Category Archives: Commentary
BuddeCom, a telecommunications research website, has estimated that this year, Cambodia has 8.4 million mobile subscribers.
With the rise in modern technology, and especially the introduction of the “smart” phone, mobile phones can be used for many purposes. People use their phones to take pictures, capture video, record sound, play music, listen to the radio, watch television and, perhaps most pervasively, surf the internet.
Cambodia now has nine mobile operators, up from a mere three in 2006. These companies are competing constantly to provide the best calling rates and lowest mobile internet charges.
Those charges can be based either on data transferred or based on a package deal. The former usually cost about one cent per 100kb; the latter are usually around $3 a month.
These rates are not too expensive, especially compared with rates in neighbouring countries such as Malaysia.
Thanks to these reasonable rates, mobile-phone manufacturers have recently churned out a number of internet-capable phones at affordable prices around $30.
Some phone manufacturers co-operate with mobile operators by allowing users to surf the web free of charge within a given period of time.
All this means that today, there are more Cambodians, especially young people, using mobile phones than ever before.
In the past, people needed to take their laptops and USB internet modems with them whenever they wanted to access the internet. Now, simply having a mobile phone is good enough, even for editing and emailing documents. This is a good sign: it allows people to be more productive, even when they are on holiday or outside their office. Social networking sites have also grown in prominence now that your average phone can access the internet.
This has helped transform traditional methods of communication, with Facebook messages and/or text messages replacing letters and even email.
Nevertheless, technology works well only when used as intended. If not, it can lead to problems that are difficult to control.
In local newspapers across the country, stories are telling how students used their mobile phones to cheat during the recent national high-school exams.In a story titled “Ministry admits some exam proctors were bribed”, published in the Cambodia Daily newspaper on July 27, May Sopheaktra, a member of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association, was quoted as saying: “Mobile [phones] are popular in exam centres this year. They’re used to make calls and get answers through the internet.
Students call friends to pass on the exam question, then call back during an exam break to get the answer.”
On the one hand, this is nothing new. An article published by AFP on August 18, 2010 detailed how Cambodian students used their mobile phones to call for answers during an exam.
What’s new this year is that students are using their internet connections to acquire answers. This is only a suggestion, but I think stricter rules should be placed on mobile-phone use during next year’s national school examinations. Students should not be able to bring their mobile phones into the testing centres.
As chatting via mobile internet becomes more popular among young Cambodians, we need to make sure we are using the technology responsibly, or it may have drastic effects on our academic, professional and personal lives.
In some cases, reports have surfaced of students simply stepping out of the classroom to talk on their mobile phones if the subject being taught doesn’t interest them.
For people who lack time-management skills, using a mobile phone can prevent them completing any of the tasks they set themselves.
In conclusion, people should be using mobile-phone technology in a way that brings them success in life, rather than simply for pleasure.19/08/2011 By: Dara Saoyuth This article was published on LIFT, Issue 84 published on August 17, 2011
I like to see them wearing short skirts, but I wouldn’t want my sister or my girlfriends to do it
Clothing is used not only to stay warm and preserve privacy but can also be an expression of personal identity and national culture. For example, traditional Cambodian fashion choices helped define our culture of modesty: small shorts, short skirts, and revealing tops used not to be very common.
But changes have begun taking place in recent years, especially among urban dwellers who began sporting more Western clothing styles. Even more recently, Cambodians have adopted styles from Korea and Hong Kong.
It’s now common to see young Cambodians wearing revealing clothes almost anywhere. Take a drive around the city, and you will see teens, some younger than 18, wearing very short, revealing skirts as if they couldn’t care less.
Even when going to school, some students would rather wear stylish shorts and skirts than obey formal Khmer student dress codes. Wearing these types of clothes can be thrilling and attention-getting, but can have negative consequences as well.
Female students wearing short skirts can distract male students, and even teachers, from doing their job, thus lowering the quality of education.
In an interview with the German press agency DPA, an English literature student said he had noticed many of his female classmates were wearing short skirts.
“We always turn back to see them,” he said. “I like to see them wearing short skirts, but I wouldn’t want my sister or my girlfriends to do it”.
On March 29, 2010, the Phnom Penh Post reported on a rally of more than 100 people who came out to urge Khmer women to dress more modestly. San Arun, secretary of state for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, told the Post that: “Wearing short skirts and sexy clothes causes rape to occur, because all men, when they see white skin, immediately feel like having sex.”
Other voices would strongly disagree. Sim Socheata sent a letter to the Phnom Penh Post’s editor saying: “We are witnessing that women and girls are being blamed for being raped and sexually harassed for the kind of places they decide to go, the kind of dresses they decide to wear and the length of those dresses.
“Instead of calling for women to stop wearing short skirts, the Khmer Teachers Association could have marched against male perpetrators who rape women and girls, men who commit violence in the famil and male teachers who sexually harass their students.”
Still, there are other problems. It may sound funny, but wearing sexy clothing can cause traffic accidents. If they have the power to distract students in class, it is also highly possible that miniskirtwearing women could distract the attention of drivers on the road.
Besides these effects on other people, female students may elicit poor opinions of themselves by wearing lascivious garments.
In Bill Thourlby’s You Are What You Wear – The Key to Business Success, the author claims that when you walk into a room, even if no one there knows you, they will make 10 assumptions about you based solely on your appearance.
They may make many others, but you can be assured they will form conclusions about your economic level, your educational background, your trustworthiness, your level of sophistication, your economic heritage, your social heritage, your educational heritage, your success and your moral character.
So, wearing clothing that fits properly with your situation is very important because, as they say, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.
For better or worse, people will determine who you are by the clothing and styles you choose. So if you’re a student, don’t dress like someone working in another career.
Media can be a powerful tool for promoting culture, but it can also be harmful because people, especially teenagers, will follow what they see projected in the media.
In 2000, Prime Minister Hun Sen banned pop stars in Cambodia from sporting short, sexy skirts when they appeared on television.
Quoted by Agence-France Presse (AFP), Hun Sen said: “These singers who like to wear sexy clothes look like they have not enough clothing. Don’t bring them on to TV, let them sing in nightclubs or restaurants. This is not Cambodian tradition, and we have our own rich traditions and culture.”
And even if lascivious performances have stopped on television, sexy photos of some stars still appear in local magazines.
Recently, Cambodians have become more active on the internet, including social networking sites such as Facebook. I’ve seen many teens upload sexy and scandalous pictures onto the internet.
To conclude, all I’d like to say is that only you can choose who you are going to be, and what you want others to think of you.19/08/2011 By: Dara Saoyuth This article was published on LIFT, Issue 82 published on August 03, 2011
- Constructive Cambodian: Cambodian local investment (saoyuth.wordpress.com)
- Libraries a brilliant learning resource (saoyuth.wordpress.com)
When you enter a store in Cambodia, how do you decide between local and foreign products? Foreigners might choose products from their countries, but, surprisingly, most Cambodians also decide to choose foreign products.
Many reasons contribute to this situation, but the major one is Cambodians’ perception of local products.
Volume two of Cambodian Commodity Chain Analysis Study, a publication by COSECAM and Plan Cambodia, suggests that negative perceptions by consumers that Cambodian products are of poor quality relative to imported products from Thailand and Vietnam is one of the barriers to the industry growth.
According to an article published in January, 2010 on the website of Louie-Thomas, a Vietnamese/European family-run company that focuses on making boutique products, the overall worth of Vietnamese products consumed in Cambodia is US$988 million.
Vietnam’s major exports to Cambodia include instant noodles, plastic products, tobacco, confectionery, seed corn, household products and vegetables.
The 71-page-publication of COSECAM and Plan Cambodia mentioned above also said that while the perception that Cambodian goods are of lesser quality is often accurate, some products are still successfully competing well against imports due to the fact that at the local level, they are better able to meet consumer taste requirements and have a competitive advantage.
If the above statement is true that local products better meet local consumer tastes, you might ask why many people still do not use local products.
But if you pause a bit and think about the prices of the products, you will see that some of the same kinds of products have different prices between the imported and local versions, and usually the imported products have low prices because production costs in Cambodia are a bit higher.
With reportedly 30 percent of the population living on less than two dollars a day, I’m sure that Cambodians will select the cheaper one available.
Another reason causing Cambodian products to not get support from local consumers is weaknesses in marketing.
Since Cambodian advertising and marketing industries have just emerged, the concept of promoting products is not very developed, unlike in other countries. Watching advertising spots of local products and foreign products, and you’ll see the difference. Some local companies don’t even have enough money to produce spots and advertise through media for a long period compared to foreign products. As a result, some local products remain unknown in the heart of Cambodians.
Some negative aspects might arise if Cambodians continue to not support their local products. First of all, the local company might face bankruptcy because of lack of support. Also, we will spend a lot of money on other countries’ products while only a little for local ones. As a consequence, Cambodia will have no local strong brand to compete for the regional, as well as the international, audience and that will affect imports and exports as well.
For example, according to the US Department of State website, in 2009, the amount we received from exporting goods was only $3.9 billion, while the money we spent on imports was $5.4 billion.
One more thing is that the current situation might discourage graduated students from investing in industrial business because they realise that no matter how good the quality of the goods is, it’s still hard to convince Cambodians to use their local products. As a result, a lot of human resources end up working as staffers for foreign-brand companies in Cambodia because they think it’s more stable than opening a business on their own.
Nowadays, young people tend to start running businesses, but mostly businesses related to services, such as opening a hotel, a restaurant or an internet café rather than opening a business to produce local products.
However, there are some positive signs that some institutions are working to promote local products.
In 2009, for example, the PRASAC micro-finance institution sponsored a campaign to buy Cambodian products, and the website khmerproducts.com has been created to promote Khmer products. The Cambodian government has tried to promote Khmer products by establishing the One Village One Product (OVOP) National Committee.
As stated on the committee’s website, OVOP is a concept to make products of high quality.
So, if Cambodians begin using local products, and institutions work together to promote Khmer products – for example, by creating more frequent local product exhibitions – producers will try to improve their quality, the economics will improve and the young generation will have more jobs and more chances to use their skills.15/06/2011 By: Dara Saoyuth This article was published on LIFT, Issue 75 published on June 14, 2011
A few weeks ago, our constructive Cambodian wrote about the importance of travel for a person understanding of the world and themselves. In this week’s column Dara Saoyuth raises his concerns about the costliness of obtaining a passport in Cambodia and the opportunities and experiences that are being prevented by it
It is not just a small book with some letters, stamps, and signatures in it, a passport is the official document that identifies you as a citizen of a particular country and, more importantly, allows you to enjoy the benefits and excitements of international travel. In sort, you can’t leave your country without it.
People don’t just need it to travel, every day people must leave their countries to work abroad, pursue their studies, join meetings, conduct business, seek medical treatment and so on.
There are three types of passports: standard, official, and diplomatic. Official passports are reserved for government employees and diplomatic passport is for those people working in diplomatic capacity for a country. So most people will be seeking a standard passport.
In order to travel, most places require that you have 6 months validity remaining on your passport. In Cambodia a passport is issued with three years of validity and the option of extending twice for two years each time, so seven years in all.
Despite the importance of travel for so many people within a modern country, very few Cambodians have ever acquired a passport. It is simply too expensive, and most people don’t even consider it. I must admit that even as a student in Phnom Penh from a more-or-less middle class family, I never considered getting a passport tin my hand until I received a scholarship earlier this year to study abroad in Malaysia. I didn’t even consider at first that I would need a passport to leave the country.
However, with the experience of procuring a passport now under my belt, I can say with certainty that obtaining a passport as a Cambodian citizen in a prohibitively expensive, time consuming and laborious process.
The first step is a trip to passport department to fill out the passport application form and give them a number of important documents that prove your Cambodian nationality, including your family record book, your birth certificate, and your identity card. When I got to the passport office, which was about the same size as a normal house, I was shocked to see about 100 people packed inside.
When I went to the ministry we site to get details on how to navigate the passport process, I found nothing, so I went to a travel agent who proved a much more valuable resource. Eventually I got in touch with an official from the passport agency, who was also helpful.
One thing I learned through these two conversations was that the price of a passport and the waiting time seems to vary depending on who you are and who you ask.
The person from travel agency told me that there are three types of passport pricing: if you pay $136, you have to wait around 50 to 60 days to get your passport, pay $180 and you can get it within three weeks. If you are really in a rush to get going, you can pay $219 to get it within a week.
However, the person from the passport department told me that it would cost $135 if I waited for 60 days, $220 within a week. Not a huge difference, admittedly, but enough to show a lack of standardisation (also, you would think the slight price hike would be at the travel agency, not the government office).
Considering the financial state of your average Cambodian, more than $100 is enough to keep people from considering a passport, and more than $200 is out of reach of just about anybody who is wealthy.
If we look at our neighbouring countries such as Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos, we can see the price is dramatically different. According to a Cambodia Country Study published in 2009 by the Cambodia Development Resource Institute (CDRI), the passport fee is only $12 in Vietnam, $30 in Thailand and $35 in Laos.
Every year there are a lot of people who go outside the country to work as migrant workers to get money to support their families in Cambodia, and it was recognised by civil service organisation, and eventually the government that the high price of passports was preventing these workers, often some of the poorest people in Cambodia, to illegally exit the country, leaving themselves vulnerable to abuse and legal problems.
According to the previously mentioned report by CDRI, the Kingdom’s Prime Minister ordered the Ministry of Interior to make passports free, or as cheap as possible, for migrant workers. The cost dropped to around $45 for migrants who are patient enough to go through the formal process.
The report recommended that “the total fee should be $50 for migrant workers and other citizens ($40 official fee and $10 unofficial fee, assuming that it is impractical to eliminate unofficial fees)”.
One more point I’d like to point out is that the passport process in Cambodia is painfully slow, even compared to other countries. In Cambodia, the best you can hope for, without paying an arm and a leg, is three weeks to get your passport made, while in Thailand and Vietnam it is issued in three to five working days.
Arrived at the place, I was surprised to see more than a hundred of people packed together into a building which is the same size as a normal house. My decision to hire the services of travel agent proved fruitful as I was ushered through the crown and emerged having submitted my application within 15 minutes.
So, until the passport office gets its act together, go through a travel agent. Otherwise, you may be waiting a while.By: Dara Saoyuth This article was publish on LIFT, Issue 70 published on May 11, 2011
Road blocks aren’t just an annoyance, they are also standing in the way of developing a safer and more modern city.
The traffic in Phnom Penh city is getting heavier every day because of the growth in the population and the fact that more people now own vehicles. Traffic jams usually happen when people leave their houses for their workplace in the morning and when they return home in the evening.
You might be late for class or work and fail to withstand the stress of getting stuck on the road. Even emergency vehicles like ambulances and fire trucks, when every second counts, are sometimes caught in bad traffic because people cannot move aside easily to free up some space for these vehicles. Imagine if a seriously injured person was in an ambulance waiting to get to hospital or people were waiting for the fire brigade to help them put out a fire. There are a lot of factors that contribute to traffic congestion.
One thing that is usually unreported is roads being blocked when there is a celebration like a wedding. Sometimes they block only half the road and leave some spaces for vehicles, but there are also times when they block the whole road. Even though it’s not a main road, every road is linked. For example, when there are a lot of vehicles on a main road, people can turn off and use a smaller road, but what happen if these roads are blocked for a party? I have seen two wedding parties being celebrated on the opposite sides of a road which was completely blocked. People get struck in a traffic jam because they cannot turn to right or left.
Wedding ceremonies usually take place in front of the bride’s house. They turn the road into a dinning and cooking area. In the countryside where it is not so crowded and there are not so many vehicles this is not a problem.
Nowadays city people not only ask permission to celebrate a party, but they also ask permission to block the road. I think this should be reconsidered in a city where millions of people are living and the numbers of vehicles keep increasing. I think if people want to throw a party and there is no free space inside their house, they should consider celebrating at a restaurant or rent a building.
Putting small business of parking vehicles on the footpaths also contributes to congestion in the city. According to the law on land traffic adopted by the National Assembly on December 20, 2006, Article 5 of the law states that “sidewalks are not allowed for vehicles to park.”
However, the sidewalks are still being used as parking places when customers want to go in and buy goods from stores along a road. So far there has been some action taken by Phnom Penh police against people doing business on the sidewalks, but it has not been very effective.
In an article published on The Phnom Penh Post on January 14, 2010, police fanned out across Phsar Kandal I commune to inform shopkeepers and street venders that they could no longer block the area’s pavements and roadways with their displays, and threatened to confiscate the goods of offending merchants.
In an interview Hem Him, Phsar Kandal I commune’s chief of police, said “the commune’s new policy on sidewalks and road use is part of the Phnom Penh municipality’s plan to widen the city’s streets and avoid the congestion caused by venders using streets as their own land”.
In addition, some people who usually travel with their carts selling goods along the roads just park when they find customers and they also make the traffic worse.
There is also the issue of people using their mobile phones while driving. For motorcycle riders, they sometimes place the phone next to their ear inside their helmet so they can hide from traffic wardens, while car owners usually drive with one hand on the wheel and a phone in the other hand. Even though their activities can sometimes be hidden from the traffic police, they cause trouble to other people.
When people focus on talking on their phone, they drive their vehicles carelessly, sometimes fast and sometimes slow. This not only can cause traffic jams, but can also cause accidents and as a result, some innocent people might be injured by them.
As noted by government, NGOs and other relevant agencies, casualties from road accidents are now the second leading cause of death in Cambodia. Among the leading causes of traffic accidents, the first is human error followed by bad roads, vehicle defects and weather conditions.
Some factors mentioned above are manmade, meaning that the authorities and citizens can help eliminate these things, so why we don’t try together to improve the traffic in the city we live in.By: Dara Saoyuth This article was publish on LIFT, Issue 62 published on March 16, 2011
“It’s irritating when I tried calling my friend several times but I couldn’t get through.”
With modern technology, your phone can function as a radio, music player, calculator, word processor, etc. at the same time. However, I don’t think it has changed its’ main function, verbal communicating.
According to figure from the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, there are 7,115,246 mobile sets and 108,882 desk phone set in use in Cambodia by March 2010 with 9 mobile operators including MobiTel, Mfone, Hello, Star Cell, qb, Excell, Metfone, Smart Mobile, and Beeline.
I have to say that some of the above mobile operators are doing quite well with their service though they charge a bit higher and don’t have plenty of promotions as the others.
To me, personally, I prefer using a better service company to a mobile operator that always has promotions but its’ service is not good.
This week, I bought a new sim from one mobile operator because this company gives a lot of promotion to its customer; however, I suffers from its service because when I call to my friend at night, I cannot get through though I have tried dialing more than 30 times.
You all can imagine if you were in trouble, saw a crime or traffic accident, and you want to call for help, but after trying more than 10 minutes, you cannot get through anyone because of your mobile operator.
I think you have to reconsider this trade-off between good promotion and good service before you decide to select your mobile number.By: Dara Saoyuth 24/02/2011
- Anonymous SMS (saoyuth.wordpress.com)
It’s 5:30 in the afternoon of Thursday, February 17, and hundreds of people are milling around on street 178, looking in a building as if they are waiting for something to happen.
It is neither a coup nor a protest – the people are there for the opening ceremony of the largest exhibition ever which organized by the Royal University of Fine Arts.
The program hasn’t started yet, so public are not allowed to go inside the university exhibition hall except the Cambodian Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Him Chhem, some journalists, and some dignitaries.
An event organizer recognized me in the crowd outside the building and invited to enter with some other journalists.
The building that is mostly empty and silent is now filled with 198 pieces of artworks in various forms including paintings, drawings, sculptures, bronze-castings, photography, and interior design projects produced by graduate and undergraduate students at RUFA.
The students talent exhibition of Faculty of Fine Arts is the first student graduate student show since the 1960s and its main goal is to give the students the opportunity to present their creative works to a broader audience.
I start walking from one end to the other end of the room, entering every room along the corridor since there are artworks everywhere, even on the walls along the passage. Even though I don’t have much knowledge about art, I have a look at every single piece of art because they are so beautiful.
About 30 minutes later, the formal ceremony starts when the Minister of Culture cuts the symbolic ribbon following a speech by the university’s rector and some remarks by the minister.
The program lasted for about half an hour, but it was hard for me to pay attention to the speeches because the hall was so stuffy. There was also some noise from outside as people there kept talking loudly.
In his remarks, the Minister of Culture said he appreciated the students’ efforts producing these works of art and this exhibition shared the national policy under the slogan “Cambodia, Kingdom of Culture”.
As soon as the speeches ended, people standing outside start squeezing into the building. It was a mix of Cambodians and foreigners. I felt packed into the building and it was getting stuffy since there was no air-conditioning, only some ceiling fans.
I began to feel hungry and wanted to leave the hall, but when I saw more people were coming in, I decided to stay there to see how the audience reacted to the artworks. I was standing against the wall, observing all the activities and surprisingly a young lady, with a snack and drink on a large plat, come to offer me some. I realized that she was a volunteer at the event, so she had to make sure the audience had something to eat and drink. Everyone in the room also enjoyed eating and drinking with their eyes still focused on the students’ achievements.
Seng Vesal, 23, is a senior student majoring in painting at RUFA and had 12 pieces exhibited in the event. Seng Visal said he was very happy since it was the first time he had his work exhibited. “Students will try to compete against each other to make their work available to show to the public,” said Seng Visal.
If you haven’t seen the exhibition, don’t be worry because it will be on display permanently.
#2, Street 178, Khan Daun Penh, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
(Behind National Museum)
For me, it’s not the first time to get a kind of sms like this, mostly from anonymous people. I usually get these sms before any big occasions such as Valentine day, Christmas Day, and New Year Day.
I’m wondering if this message was first sent by mobile phone operator and then by people who got it and afraid they will get bad luck if not forwarding it to another people.
I’m sure that not only me that feel annoyed and irritated to recieve this kind of sms, so I hope that it won’t happen again to us.By: Dara Saoyuth 26/01/2011
Roman Polanski, a French and Polish citizenship and also a famous film director, was arrested on September 2009 in Switzerland because of the U.S warrant. He was arrested by Swizz police and now the Swizz authority is thinking whether they should deport him to the United State, where he made a sexual assault on a thirteen years old girl in the past 32 years.
I don’t agree that the Switzerland authority should deport Polanski to the United State for facing a formal sentence there.
This sexual-crime case happened in 1977, and Mr. Polanski has made a lot of visits to Switzerland since then, and he also has a house there. The Switzerland authority can arrest him and deport him while he was in his house there, but why not. This Swiss police should not arrest him now because this case happened for a long time ago.
Samantha Geimer, a victim in the case, has publicly identified herself and expressed forgiveness of Mr. Polanski. Geimer sued Polanski in 1988 by alleging on sexual assault, and in 1993 Polanski agreed to pay her at least $500,000 as part of a civil settlement. Geimer and her lawyers confirmed the settlement was complete since that time.
Mr. Polanski, the Oscar-winning movie director, has wide popularity from people especially in the entertainment industry. Arrested him and deport to the U.S will not satisfied entertainment workers. Ronal Harwood, who won an Oscar as screenwriter of “The Pianist,” said: “It’s really disgraceful. Both the American and the Swiss have miscalculated.” Mr. Jack Lang, a former French culture minister, said: “Sometime, the American justice system shows an excess of formalism.”
The Swiss authorities announced on December 4, 2009 that Polanski had been moved to his home in the resort of Gstaad, Switzerland, and he has been placed under house arrest. I think it’s a good thing that the Swiss authorities don’t extradite him to the U.S, but still I don’t want him to be arrested even under house arrest. He should be freed, and his freedom is in the hands of judges in these two countries.
Written by: Dara Saoyuth
Written Date: 14/12/2009