PHNOM PENH —
Anti-graft group Transparency International (TI) is launching a project to encourage young people to combat corruption in Cambodia.
The Southeast Asian country consistently places towards the bottom of global anti-corruption rankings, numbering 150 out of 168 countries in the Berlin-based NGO's 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index.
More than 60 high school and university students took part in the June 30 workshop to launch the project, which aimed to help participants identify corruption and challenge officials on the issue.
Khon Sonita, 21, a University of Cambodia student studying international relations, said “I think this workshop offers me a great chance to meet my fellow [Transparency International] youth leaders, and from there we can... plan things we can do next, because we learn what is integrity, transparency and proposal writing.”
In April, Prime Minister Hun Sen warned civil servants they would be prosecuted if they gave the government a bad name. His comments followed a series of high-profile arrests of government officials, including the country’s ambassador to South Korea.
‘I had no idea’
Venerable Yean Piseth, 27, who studies management at Preah Sihanouk Raja Buddhist University, said he had learned a lot from the workshop.
“I had no idea what kind of situations or shape or form corruption takes," he said. "However, after coming to this workshop, I have learned more about how to report and how to spot corruption. I know what is integrity, transparency. This seminar taught me a lot.”
Similar workshops have been held for government officials since 2013.
Pech Pisey, TI’s director of programs, said the organization has trained an estimated 20,000 young people across the Southeast Asian country since 2013.
“We conduct workshops to let them exchange ideas on addressing social issues, and to plan more for the next three years.”
Tim Malay, president of the Cambodian Youth Network, an NGO which educates young people on advocacy, good governance, the environment and human rights, said that if more young people stood up to corruption, things would gradually change for the better.
“If some youths, or any youth in Cambodia, start to take a look at injustices in their community, that community will be improved," he said. "At the same time, the young people will have justice for themselves, and the social problems will be heard and paid attention to.”
This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Khmer Service.