាល័យដែរឬទេ?» ដែលមានវត្តមាន​ កញ្ញា​ សាមឿត ស៊ាវម៉េង​ ខាងស្រប​ និង លោក វណ្ណ​ ប៊ុនណា​ ខាងបដិសេធ ដោយម្នាក់ៗ​ជ្រើសរើសយកទឡ្ហីករណ៍តែចំនួន៣ប៉ុណ្ណោះ​ យកមកបកស្រាយ។ សូមបញ្ចាក់ផងដែរថា ទឡ្ហីករណ៍ដែលពួកគាត់បានយកមកដេញដោលនេះ មិនមែនជាមតិផ្ទាល់ខ្លួនរបស់គាត់នោះទេ ដោយសាតែយើងត្រូវកំណត់ឲ្យមានអ្នកស្រប និងអ្នកបដិសេធ។ គោលបំណងនៃការតទល់មតិ គឺដើម្បីលើកកម្នូពស់នូវវប្បធម៌សន្ទនាប្រជាធិបតេយ្យក្នុងចំណោមយុវជននៅកម្ពុជា។ សូមអានការដេញដោលមតិនេះឲ្យបានល្អិតល្អន់ជាមុនសិន​ មុននឹងអ្នកទាំងអស់គ្នាបោះឆ្នោតឲ្យបេក្ខជនរបស់យើង។​ នេះដោយសារតែអ្នកទាំងអស់គ្នាអាចបោះឆ្នោត​ បានតែម្ដងប៉ុណ្ណោះ ដោយប្រើប្រាស់គណនីហ្វេសប៊ុក។​ ក្រុមកាហ្វេនយោបាយ​ មិនមានសិទ្ធិនិងមិនអាចដឹងបានទេ​ថា អ្នកណាបានបោះឆ្នោតបេក្ខជនមួយណា។​ ការបោះឆ្នោត គឺអនាមិកទាំងអស់! រយ:ពេលនៃការបោះឆ្នោត​ គឺពីរសប្ដាហ៍ ហើយអ្នកដែលទទួលបានភាគរយច្រើនជាង​ គាត់គឺអ្នកឈ្នះ។ អ្នកអាចចូលរួមបញ្ចេញមតិយោបល់ទៅលើការដេញដោលនេះ នៅខាងក្រោមបាន!

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Cambodia’s Electric Shortage: Its Impacts on Economy and Small Businesses

Written by: Kong Sreynou, a 3rd-year student majoring in International Studies at Institute of Foreign Languages, RUPP. Edited by: Heng Kimkong, a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at Cambodia Development Center and a Ph.D. Candidate in Education at The University of Queensland, Australia. Photo Credit: Asia Times Cambodia has experienced steady economic growth over the last few decades, along with the boom of construction and investment. Within this context, the consumption of energy such as electricity has significantly increased. Although Cambodia has undergone rapid economic development, the infrastructure required for the energy sector is still limited to match the pace of development. With the increasing population and the expansion of key industries such as garment and tourism sectors, Cambodia’s electricity consumption increases. It was forecast that electricity consumption would grow at a rate of  9.4% annually. Meanwhile, Cambodia also encountered a shortage of electricity due to the drought in the dry season as well as the growing number of demands in electric usage. The shortage of electricity is harmful to public places, industries, or households. In 2019, the government had to reduce or cut off the electricity during the day in order to meet the demands at night. Electric scarcity has impacts on the economy and small businesses in many ways.  First, electric inefficiency can cripple the small businesses in the country as small business owners are believed to endure  the most from the electric shortage. Large parts of Cambodia have to suffer hours of electric outages, as the country’s supply of electricity could not meet the increasing demand. According to VOA Cambodia, Phnom Penh has been crippled by power outages up to 6 hours per day in some areas, and it is struggling to meet the high demand of the small business owners. Some small businesses such as Salons require ongoing electricity to run their business. For example,  Sokunthea, a salon owner in Phnom Penh, has experienced an ongoing electricity shortage, saying that, without electricity, she can’t blow-dry the hair of her guests after washing it. She further added that her customers would not be able to enter her shop since the weather is scorching hot. Without fans, her customers will get sweaty, and the make-up will slide off.  The electric outage undeniably offers difficulties for small business owners to pursue their small business since their income will be dropped. Plus, the price of Cambodia’s electricity is also regarded as among the most expensive in the region, according to the Open Development Cambodia (ODC). Thus, while  they cannot run their business smoothly to generate income, they have to pay their electricity fees at a high price. There are also growing numbers of new constructions, such as new apartment buildings, stores, and hotels, which do need electricity, adding burden to the already struggling sector. No doubt, without proper electric generation, small businesses will suffer, and many new buildings will be slowly constructed.  Second, the economic impact of regular power cuts could be huge. Big investments or private companies in or around the Phnom Penh city, especially within the industry and manufacturing sector such as garment factories, play vital roles in helping the Cambodian economy, yet they depend heavily on electricity to run their businesses. Since there is a shortage of supply of electricity, the firms from private companies and big investments will lose their interest in investing in our country. This is because they will have to buy expensive generators, which adds to their expenses. As stated by Cheat Khemera, Senior Officer at Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC), most garment factories are connected with state-run electricity supply, and therefore there would be great impacts if there is not enough electricity.  With the growing demands for the nation's electrification priorities, Cambodia has invested heavily in hydropower development with 60 possible sites, and an estimated supply of 10,000 MW, of which 50% is on the mainstream Mekong, 40% on its tributaries, and 10% in the southwest outside the Mekong basin. In addition, coal electric generation is also an attractive complement that can offset hydropower seasonality. According to the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME) annual report in 2020, there are two coal-fired power plants in Cambodia. One of which is located in Tamar Sor commune, Botum Sakor district, Koh Kong province, and another one is situated in Trapaing Prasat district, Oddar Meanchey province. These two power sources, hydropower dam, and coal have promised massive gains in electricity generation capacity. Additionally, solar power has emerged as an energy source with considerable potential for Cambodia. To date,  Cambodia’s existing operational solar power stations include a 10-megawatt (MW) and a 5 MW solar farms in Bavet city, Svay Rieng province, an 80 MW solar station in Kampong Speu province, a 60 MW solar station in Kampong Chhnang province, and a 60 MW solar station in Battambang province’s Thmar Kol district. So far, the Royal Government of Cambodia has done its best by introducing policies and initiatives to address the inadequate electricity supply. It has laid out a few key policies on energy development. First, the Power Sector Strategy 1999-2016 was introduced to ensure  an adequate, reliable and secure electricity supply throughout the country at reasonable and affordable prices to facilitate investment in Cambodia and to drive economic development. This strategy has encouraged the exploration of environmentally friendly ways and socially acceptable energy resources to minimize environmental effects resulting from energy supply and use. Second, the Renewable Electricity Action Plan (REAP) 2002-2012 was implemented to offer cost-effective and reliable electricity through renewable energy technologies in rural areas. Third, the government introduced the Renewable Energy Development Program which aims to promote the production of power supply from various resources such as hydropower, wind and solar energy, biomass, biogas, biofuel, solid wastes and geothermal energy.  In short, the electricity shortage can threaten Cambodia’s economic growth. Small businesses will suffer the most from the outage of electricity which serves as a major barrier for them to run their business. Thinking of Cambodia's economy, key investors and private companies will lose their interest in investing in the country due to the scarcity of the power supply and the high price of electricity. Therefore, to address these issues, the government should consider using more solar energy to generate electricity. Solar energy could be used to provide additional energy capacity during the dry season rather than constructing dams that can create long-lasting environmental consequences affecting the health of the Mekong river and lives depending on it. The investment in solar energy to produce electricity should therefore be considered by the government because it offers a more sustainable and affordable source of energy.     

Politik

Should Cambodia Consider Term Limits for Its Prime Ministers?

Written by: Soth Chhayheng, a 2nd year student at Thammasat University, Bachelor of Political Science Program in Politics and International Relations Edited by: Heng Kimkong, a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at Cambodia Development Center and a PhD Candidate in Education at The University of Queensland, Australia Photo Credit: AFP/CAMBODIA NATIONAL ASSEMBLY Cambodia’s constitution adopts the principles of liberal multi-party democracy. Since 1993, every five year Cambodian people go to cast their vote in the general election to elect their leaders. Over the past few decades, the Kingdom has changed significantly. However, if there is one thing that has not changed ever since, it is its prime minister. Prime Minister Hun Sen has enjoyed ongoing support from the supporters of the Cambodian People’s Party. While at the same time receiving harsh criticisms from the opposition over his long tenure in holding Cambodia’s highest political office. Presently, he is one of the 15 world’s longest-serving leaders. According to its constitution, Cambodia does not have a restricted term limit for the prime minister. This loophole has allowed Prime Minister Hun Sen to continue running as a Prime Ministerial candidate for the Cambodian People’s Party in every general election since 1993. “I will rule until a point that I feel I no longer want to rule,” said Prime Minister Hun Sen during a recent press conference at Calmette Hospital after getting vaccinated for COVID-19. The rationale behind the executive term limits can be traced back to ancient history. Aristotle highlighted that “no office should ever be held twice by the same person” as a key characteristic of democracy. In most democratic states and even many communist regimes, there is a clear restriction on how many years or terms one person can be the leader of the executive branch. Cambodia’s neighbors such as Thailand have set two term limits for prime ministers who shall not hold office for more than eight consecutive years. Against this backdrop, should Cambodia consider setting term limits for the Prime Ministerial position? This article aims to advance the arguments in favor of term limits, although there are other arguments that can be used to counter the arguments presented in this article. Yet, readers shall define an answer to this question on their own. This  article only offers one perspective, which may constitute a basis for informed discussion and debate on this issue.  Yes, Cambodia should set term limits for prime ministers  History has taught us that one of the major reasons that contributed to Cambodia’s decline was the unclear and turbulent transition of power from one leader or ruler to another; that is, the change of rulers often resulted in civil war and destruction of the country. During the Oudong period (1618-1863), we saw the internal struggle between several kings that fought to claim the throne, allowing the two neighboring countries to interfere. Later the country experienced  endless suffering and the loss of sovereignty, territory, and independence. After receiving independence from France in 1953, Cambodian people held high hope that peace would last under the rules of King Father Norodom Sihanouk. However, it turned out to be  another tragedy, after General Lun Nol and Prince Sisowath Siri Matak staged a coup to overthrow Prince Norodom Sihanouk in 1970. Five years after the coup, the darkest cloud flew across Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge regime (1975-1979). Immediately following the collapse of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime, Cambodia experienced the internal struggle of power for another decade between four political factions.  Now Cambodia is finally at peace and stability – at least by the traditional definition of peace which is the absence of war. One of the most concerning questions for the Cambodian people right now is “What is next after Hun Sen?”. The Prime Minister himself had asked the same question. This question arises due to the long tenure of Hun Sen as the Cambodian Prime Minister.  Setting term limits for prime ministers is a political agenda that can determine a proper political norm for Cambodia’s future. Considerably, politicians can look at the following points. First, if five years per each term is reasonable, we shall keep it as it is. Second, as for the matter of how many terms should be set for this particular position, a two-term limit is reasonable, which should be considered.  This means that one person can have a chance to be a Cambodian prime minister for a maximum of 10 years. With this timeframe, it is more than practical for the leader to carry out efficient and effective policies to leave the office with legacy and dignity. Reasons for setting term limits for prime ministers  There are several credible reasons as to why Cambodia should set term limits for its prime ministers. First, it is a crucial step of political modernization to create a fundamental political norm that can  ensure more transparent and effective governance, increase strong accountability, decrease corruption, and strengthen the rule of law. Above all it is to ensure a predictable, stable, and peaceful transition of power. Leaders would be more likely to focus on the matter of running the country in the most efficient way to leave the position with credible legacy rather than spending much of their time thinking of ways to eliminate their potential competitors and on how to extend their time in office. Setting a clear line of tenure for prime ministership would prevent any leader from attempting to build up his/her own dynasty in the Kingdom. It would also contribute immensely to strengthening state institutions. The absence of term limits allows one person to rule for too long, which is not the best course of action for Cambodia’s prosperous and sustainable future.  Second, the term limits of the highest political position can potentially guarantee a healthier political culture in Cambodia. Setting term limits for prime ministers is an effective approach for Cambodia to achieve broader democratic reforms by widening political space for active and constructive political engagement from all levels and improving political representation. The fact that many politicians and activists have been arrested and forced to live in exile indicates the deterioration of the human rights situation which is caused by the unhealthy political culture that Cambodia has. This is not to mention that many Cambodians are afraid of talking and playing their civic duties in political engagement. All of these reflect the current development of Cambodia's political context. There have been calls for discussion and collective action to improve our political culture and political environment. As concerned citizens, we all have a part in this. But how would a clear set of term limits for prime ministers help improve our political culture? The change in the highest political office would lead to a better political environment of competition between politicians. Mutual understanding and compromise would be promoted in the political sphere. The change of political leadership would potentially encourage Cambodian people, particularly the younger generation to rise and engage in politics more actively and constructively. These groups of people will bring with them new ideas, policies, and strategies that can shape the development of the Kingdom. Thus, a healthier political culture is very much needed for Cambodian people, and setting term limits for prime ministers is a positive step toward that end. Peace and stability should be guaranteed by a democratic system, not by a person, or else it won’t last.  Third, having clear term limits for the prime ministers is a viable means to prevent Cambodia from descending into authoritarianism and to decrease structural social injustice. Countries with leaders who stayed in power longer than two decades are almost universally authoritarian. However, perhaps Cambodia has not reached that point yet, even though scholars have suggested that Cambodia is leading Southeast Asia's authoritarian ways. Authoritarianism denoted any political system in which power is concentrated in the hands of a leader or a small group of elites. Structural social injustice is very much likely to occur in an authoritarian state. The abuse of power, improper check and balance between different branches of the government, the absolute or nearly absolute power of a particular leader and group that violate the rights of the people, systematic corruption, and the drives to eliminate potential political competitor either within or outside the party are all the signs of an  authoritarian state and structural injustice in  society. These issues lead to endless deadly political rivalry among politicians and resentment toward the ruling elite from the people who suffered from the system. In the end, it will result in  a more divided society.  Last but not least, setting term limits for prime ministers would be helpful for the future of Cambodian politics. The advantages of having clear term limits for Cambodia’s highest political leader are much more than the disadvantages. For the best interest of the people and the country, politicians should seriously put their personal and group interests aside and choose what is best for the country. For far too long, the argument that there is only one capable person that can play this leadership  is not true. In fact, there are many potential capable leaders both from within and outside of the ruling party. For instance, Prime Minister Hun Sen has mentioned the current Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance Aun Pornmoniroth as his potential successor. There are also other potential candidates for prime ministership such as Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng and Lieutenant General Hun Manet.  So should Cambodia set term limits for its prime ministers? I hope you have an answer for this question. For me, it is a resounding yes!   

Politik

As US-China Rivalry Grows, Will Cambodia’s Tragedy Return?

Author: Vann Bunna, a Co-founder of The Thinker Cambodia and a Research Fellow at Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace (CICP). All views expressed are his own. Editor: Heng Kimkong, a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at Cambodia Development Center and a PhD Candidate in Education at The University of Queensland, Australia. Photo Credit: Asia Time Cambodia has been increasingly seen as a centre point of the US-China competition for influence in Southeast Asia. The recent allegation of China’s potential military presence in Cambodia is a critical point to test the Kingdom’s resilience and capability in navigating contemporary international politics of great power rivalry. Amid the US-China geopolitical competition, the issue of the Ream Naval base seems to be a matter of great concern that can trap Cambodia in the middle of great powers’ geopolitical and geostrategic struggle, potentially turning it into a battlefield. Cambodia’s tragedy in retrospect Cambodia’s tragedy in its modern history occurred when Cambodia abandoned its neutral foreign policy during the Cold War. It is worth remembering that after gaining independence from France in 1953, King Norodom Sihanouk had adopted a determinedly neutral foreign policy, aligning neither with the US-led liberal bloc nor the Soviet-led communist bloc. To King Sihanouk, the neutral policy was the best diplomatic stance for Cambodia to prevent itself from being caught in the Cold War. Unfortunately, Cambodia was no longer able to maintain its position of neutrality. It gradually engaged with the Communist bloc as evidenced by the visits of King Sihanouk to Moscow and Beijing. In May 1965, King Sihanouk cut off diplomatic relations with the United States. In so doing, he abandoned Cambodia’s neutral international course to establish alignment with communist China. Remarkably, that became a turning point in Cambodia’s history – the country flung into a proxy war and protracted civil war for a few decades. Some scholars argued that King Sihanouk’s decision to break Cambodia-US relations to align with China gave the latter leverage to pressure Phnom Penh to allow Viet Cong to build routes along the Vietnam-Cambodia border. The result of this unbalanced foreign policy was the bombing by the US which killed around 500,000 civilians. Consequently, as King Sihanouk was heavily aligned with China, the US supported General Lon Nol and Prince Sarik Matak to stage  a coup to oust Sihanouk from power in March 1970. After seizing power, Lon Nol and his associates established a pro-liberal bloc Khmer Republic in October 1970. The Khmer Republic pursued a bandwagoning foreign strategy towards the US amid the Cold War. The US later used part of Cambodia’s territory as a battleground to contain Communist influence in Southeast Asia, especially to fight against Vietnamese communist Viet Cong in the Indochina war. Between 1965 and 1973, the US dropped 2.7 million tons of explosives on Cambodia - more than the bombs that the Allies dropped during World War II. Tragically, hundreds of thousands of civilians lost their lives. Their houses and properties were damaged. More unfortunately, the US-backed Khmer Republic collapsed when the US lost the Vietnam war and withdrew its troops from Southeast Asia in 1975. The US -  at the end of the day - abandoned Cambodia and handed it over to the butcher –  the Khmer Rouge. Prince Sirik Matak was very disappointed with how the US treated Cambodia. In a letter to the US Ambassador John Gunther Dean, he wrote: As for you and in particular for your great country, I never believed for a moment that you would have this sentiment of abandoning a people which chosen liberty. You have refused us your protection and we can do nothing about it. You leave us and it is my wish that you and your country will find happiness under the sky. But mark it well that, if I shall die here on the spot and in my country that I love, it is too bad because we are all born and must die one day. I have only committed this mistake of believing in you, the Americans. After the US left Cambodia, Khmer Rouge took control over the country on April 17, 1975. Democratic Kampuchea led by Pol Pot was officially established. This genocidal regime supported communist ideology and was aligned with the Communist bloc during the Cold War. The Democratic Kampuchea gradually isolated itself and pursued the isolationist foreign policy towards the outside world – having relations only with a few foreign countries, one of which was China, its strategic partner and major ally.  At the time, China’s aid to the Khmer Rouge was around 90% of the regime’s foreign aid. Interestingly, Andrew Matha – author of Brothers in Arms: China’s Aid to the Khmer Rouge, 1975-1979, noted that “Without China’s assistance, the Khmer Rouge regime would not have lasted a week.” More remarkably, because of China’s aid, the Khmer Rouge could extend its purge campaign to eliminate people they considered as internal enemies of the regime. The purge campaign targeted the intellectual, monks, urban bourgeois and officials from the previous regime. Within a few years, the Khmer Rouge regime pushed Cambodia to the brink of extinction, killing around 1.7 million Cambodian people. After the Khmer Rouge collapsed in 1979, a successor regime, called the People’s Republic of Kampuchea, was established. This new regime was always distrustful of China’s intentions as China was a key ally of the Khmer Rouge. As Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen used to say, “China was the root of all that was evil in Cambodia”. Will tragedy return to Cambodia? Our history has taught us that tragedy occurred when our country heavily relied on or depended on a single great power. A small and weak state like Cambodia should never over depend on one great power, at the expense of its relations with the other major power. Any unbalanced alignment with great powers warrants vulnerabilities and risks. Cambodia can and should learn from its past lessons to avoid repeating its strategic mistakes. Amid the great power rivalry, Cambodia is seen as China’s closest ally in Southeast Asia. China is now Cambodia’ increasingly significant trading partner, largest aid donor, major foreign investor, and key supporter of the current regime. Since 2010 when both countries established their Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, Cambodia has increasingly become dependent on China economically, politically, and strategically.  Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan has enthusiastically praised China, saying that “Without Chinese aid, we go nowhere.” Recently, at Nikkei’s Future of Asia Conference, Prime Minister Hun Sen bluntly emphasised Cambodia’s reliance on China, saying that “If I don’t rely on China, who will I rely on?” This statement is worrying as it indicates a clear trend that Cambodia is falling into China’s orbit.  While Cambodia enjoys its honeymoon relations with China, its bilateral ties with the US face challenges. In addition to the deterioration of Cambodia’s democracy and human rights record, rumours and allegation of potential Chinese military presence at Cambodia’s Ream Naval base has further weakened Cambodia-US relations. At a recent meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen in Phnom Penh, for example, US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman expressed serious concerns about the Chinese military presence in the Kingdom and urged Cambodia to maintain an “independent and balanced foreign policy”. This statement indicates the US’s views of Cambodia, seeing it as China’s close ally. The US is clearly not pleased with Cambodia’s increasingly tight alignment with China. In the midst of the increasing geopolitical competition between the US and China, Phnom Penh’s heavy reliance on Beijing does not bode well for Cambodia’s future. The Kingdom seems to play a risky game that might lead it to tragedy again if its strategic calculation fails.  The recent allegation of the Chinese military presence on its soil serves as a sign indicating that Cambodia could gradually become a battleground of great power rivalry as seen in the 1960s and 1970s. Despite this, some may argue that this line of thinking is only a Cold War mentality that does not reflect the current world situation. Of course, King Sihanouk, Lon Nol or Pol Pot might have thought the same, arguing that their alignments with a single great power were right in their circumstances; unfortunately, they had brought unforgettable tragedy to the country in the end. More importantly, either in Cold War or at any time, great powers always fight for their supremacy. As a renowned neorealist scholar John Mearsheimer convincingly argues, “great powers always compete with each other” to be the number one in the system. The concept of Thucydides trap also reminds us that a rising power always threatens to displace an established power, which will result in a major war. Thus, to minimize the possibility of any tragedy happening again, Cambodian leaders and policymakers should be mindful of Cambodia’s tragic past and must try to avoid repeating the same strategic mistakes that made the country become a victim of great power rivalry. Cambodia, as a small state with limited resources and leverage power, should embrace multilateralism and regionalism as a policy option. It should try its best to pursue a “balancing” and “hedging” foreign strategic approach rather than adopt a “bandwagoning” foreign policy towards great powers. The Kingdom must also adhere to the principle of “permanent neutrality and non-alignment” enshrined in Article 53 of its Constitution. It is crucial that Cambodia should carefully calibrate its foreign policy to avoid falling victim to great power competition and to achieve its development vision to become an upper-middle income country by 2030 and a high-income country by 2050.  

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It’s Time to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle Plastic to Save the World

Written by: Tea Sovanmony, a 3rd year student majoring in Global Affairs at The American University of Phnom Penh Edited by: Heng KimKong, a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at Cambodia Development Center and a PhD Candidate in Education at The University of Queensland, Australia   (Photo Credit: "Collection of #1 PET plastic, accepted effective June 2012" by Department of Environmental Protection Recycling a is licensed under CC BY 2.0)   In the contemporary world, plastic has become one of the most essential contributions to human society. However, the use of plastic has also had a significant negative impact on human health and well-being as well as those of animals. Across the entire globe, there are increasing concerns about the increasing use of plastic, which has led to pollution and caused great harm to human life, wildlife, ocean creatures, and nature. Importantly, it has caused disruptions to the entire ecosystem. Thus, it is crucial that the world commits to applying the 3Rs principles of reduce, reuse and recycle to curb the excessive use of plastic to save our planet.  Whether you believe it or not, there is a connection between plastic used by people and the environmental world. According to nature, there is no waste material that does not decompose. However, in the case of plastic, it takes more than a hundred years for it to totally decompose. While plastic waste is dumped or flows into the ocean, it breaks up into small microbeads that are extremely harmful to all living things, including humans and animals, in the long term.  Human beings invented plastic to make life easier. However, this creation is and will always be considered unnatural to the ecosystem. In fact, plastic is less expensive, more affordable and more durable than paper bags, leading to its mass and endless production. Plastic has played an integral part in the production of water bottles, plastic wraps, plastic bags, plastic straws, plastic utensils, plastic cups and more. As people become comfortable using plastic and begin to use it indefinitely, it results in the uncontrollable use of single-use plastic. Consequently, the usage of plastic has become a major global problem. As 40% of all plastic that has been used is used just once, the National Geographic started to question whether it is Planet or Plastic? This campaign is then urged to raise international awareness of the consequences of single-use plastic.  The danger of plastic pollution  When tonnes of plastic are dumped into the ocean, it does not dissolve and remains in the water. This affects the ocean water and causes aquatic species to misunderstand plastic as their food. The effects of plastic on sea life are immense. For example, plastic waste causes the death of a million seabirds a year as seabirds would ingest plastic which  takes up room in their stomach, which sometimes causes starvation. For example, many seabirds have been found dead with their stomachs filled with plastic waste.  According to the United Nations, marine debris affects at least 800 species globally, with plastic accounting for up to 80% of the waste. Furthermore, plastic also polluted water when it was dumped into it, causing many problems to the environment in addition to making sea or ocean water look and smell bad. Therefore, plastic pollutes water and affects species in the ocean leading to their numerous deaths.  Plastic also hurts humans. Based on a research study by BreastCancer.org (2020), the leaching of plastic chemicals, including bisphenol A (BPA) from heating can cause human cancer. There are several more negative health impacts such as cardiovascular diseases, lung problems, cancer, and the weakened immune system. This is due to the toxicity of chemical elements including mercury, lead, and cadmium which are found in plastic. The cycle starts from the plastic garbage that humans throw away in front of their eyes into the street, which ends up in the ocean and breaks down into small tiny plastic beads. Those small particles are eaten by fish which will then be consumed by humans. Thus, humans are now eating plastic that they have dumped!  Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle (3Rs) are the solution  According to Wendell Berry, an American environmental activist and novelist, “The Earth is what we all have in common”. Thus, individual contribution to the environment through the 3Rs: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle is a must. It takes no or little effort and cost in starting the actions for sustainability and a better planet  because planet Earth is a home to all human beings and other living things.  First, due to the high cost of recycling, it is good  to reduce the numbers of individual plastic consumption rather than totally relying on recycling, although recycling is another alternative. We can start with the reduction of plastic consumption by minimizing daily consumption like plastic straws, plastic utensils, plastic bags, and plastic cups. Since food delivery is popular in modern society, individuals should have their own portable utensils and metal straws that are easy to carry around. Therefore, in the case of Cambodia, in any order from delivery apps such as Nham24 and FoodPanda, we can request the restaurant to not include plastic utensils for us. This may be a bit uncomfortable for some people, it is one effective way to contribute to minimizing the numbers of daily plastic consumption. Each one of us should now consider using a metal bottle instead of a plastic cup to reduce the use of plastic. In addition to that, companies, schools, and other institutions are key actors that can help individuals to reduce plastic bottles by setting a water purifier refill in the office or school to let individuals fill up their fresh water in their metal bottles. The use of cotton or cloth bags for shopping products is also another good way to replace the use of single-use plastic bags. Moreover, for essential goods such as dishwasher soap, scrub, bodywash and shampoo, there are alternatives from several refill stores around Toul Tompong areas in Phnom Peng city that offer goods and services for customers to go and refill them. It is essential to save our planet and each of us has an important role to play.  Second, we need to adhere to the concept of reuse. The idea of reuse is extremely important to avoid the single use of plastic that tends to be dumped into the ocean or other water resources after use. We can apply this concept by reusing plastic that we have in our home multiple times and try to reuse it for other purposes before throwing it away. For example, the water bottle can be used to store new water or other liquid, or it can be used for gardening purposes. The bubble wrap that is received from delivery can be used to protect furniture and other glass products.  Thirdly, it is the concept of recycling which involves industrial or machinery processes. Every single-use plastic such as the cutlery, straws, and bags can be recycled in most advanced economic countries in Europe and America. Unfortunately, there may not be recycling companies in some middle income and low income countries. Cambodia is a case in point. To the best of my knowledge, single-use plastic is mainly used daily but there is no recycling process available  in the country. Regarding this issue, reasons for the unavailability of recycling processes are due to the high cost of investment and the requirements for highly skilled labor in the field. In spite of this, not all plastic can be recycled. According to SL Recycling, the types of plastic that are commonly recycled include  Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET), High Density Polyethylene (HDPE), and Polypropylene (PP). Thus, reducing the amount of plastic is still one of the most essential alternatives among the 3Rs of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.    The way forward Moving forward, human beings must come to realize that in some cases the use of plastic is not necessary, but we are just consumed by the idea of convenience without thinking of the consequences of excessive plastic use. Since the single use of plastic can have serious consequences for humanity and the environment, it should be minimized by individuals and inspired by society itself as well. Up until now, there has been very limited action toward sustainability, especially in countries that have a low literacy rate. Many people tend to think that environmental issues are not as important as political or social issues.  Thus, to achieve sustainability, it requires all of us to take action without procrastinating. It can start from youth who can introduce their parents and relatives to the concept of 3Rs. Youth themselves also have to practice the concept of 3Rs, and contribute to voluntary work related to environmental issues so that plastic  awareness can spread widely, and at the same time, they can learn  more about many important social issues through their working experience as volunteers. This type of knowledge is not available in school. Nevertheless, the Cambodian government needs to introduce and implement laws to curb the excessive use of plastic. It needs to find effective ways to educate the citizens and control their plastic consumption in an effective way. It is also important to attract foreign investment to develop Cambodia’ capacity to recycle plastic. The non-governmental organizations and international organizations also play a crucial role in making the world a better place for all. They must raise the public awareness of the impact of single-use plastic, offer financial support to low economic development countries to tackle their plastic crisis, and produce more informative videos to educate the masses about the risks of plastic pollution.  Together we can work toward a sustainable future in which we control the use of plastic by reducing, reusing and recycling it. We should not be complacent and let plastic control us and destroy our world.     *This blog is produced with the financial support from the European Union and The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency through Transparency International Cambodia and ActionAid Cambodia. Its contents do not reflect the views of any donors.  

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‘I used to talk about politics on Facebook, but now it’s scary’

By Adam Bemma, Alijazeera 23 Aug 2018 Phnom Penh, Cambodia – Samoeurth Seavmeng sits at a conference table wearing black horn-rimmed glasses. Meng – as she’s known online and to friends – glances at her smartphone and begins to speak to 10 other young Cambodians gathered at Politikoffee, a weekly forum held in a leafy diplomatic enclave of the capital Phnom Penh. “It’s very hard to talk about social media. Sometimes people post fake news on Facebook and sometimes people post true news, so it has advantages and disadvantages,” the 22-year-old activist said. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen often alleges “fake news” to discredit criticism of his ruling Cambodia People’s Party online. He has even threatened that authorities have the technology to track and arrest a Facebook user within six minutes of a post. This has sent a wave of fear and intimidation through Cambodia’s public sphere, where once critical voices have begun to self-censor. Politikoffee is an offline space where Cambodians feel free to debate and voice dissenting views without fear of arrest.  “Before, I used to share and talk a lot about political and social issues on Facebook, but now it’s a little bit scary to talk about these sensitive issues because I’m afraid I’m going to get in trouble,” Meng said. Internet censorship Cambodia’s government monitors social media. Last May, Cambodia’s Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Information, issued a regulation to monitor Facebook. The government stated that it wants to control information that is deemed to “threaten the defence and security of the nation, relations with other countries, the economy, public order, and discriminates against the country’s customs and traditions.” The Cambodia Center for Independent Media stated in its 2017 report that seven Facebook users were either arrested or sought by authorities for sharing information and opinions on the social media platform. In 2018, an election year, the number is unknown. “The directive was actually released after they were already identifying, monitoring, charging and imprisoning people,” said Naly Pilorge, director at LICADHO, a human rights monitoring group in Cambodia. During the election in July, 17 news websites – including RFA, VOA and Cambodia Daily (already closed down in 2017) – were ordered offline for 48 hours. Critics believe internet censorship is intended to stop outlawed Cambodia National Rescue Party supporters inside the country from sharing, liking or commenting on election boycott campaigns. “The directive came afterwards to legalise what they were doing in practice already. And it changed the habits of the average [social media] user,” Pilorge added. “The people online that we interact with, we see that there are differences. Definitely people are afraid, hesitant, paralysed. Ourselves included. We’re cautious.” In the lead-up to this year’s election, all independent media was shut down. The main opposition leader was jailed for alleged treason. Two former Radio Free Asia reporters and an Australian filmmaker were jailed for alleged espionage. Several human rights and political activists languish inside Cambodia’s prisons – guilty until proven innocent according to LICADHO. “What you’ve seen over the past year and a half is, for example, a minister or the prime minister decides a post is critical or is unacceptable and will immediately denounce a Facebook post,” Pilorge said. “Within 48 hours this individual is being arrested, charged, imprisoned in pre-trial detention and sometimes convicted.” Increasing regulation  Though the election is over, censorship online is prevalent. Prime Minister Hun Sen was re-elected last month in a vote criticised by the UN as fundamentally flawed. “If the situation for freedom of expression worsens, maybe we will have something that we can do together in order to inform [Cambodians] which tool or application they can use without getting into any trouble,” Meng said. Cambodian digital security trainer Moses Ngeth teaches journalists, activists and human rights campaigners how to secure accounts, and protect data online.  “I train them how to do very basic device security for smartphones, password protection. I tell them to be careful when posting something to social media and not to share any personal information,” he said.  Ngeth believes this new mandate will give the ruling CPP legitimacy to pass its much-anticipated draft cybercrime law. “People cannot talk on the radio, or on television. It leaves only Facebook. That’s why they increased regulation of social media,” Ngeth said. Cambodians can still be arrested, charged, jailed or fined for Facebook posts under criminal defamation, royal defamation laws, or incitement. “I think it’s natural to have fear, but when I see someone is arrested for saying something on social media I don’t feel comfortable. I think that people should feel free to express themselves,” said Kounila Keo, a Cambodian blogger and communications consultant. Prime Minister Hun Sen has amassed over 10 million followers on Facebook. Sam Rainsy, the exiled former CNRP leader who ran in the 2013 elections, claims that many are not even Cambodian and may be fake online profiles generated abroad – an accusation the prime minister refutes. “What [the prime minister] said … ‘When you post, I can know the location’ – it’s one of the funniest things I’ve heard from him,” Ngeth said. “Using Facebook to know the location, it’s not possible,” Ngeth said. Prime Minister Hun Sen and members of the CPP are using Facebook to bypass traditional news media such as newspapers, radio and television, viewed as hostile to the government, to reach Cambodians directly with their messages. “The prime minister and other public figures campaign on Facebook,” said Ngeth. We're not doing anything to harm society. We're doing it to make society a better place, especially for youth to be able to share ideas and contribute. SAMOEURTH SEAVMENG, KNOWN AS MENG, ACTIVIST Back at the Politikoffee debate, the upcoming cybercrime law is considered for discussion in a future forum. Meng wants members to be able to communicate online without being punished for spreading “fake news” for commenting on the draft law. “Now we’re thinking about [developing] a new tool, or a new kind of app, that we can be sure will be safe for us to talk about any issue because we mostly discuss politics,” Meng said. “We’re not doing anything to harm society. We’re doing it to make society a better place, especially [for] youth to be able to share ideas and contribute.” Original Link: https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2018/8/23/i-used-to-talk-about-politics-on-facebook-but-now-its-scary

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