Before the conference I had very little Idea of what development in Cambodia looks like. I took two main ideas from the conference. The first is that in order to attract international investors it is often the case that the Cambodian government will mistreat their people. This is seen in cases were citizens are evicted from their land and given inadequate compensation to make way for international businesses. This practice is largely to the governments advantage, international businesses are one of the governments few sources of income. Until this past year no property tax existed in Cambodia, to my understanding there is still no income or sales tax. Monetarily, it is highly advantageous to the government to give preferential treatment to international corporations rather than its citizens.
This leads to the question of why another party is not elected. Today a few of us were able to talk to some students about this issue in a small group discussion. They told us that although the country is officially a democracy it does not always function as one. Criticism of the government can lead to stiff consequences. Newspapers will not print critical articles or letters, the government controls the television and the radio other than a few illegal broadcasts aired by the opposition. The students told us that the Khmer Rouge is still fresh in the minds of the people, so even though they know of the abuse of power they continue to vote for the ruling party (CPP) because they are afraid of a power struggle that would break out if elections did not go as the rulers wished.
I am reluctant to say that I have a solution to these problems. I believe that the government needs to find reliable incomes other than relying solely on foreign investors, this probably means new taxes on the people. As far as the abuse of power goes, a peaceful revolution could be aided by national and international awareness of the issue. I believe international government trade sanctions would highly encourage the government to clean up its act. I don’t pretend to know what this would look like. After all I’ve been in the country less than two weeks.