The Asia Foundation has published findings from a 2003 survey of 1,008 voting-age citizens in all but one of Cambodia’s provinces that show most people are pleased with the direction the country is headed.
That sentiment has jumped from 72 percent to 81 percent since the same question was asked in a 2000 survey.
Fifty-six percent of those polled credited their optimism to infrastructure development, 45 percent said a strengthened economy and only 6 percent answered “democracy.” Another 6 percent answered “better than under Pol Pot.”
Survey participants were allowed two answers to the question.
A 9-percent minority who says it is displeased with the state of the nation blamed corruption, the economy and repression.
Understanding of democracy and how a citizen is able to function in such a society is still limited, the report notes. Fifty-two percent of people asked could not say what month the national elections will be held.
The report says: “Cambodians continue to have very limited notions about what a democracy offers them and how it should function. Voters still view their vote primarily as currency for political patronage.”
But, the report said, “Cambodians are very interested in forums that would share light on candidates or party positions, in person or on the airwaves, and in broadcasts of dialogue between Assembly Members and Ministers.”
Seventy-nine percent said they have freedom of political expression, up from 66 percent in 2000.
As for seeing former Khmer Rouge leaders on trial, 48 percent said they wanted to see justice served, while 32 percent said a trial would serve no purpose. In the northwest of the country—the Khmer Rouge’s last stronghold—a 53 percent majority opposed the trial. It was the only region where a majority or plurality did not support the trial.
The report concluded that separate education efforts should be undertaken, targeting specific groups and the general population. Television is rated the most wide-reaching medium. A media planning appendix noted that about three-quarters of the population never read newspapers.