On International Youth Day, Calls to End Graft

F T L E

A day after it was used as the launching pad for a march through the city led by Khmer nationalists and monks, Phnom Penh’s recently reopened Freedom Park played host Tuesday to a rally organized by workers unions and youth organizations marking the U.N.’s 15th International Youth Day.

About 200 youths gathered at the plaza, which reopened last week after being closed since the violent repression of opposition protests in Phnom Penh in January, to demand authorities improve work prospects and conditions for the country’s young.

Members of the Building and Wood Workers Trade Union Federation of Cambodia march past the Royal Palace on Sisowath Quay on Tuesday for International Youth Day. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Members of the Building and Wood Workers Trade Union Federation of Cambodia march past the Royal Palace on Sisowath Quay on Tuesday for International Youth Day. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

The youth took turns expressing frustrations about Cambodia’s lagging job market, which has struggled to keep up with the country’s changing demographics as the younger generation has grown up and left school.

“We want the government to increase the job market for youth since there are so many youth flooding to Thailand to work and they have been hurt by the agencies and authorities there,” said Sngab Kroem, 22, a third-year physics student at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, who attended the march.

“There are many youth who graduated but are jobless,” he said. “We want the government to create good working condition standards for youth after they have graduated university.”

The group then marched to the National Assembly, where they delivered a petition calling for the government to eliminate corruption and improve the job market. Envoys were then sent to deliver the petition to the ministries of Education and Labor.

Across the city at Tuol Kok district’s Panha Chiet University, Transparency International Cambodia director Preap Kol hosted his own event for International Youth Day, drawing about 700 students from the university and nearby schools.

Mr. Kol noted that the theme of this year’s Youth Day was “Youth and Mental Health,” but as the head of a transparency NGO, he had instead chosen his own theme of “Raising Awareness on Integrity and Transparency” for discussion.

“We want to attract people’s interest to improve integrity and transparency and to inform Cambodian youth that they have a duty to help develop integrity and transparency,” he said.

“A society without transparency and a lack of trust causes our youth to have mental health problems,” Mr. Kol added.

Lay Sokpanha, 15, a student at the nearby Teuk Laak High School, said she had attended the event because she was interested to know how the young can help fight corruption.

“I really want to eliminate all of the corruption in our society and I’m sure if we work together we can tackle it,” she said.

dara@cambodiadaily.com, sony@cambodiadaily.com

© 2014, The Cambodia Daily. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced in print, electronically, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without written permission.

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