New Youth-Oriented Political Party Launches

A former garment worker announced plans on Thursday to launch a political party focused on alleviating the problems faced by Cambodia’s youth, targeting what he says is a lacuna in current policy.

During a press conference at Le Cafe Restaurant in Phnom Penh’s Chamkar Mon district, Pich Sros, 36, told assembled media that a government led by the Cambodian Youth Party (CYP) would first address “national problems” like “Cambodian youths’ standard of living.”

“I decided to create the Cambodian Youth Party to give opportunity to the young people who are patriots,” said Mr. Sros, whose new party is the seventh to be launched this year. “When we get some seats in the National Assembly or if we win and lead the government, we will solve the youths’ problem first.”

Mr. Sros said his party would focus on five different points: improving education and health, promoting youth employment, setting a price ceiling for “agricultural goods” sold domestically, providing temporary welfare for those out of work, and raising the standard of living for the country’s poor.

“For the poor youth that have the intention to continue studying at university, the government led by the Cambodian Youth Party will provide loans without interest,” Mr. Sros said, adding that a potential CYP government would also support those unable to find jobs with three months of $40 unemployment payments.

Asked about his party’s funding, Mr. Sros said the CYP currently relied on donations from party members, but that he was open to outside largesse.

“If any humanitarians want to donate to the budget of my party, they are welcome,” he said.

In a telephone interview following the press conference, Mr. Sros claimed that his party’s supporters currently numbered in the thousands.

“Now we have more than 3,000 people who support our party,” Mr. Sros said, adding that he would submit the CYP’s party application to the Interior Ministry in “about a month.”

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said the CYP’s arrival on the political scene was not a cause for concern for his party.

“The Cambodian People’s Party welcomes all new political parties because the ruling party implements democracy,” Mr. Eysan said.

Likewise, CNRP youth movement president Hing Soksan said that his party was unconcerned by the CYP’s launch—despite the new party targeting one of the opposition’s main blocs of support.

“I think it does not make any problem for my political party, the CNRP,” Mr. Soksan said. “It’s new and Cambodian people [have] no confidence or trust in the new party’s leadership.”

He added that if the CYP truly wanted to win in any upcoming election, it would need to join forces with its more established competitor.

“I would like to take the occasion to appeal to the youth who are the leaders of the new party to join with the CNRP because only CNRP can win the general election,” he said.

However, Ou Virak, a political analyst and founder of the Future Forum think tank, said the CNRP would be mistaken to take the youth vote as a guarantee.

“I think [the CNRP] were basically getting the support from the youth with very little effort, with hardly any policies, so now they are actually going to have to deal with youth unemployment or many of the youth issues,” Mr. Virak said.

“They basically just benefit from the fact that youth are frustrated with Hun Sen and the CPP, they want change,” he added. “If you look at the new youth party, their platform to me is a lot more interesting in affecting the youth than the CNRP’s.”

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