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Cambodia Has Changed, And Not For The Better.


Modified: January 3, 2024

by Pegeen Rey



Cambodia, once known for its rich history, cultural heritage, and natural beauty, has undergone significant changes in recent years. Unfortunately, not all of these changes have been for the better. The country has faced numerous challenges in its political, social, and economic spheres, leading to a decline in various aspects of society.


In this article, we will explore the current state of Cambodia and highlight the issues that have contributed to its downward trajectory. From political instability and human rights violations to rampant corruption and environmental degradation, the country is grappling with a myriad of problems that affect its people at every level.


It is important to note that Cambodia’s decline is not solely the result of one factor but rather a combination of various interconnected issues. By shedding light on these challenges, we hope to raise awareness and encourage dialogue surrounding the need for change and improvement in Cambodia.


It is crucial to acknowledge that despite these setbacks, Cambodia still possesses incredible potential and resilience. With the right reforms and a collective effort from its citizens and leaders, the country can overcome these obstacles and steer towards a brighter future.


Political Landscape

The political landscape in Cambodia has experienced significant turmoil and instability in recent years, leading to a deterioration of democratic processes and institutions. The ruling party, the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), has maintained a tight grip on power, resulting in limited political freedom and a lack of checks and balances.


Opposition parties have faced various challenges, including restrictions on their activities, arbitrary arrests, and a crackdown on freedom of speech. In the lead-up to the 2018 general elections, the main opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), was dissolved, effectively eliminating any credible opposition to the ruling party.


Furthermore, media outlets critical of the government have been targeted, leading to self-censorship and a shrinking space for independent journalism. This erosion of political freedoms has had a detrimental impact on the democratic fabric of the country.


Another concerning aspect of Cambodia’s political landscape is the lack of accountability and transparency. Corruption and nepotism have become prevalent, with influential individuals using their power for personal gain. This has resulted in a growing distrust of the government and a sense of disillusionment among the population.


The consequences of these political challenges have been far-reaching. Foreign investors may be deterred by the uncertain business environment, hindering economic growth and development. The erosion of democratic values also undermines the voice and representation of the Cambodian people, leading to a sense of powerlessness and disenfranchisement.


Efforts to address these issues and foster a more inclusive and democratic political landscape are crucial for Cambodia’s future. It requires the commitment and engagement of all stakeholders to ensure that the country’s governance system is transparent, accountable, and responsive to the needs of its citizens.


Human Rights Violations

Cambodia has been plagued by significant human rights violations, raising concerns among international observers and human rights organizations. Instances of political repression, arbitrary arrests, and restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly have become alarmingly common.


The government has targeted journalists, activists, and opposition members, resulting in a climate of fear and intimidation. Dissenting voices are systematically silenced, depriving the population of the right to express their opinions and participate in public discourse.


Furthermore, the treatment of marginalized groups, such as ethnic minorities and the LGBTQ+ community, has been a cause for concern. Discrimination, stigmatization, and violence against these communities persist, denying them the rights and protections they deserve.


The justice system in Cambodia has also been subject to criticism, with reports of corruption, bribery, and a lack of independence. This undermines the rule of law and erodes trust in the judicial system, making it difficult for individuals to seek justice and accountability for human rights abuses.


One of the most egregious violations of human rights in recent years was the forced eviction of communities living in areas earmarked for development projects. Thousands of families were forcibly removed from their homes without adequate compensation or suitable alternative housing, leaving them vulnerable and without access to basic amenities.


Addressing human rights violations and ensuring the protection of fundamental freedoms requires a comprehensive approach. It necessitates the establishment of an independent judiciary, the promotion of freedom of expression and assembly, and the creation of mechanisms to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions. Only by upholding human rights can Cambodia foster a just and inclusive society.


Corruption and Nepotism

Corruption and nepotism have become deeply entrenched issues in Cambodia, significantly hampering the country’s progress and development. The misuse of public resources and abuse of power have created a culture of impunity, eroding trust in government institutions and hindering economic growth.


Instances of bribery, embezzlement, and favoritism are widespread, permeating various sectors, including the judiciary, law enforcement, and public administration. This widespread corruption not only leads to the misallocation of resources but also undermines the delivery of public services, affecting the livelihoods and well-being of ordinary Cambodians.


Nepotism, or the practice of favoring family members in appointments and promotions, is another critical issue in Cambodia. This practice breeds a sense of injustice and unfairness, as qualified and deserving individuals are overlooked in favor of those with connections or familial relationships. It not only limits opportunities for merit-based advancement but also perpetuates inequality and hampers social mobility.


The impact of corruption and nepotism is felt in all aspects of society. It hinders investment and economic growth as businesses face barriers and unequal competition. The lack of transparency and accountability discourages foreign investors and undermines the country’s potential for sustainable development.


Furthermore, corruption and nepotism exacerbate inequality, as resources and opportunities are concentrated in the hands of an elite few. It widens the gap between the rich and the poor, leaving vulnerable communities marginalized and without access to essential services such as education, healthcare, and infrastructure.


Tackling corruption and nepotism requires a multi-faceted approach. Strengthening anti-corruption institutions, enhancing transparency and accountability, and promoting a culture of integrity among public officials are essential steps towards curbing these practices. Additionally, fostering a culture of meritocracy and equal opportunities can help dismantle the prevailing networks of favoritism.


By addressing corruption and nepotism head-on, Cambodia can create a more fair and equitable society, where resources are allocated based on merit and the interests of the population are prioritized over personal gain.


Economic Challenges

Cambodia faces significant economic challenges that hinder its progress and hinder sustainable development. While the country has experienced robust economic growth in recent decades, it is also grappling with issues such as income inequality, limited diversification, and vulnerability to external shocks.


One of the primary concerns is the high level of income inequality. The benefits of economic growth have not been evenly distributed, with a substantial proportion of the population still living in poverty. The rural population, in particular, faces significant challenges in accessing education, healthcare, and basic services.


Furthermore, the reliance on a few key sectors, such as garment manufacturing and tourism, leaves Cambodia vulnerable to external shocks. Any disruption to these industries, such as global economic downturns or natural disasters, can have severe implications for the economy and livelihoods of the population.


Cambodia also faces structural issues that impede its economic development. Limited access to finance, inadequate infrastructure, and a lack of skilled labor pose barriers to investment and hinder the growth of key sectors. Additionally, the bureaucratic hurdles and corruption prevalent in the business environment deter foreign investors and hinder entrepreneurship.


The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated these economic challenges. The tourism sector, a significant contributor to the country’s revenue, has been severely impacted by travel restrictions and lockdowns. Additionally, disruptions in global supply chains have affected the garment industry, leading to job losses and reduced export revenues.


To overcome these economic challenges, Cambodia needs to prioritize diversification and resilience. It must invest in sectors beyond garment manufacturing and tourism, such as agriculture, technology, and renewable energy. This diversification will reduce reliance on vulnerable sectors and contribute to more inclusive and sustainable growth.


Improving infrastructure, including transportation networks and access to reliable electricity, will enhance connectivity and facilitate economic activities across the country. Moreover, investing in education and skills development will create a skilled workforce that can support diverse industries and drive innovation.


Addressing income inequality and ensuring inclusive economic growth must also be a priority. Policies that promote access to quality education, healthcare, and social protection programs can help reduce disparities and improve the well-being of the population.


By tackling these economic challenges head-on, Cambodia can build a resilient and diverse economy that benefits all its citizens and withstands future shocks.


Environmental Degradation

Environmental degradation has become a pressing issue in Cambodia, threatening the country’s natural resources, biodiversity, and the well-being of its people. Rapid urbanization, deforestation, and unsustainable agricultural practices contribute to the degradation of ecosystems and exacerbate the risks of climate change.


One of the most significant environmental challenges Cambodia faces is deforestation. The country’s forests are being cleared at an alarming rate, primarily for agricultural purposes and logging. This destruction of forests not only leads to the loss of vital habitats for wildlife but also disrupts the water cycle, increases soil erosion, and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.


Unregulated mining activities also pose a threat to Cambodia’s environment. Mining operations can result in land degradation, water pollution, and the destruction of ecosystems. Moreover, inadequate regulations and enforcement exacerbate the negative impact on the environment and the health of local communities.


Another critical environmental concern is the degradation of water resources. Pollution from industrial activities, inadequate waste management systems, and unsustainable agricultural practices contribute to water contamination. The deterioration of water quality poses health risks for both human and aquatic life, impacting local communities that rely on these water sources.


Climate change is a global challenge impacting countries around the world, including Cambodia. Rising temperatures, changing rainfall patterns, and increased frequency of extreme weather events pose significant risks to agriculture, food security, and coastal areas. Vulnerable communities, particularly those reliant on agriculture for their livelihoods, are disproportionately affected.


Addressing environmental degradation requires proactive measures and effective policies. Strengthening environmental legislation, promoting sustainable land management practices, and investing in renewable energy can help mitigate the impacts of deforestation and climate change.


Additionally, educating communities about the importance of environmental conservation and involving them in sustainable practices is crucial. Empowering local communities to participate in decision-making processes and providing them with access to alternative livelihood options can help balance economic development with environmental protection.


International cooperation and partnerships are also essential in addressing environmental challenges. Collaboration with neighboring countries to combat transboundary issues such as illegal logging and pollution can yield significant results in safeguarding shared ecosystems.


By adopting a holistic approach that balances economic development with environmental sustainability, Cambodia can protect its natural resources and ensure a healthy and prosperous future for its people.


Decline in Education and Healthcare

Cambodia has witnessed a noticeable decline in the quality and accessibility of education and healthcare services, posing significant challenges to the well-being and development of its population.


In the education sector, inadequate funding, a shortage of qualified teachers, and limited infrastructure have hampered the delivery of quality education. Many schools lack basic resources and suffer from overcrowding, resulting in compromised learning environments.


The decline in education is further exacerbated by high dropout rates, particularly in rural areas where children often face barriers such as poverty, child labor, and gender disparities. The lack of educational opportunities limits the potential for upward mobility and creates a cycle of poverty that is difficult to break.


In the healthcare sector, access to quality healthcare services remains a challenge, particularly in rural and remote areas. There is a shortage of healthcare professionals and a lack of adequately equipped medical facilities. This results in limited access to essential healthcare services, including vaccinations, maternal care, and treatment for common illnesses.


The decline in education and healthcare has severe implications for the overall well-being and development of the population. Limited access to education hampers skill development, limits employment opportunities, and perpetuates socio-economic inequalities.


Similarly, inadequate healthcare services lead to higher mortality rates, increased vulnerability to diseases, and reduced productivity. It not only affects individuals’ physical health but also hinders their ability to participate fully in economic and social activities.


Addressing the decline in education and healthcare requires investment and reform at various levels. Adequate funding should be provided to improve infrastructure, recruit and train qualified teachers and healthcare professionals, and ensure the availability of essential resources.


Educational programs and campaigns should be implemented to raise awareness about the importance of education and the benefits it brings to individuals and communities. Efforts should also be made to reduce barriers to education, including addressing poverty, improving school enrollment and retention rates, and promoting gender equality in education.


In the healthcare sector, expanding access to primary healthcare services, improving the quality of medical facilities, and increasing the number of healthcare professionals in underserved areas are vital steps to ensure equitable healthcare for all Cambodians.


Furthermore, addressing the underlying socio-economic determinants of education and healthcare, such as poverty, gender inequality, and rural-urban disparities, is essential for sustainable progress in these sectors.


By prioritizing education and healthcare and implementing comprehensive reforms, Cambodia can foster a well-educated and healthy population that can contribute to the country’s overall development and prosperity.


Social Unrest and Inequality

Social unrest and inequality are issues that continue to plague Cambodia, posing significant challenges to its social fabric and stability. The country has grappled with deep-rooted social disparities that have led to unrest and discontent among various segments of the population.


One of the key factors contributing to social unrest is income inequality. Cambodia’s rapid economic growth has not been accompanied by equitable distribution of wealth. A significant portion of the population still lives in poverty, while a small elite enjoy the majority of the economic benefits. This stark contrast fuels resentment and frustration among marginalized communities.


Social inequality is further exacerbated by disparities in access to education, healthcare, and basic services. Rural populations, ethnic minorities, and vulnerable groups face significant barriers in accessing quality education and healthcare, perpetuating a cycle of poverty and limited opportunities for upward mobility.


Political repression and restrictions on freedom of expression have also contributed to social unrest. The limited space for dissent and the suppression of opposition voices create an environment where grievances cannot be addressed through peaceful means. This can lead to social tension and dissatisfaction among the population.


Gender inequality is an additional dimension of social unrest in Cambodia. Women continue to face discrimination and limited opportunities for socio-economic advancement. Gender-based violence, including domestic violence and human trafficking, remain significant concerns that impact the well-being and empowerment of women.


Addressing social unrest and inequality requires comprehensive strategies that promote social justice and inclusivity. This requires implementing policies that address income disparities, improve access to quality education and healthcare, and promote equal opportunities for all.


Investing in social protection programs and expanding the availability of social services can help alleviate poverty and reduce inequality. Additionally, efforts should be made to empower marginalized groups, including women, through initiatives that promote equal rights, opportunities, and protection from discrimination and violence.


Promoting dialogue, tolerance, and respect for human rights are essential in addressing social unrest. Creating platforms for open and constructive engagement between the government, civil society organizations, and the public can pave the way for finding solutions to social grievances and fostering a more harmonious society.


By prioritizing social inclusion and striving for equitable development, Cambodia can mitigate social unrest, promote social cohesion, and build a more just and prosperous nation.



Cambodia has experienced significant challenges in recent years, with issues ranging from political instability and human rights violations to corruption, economic challenges, environmental degradation, and social unrest. These challenges have had far-reaching consequences, impacting the well-being and development of the Cambodian people.


While the country has made significant progress in the past, it is essential to address these pressing issues and work towards positive change. Cambodia must prioritize political reforms that promote democracy, transparency, and accountability. Upholding human rights and ensuring justice for all must be a central focus, including safeguarding freedom of expression and promoting inclusivity and equality.


Tackling corruption and nepotism is crucial for creating a fair and level playing field for all citizens and fostering economic growth. Diversifying the economy, investing in infrastructure and education, and promoting entrepreneurship can drive sustainable development and reduce poverty and inequality.


Environmental degradation must be addressed through responsible and sustainable practices that protect Cambodia’s natural resources and mitigate climate change impacts. Investing in education and healthcare systems, ensuring access for all, and promoting social inclusion are vital in building a healthier and more prosperous society.


The challenges facing Cambodia are complex and multifaceted, requiring a comprehensive approach and collaboration between the government, civil society, and international partners. It is crucial to foster an environment of dialogue, open discussion, and inclusivity to address these challenges and work towards a better future for the people of Cambodia.


While the road ahead may be challenging, it is important to recognize the resilience and potential of Cambodia. By acknowledging the issues at hand and taking proactive steps towards positive change, Cambodia can overcome these challenges and embark on a path of sustainable development, prosperity, and social harmony.