PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – Despite differing political situations, citizens of Myanmar and Cambodia face many of the same issues and can learn from each other, activists from the two countries told a conference here on Saturday.
Both countries are experiencing growing opposition to social and economic land concessions granted to investors from China and other Asian nations, the activists said at a conference at the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Cambodia office.
The delegation from Myanmar gave a presentation about their hopes for the upcoming elections. They said that a real democracy and civilian-led government can only come from a universal, multi-party election, which the country will hold on November 8.
Despite the upcoming election, the activists still felt the government was going out of its way to restrict certain freedoms and adopt laws that increased their control on civilian activity. They specifically mentioned a new cyber law that they say will make it difficult for young people to openly express their opinions on social media.
One activist, who asked not to be identified by name for fear of reprisal in Myanmar, said people there can be jailed for sending emails critical of the “evil government.”
They said Cambodia interested them because the opposition was able to gain ground through the ballot box in the 2013.
This is a good example for Myanmar, they said, adding that they were especially interested in how activists managed to get so many young people involved in campaigns.
Cambodian activists said it was not hard to get young people involved because so much is at stake here for the generation coming of age, particularly for environmental and economic issues.
They spoke about their fight against the hydropower dam in Areng Valley and protests against economic and social land concessions.
“In the 2013 election, there was a big change in Cambodian politics in which the opposition could get enough votes, so much so that at one point the opposition even claimed to have won,” one Cambodian activist said.
Other Cambodian activists questioned whether the country has progressed since the 2013. “While some acknowledge that Cambodia is doing better, it may just actually be theater,” one said.