The International Republican Institute is formally a non-partisan organization funded by the U.S. government. However, it is generally perceived as leaning towards the Republican Party due to its more conservative outlook. Be that as it may, it conducts important surveys in countries that don’t have the means and knowhow to do those themselves. The results (should) constitute guidelines to governments on what the people of their country think and what the government’s charted course should be for the immediate future.
The survey for Cambodia was released this week and contains valuable information that the political parties and many a pundit should take to heart. It would appear that the findings support the governing party in general and that the opposition parties are bypassing the people’s concerns, at least lately.
Like in any other country Cambodia’s population is more concerned with bread and butter issues and important domestic issues like education and health care rather than with international conflicts, like the border issues, which of late have become the sole focus of Cambodia’s foreign policy. The government concentrates on the Western border and Thai incursions into Cambodian territory and Thailand’s unfounded claim to Preah Vihear. The main opposition party on the other hand focuses on the Eastern border with Vietnam and that country’s perceived encroachment into Cambodian territory.
Although the population as a whole stands by the government’s firm stance towards Thailand, the border issue with Vietnam does not seem to gain much traction among the people. The latter may be a thorny issue, which is more likely than not very difficult to resolve in the face of the close relationship between the two countries. Additionally, the government can ill afford to have opponents, possibly even enemies, on both sides – in the West and in the East. Any political security adviser worth his/her salt would be foolish to advocate such a policy. Therefore, at this point in time, with tensions with Thailand running very high, it surely makes sense to put the Eastern issue on the back burner. Unfortunately, this concept seems to be completely lost on the main opposition party.
Therefore, it comes as no surprise that 80% of the people said the country is heading in the right direction. 51% are tired of the party leaders’ squabble and focus on their own personalities instead of on the pressing problems facing the country.
Even 40% (45% in the cities and 38% in rural areas) believe they will be richer one year from now. Seeing as that 70% comprise the rural population who are generally poorer than the city folks a certain optimism also permeates that segment of the population.
But the overriding concerns are that they want better health care, a better educational system, jobs, lower food prices, building roads and schools. However, just as high up there, in the high 80ies, is their wish for less corruption. This is naturally also no surprise as they are confronted with that aspect of Cambodian life on a daily basis.
The whole survey can be found here - http://www.iri.org/countries-and-programs/asia/cambodia
Since the survey seems to support the government’s contention that it is doing a good job the main opposition party took exception to the finding that 89% believe the country is moving in the right direction. They contend that people were simply too afraid to state their true opinion. With the 89% figure that interpretation is hardly convincing. It again goes to show that they just don’t seem to have a clue of how to play the role of a true opposition – certainly not by only lambasting the government at every turn. They know what the people want to hear and their political parties to do. Rather than being doubtful about the veracity of a survey by an admittedly neutral organization, they should finally formulate viable solutions and alternatives to the problems the people want addressed.