Key Issues Raised at the Phnom Penh Open Space for “Trash Kids” held on July 29-30, 2006 and Phnom Penh Open Space for Youth in General, held on August 23 – 24, 2006
Issues raised fall under ten broad categories- human rights and social justice; education and training; labor and employment; environment; public services; economy, corruption and poverty; Cambodian culture and cultural heritage; Cambodia’s borders; social order, and youth and community development. Priority topics were also identified after each session.
Human rights and social justice
Violence against children (domestic violence, sexual abuse, violence resulting from drugs and alcohol) has negative impact on child’s self-confidence and mental growth and nation will not prosper.
Village chiefs should intervene against such violence, and perpetrators must be punished. Eliminate violence through public awareness campaigns, elimination of drugs and sex trafficking.
Respect rights of transgender citizens who are currently stigmatized and marginalized; prosecute those that abuse them and enact laws to protect them.
Need to eliminate discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS and give them necessary support. Include them in society with participatory rights and right to work, and increase education about the causes of HIV/AIDS.
Increase in sex trafficking has put youth at high risk of becoming infected with HIV/AIDS. Need to strengthen law enforcement; create public awareness campaigns on radio and TV to educate people about protecting selves against trafficking; provide alternative livelihoods; severely punish perpetrators; eradicate corruption, drug use and brothels.
Justice has not yet been served in the Khmer Rouge trials- criminals who committed atrocities remain at large. Demonstrates division and disparity between Cambodian government and international community. Process needs to be accelerated and prosecutions need to be made regardless of rank. Those carrying out the trials must be independent and free from corruption.
Opportunities for the disabled need to be increased and they should be provided with a vocational training centre, appropriate accommodation, literacy training, and the output they produce should be given value.
Provide the opportunity for youth and others to choose their leaders, through election.
Youth must build their capacity to demand freedom of expression and society must push youth to exhibit bravery and create new initiatives.
Youth morality, solidarity, and virtue should be built.
Government should strongly intervene to solve land disputes and issue land titles to all household. Land grabbers must pay heavy penalties and stolen land should be confiscated .
Education and training
Education leads to creative ideas and development. For the development and growth of the country, human resource development needs to be intensified and resources, including training, also need to be extended to the tourism, education, agriculture, and transportation sectors. Education quality needs to be improved and must give the opportunity for students to choose the subjects that they like when they enter university.
More schools need to be built; with easier access more children will attend school. Remote areas also need to be given access to good schools and good teachers. More universities need to be built at the provincial level for giving rural students the opportunity to access higher education. Teaching equipment such as text books, experiment fields, and experiment materials must be put in place. Culture of sharing experiences and skills needs to be improved. Need for more vocation and skill training centres, especially in rural areas and for ex-prisoners. Job opportunities need to be created for all when this training is complete, including for ex-prisoners who should be accepted into the workforce.
Awards and scholarships should be awarded to excellent students.
Equal access to education for men and women needs to be promoted; as well as for the disabled.
Labor and employment
Workers safety should be ensured by their employers and health benefits should be provided. Working hours should be no more than 8 hours per day, with rest and holidays. Employers must be prevented from abusing workers, who should also be given adequate regular and overtime pay, as well as transportation and housing allowances.
Government needs to assist unemployed youth, through vocational training, job placement and internship schemes.
Government and NGOs should teach people working in rubbish dumps how to stay safe while handling waste. Radioactive and environmental pollutants must not be disposed of at dumpsite. Shelter, schools, wells, and health centres should be built. Security needs to be increased to stop crime. Alternative livelihood options need to be provided.
NGOs must provide a volunteer work program for youth and provide youth with necessary experience.
Forests are vital to preventing floods and mudslides and are habitats for humans and wildlife, therefore government should stop logging operations. Illegal means of forestry need to be eliminated; and reforestation needs to take place in deforested areas.
Government should stop providing forest concessions and strengthen capacity of people, providing them with the rights to protect the forest and create forest communities.
The Tonle Sap Lake System needs to be protected from pollution, and illegal fishing needs to be stopped. Awareness of sanitation needs to be increased amongst people in neighboring flooded communities, and their safety should be ensured.
Drought in the countryside is resulting in lack of water; loss forests; and loss of habitats. The government should help with reforestation and severely punish those who log illegally. Canals and ponds should be dug to provide water in each village, and water pumps should be provided.
Incentives should be given to motivate those who help protect the environment and natural resources.
Youth must involve themselves in environment protection.
Youth must involve themselves in reducing the use of chemicals in the industrial and agricultural sectors.
The government should install equipment for checking pollution quality, waste treatment and waste management and stop importing waste into the country.
Environment awareness program should be established and knowledge disseminated.
Electricity and water are expensive, and there is inadequate supply in villages and districts. Access to these services is necessary and should be supplied free, in exchange for labor.
Water transportation and railroads need to be repaired and restored. Roads need to be expanded and clearly marked for cars, motorcycles and pedestrians, with lamp-posts erected next to them.
Hospitals need to be built in all provinces and municipalities; these should be free of corruption and free of charge for the poor. National health education system and hospitals should become more advanced. General health education needs to be increased within communities and health checks should be conducted in remote areas. There especially needs to be a focus on sexual and reproductive health, and maternal and child health.
Hygiene, clean water use, healthy food and clean environment must be introduced. Exercise must be encouraged.
Health awareness such as health issues and how to protect oneself should be extended further to rural areas.
Broadly introduces condom use, and ban drug use to protect HIV/AIDS spread and introduce friend to friend education.
Government should provide medicine for HIV/AIDS patients
Economy, corruption and poverty
Export of locally produced items, including handicrafts, meat, fruits, and movies should be promoted so as to encourage economic growth, create jobs, preserve Cambodian heritage, and promote Cambodian culture. The government should know what is in demand in other countries so that Cambodia may supply those products.
Foreign investment in Cambodia should be encouraged so as to create more job opportunities and improve living conditions.
Corruption must be eliminated. Anti-corruption law must be adopted and push for good law enforcement. Heavy penalty must be put in the law.
Donors must tightly monitor the of their funds in Cambodia in order ensure they are being used in targeted, effective manner.
The government must improve and develop all sectors including tourism sector and build strong relationship with international community.
Agriculture needs to be increased and diversified. Chemical fertilizer and pesticide use should be reduced. Irrigation systems should be in place.
The government should provide credits to citizens.
Innovation should be encouraged through the strengthening of intellectual property rights law and enforcement; and through monetary and other support to innovators.
Cambodian culture and cultural heritage
Promotion of Cambodia’s cultural heritage is important for national pride and also for tourism. Cultural heritage, e.g. ancient temples, needs to be restored and preserved and Cambodians should study, value and promote their culture, civilization and traditions.
Smuggling of national antiquities needs to be eliminated and stolen artifacts must be returned.
Illegal immigration causing population growth, lack of education, housing and jobs. Also having a negative impact on local traditions and customs. Border security needs to be tightened and corruption at the borders needs to be eliminated. Illegal immigrants should be deported but their rights must not be violated. Immigrants should be welcomed and treated with respect as long as they are willing to abide by Cambodian laws.
More people should be encouraged to live along the borders, and should be provided with schools, hospitals, irrigation and roads.
Foreign invasion and encroachment must be prevented. There must be justice served for stealing of Cambodian land by neighboring countries. The UN should find a fair and final solution to the border disputes.
Illegal arms must be stopped from entering the country through tighter border security.
Illegal drug use must be stamped out from the roots- the police and relevant ministries must arrest producers, dealers and users. Other sources of drugs also need to be addressed, such as brothels, gangs, neighboring countries. Drug abusers should be given help in quitting, and should be given jobs so that they can help their families and themselves (it may have been poverty or mental illness that made them start taking drugs). There should be greater public awareness of the consequences of drug abuse, and youth should also counsel their peers. Community must be involved in helping reduce drug abuse; and a center must be built for treatment of drug addicted people. Youth must say “NO” to drugs and take self-responsibility.
Traffic laws need to be stricter and disseminated broadly to the public through any means for example, radio, TV, workshops, community events and puting traffic in school curriculum.
Theft needs to be stopped through tighter security. There must also be no bribe-taking and no favoritism. Stolen and smuggled goods must be boycotted. With elimination of gambling, illegal drugs and with creation of jobs, there will be fewer robberies.
Gambling must be banned as it results in theft and violence, and undermines solidarity amongst Cambodians. Gambling also causes neighboring countries to look down upon Cambodia.
Weapons must outlawed, and those civil servants that must carry guns should do so only within working hours. This ban must be strictly enforced, e.g. through checkpoints to check for weapons.
Youth and community development; youth and family
Youth must study hard in social issues and participate in any relevant community development. NGOs, Government must generate programs for helping youth to work at the community level, for example, in volunteer programs. Youth share their experiences and learn about new issues that happen in the community, such as conserving natural resources and agricultural development.
Youth should understand about family planning, encourage partners to be trustful, and avoid domestic violent.
10 particular issues were identified, after voting, as priorities at each Open Space session. These were as follows:
Open Space for “trash kids"
Open Space for youth in general:
- Eliminating corruption
A strategy for developing Cambodia
Promotion of Cambodian products
Peace in Cambodia- unity amongst Cambodian people; stopping neighboring countries from encroaching into Cambodia
Defining goals for a successful life
Human resource development
Moving forward with trials of the Khmer Rouge
Youth and drugs
Youth and culture promotion
What to do to have a good future after finishing school
Promoting domestic agriculture products
The immigration issue
Youth and education and employment opportunities
Youth and army obligation
The low level of education and rural development.