Survey Finds Most Believe Country On Right Track

The majority of Cambodians think the country is generally headed in the right direction, though slightly fewer people believe this to be true compared to the last poll conducted by the US-based Inter­national Republican Institute in 2008.

In the IRI survey of 1,600 Cam­bodians taken in August 2009, and released yesterday, 79 percent of respondents said they believed the country was headed in the right direction. In November 2008, that number was 82 percent. Both IRI polls carried a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percent.

Despite the drop, the latest figure from IRI, a nonpartisan organization closely affiliated with the US Re­publican Party, represents a significant increase from the organization’s 2006 survey, which found then that just 60 percent of respondents believed that Cam­bo­dia was moving in the right direction.

“There’s been a steady increase over time, but a slight decline this year,” IRI Country Director John Willis said.

For those in the latest survey who responded that the country was not heading in the right direction, the majority blamed corruption as the reason for their view. Nepotism, poverty and price of goods were tied for second place in their list of reasons.

Those who believe the country is moving in the right direction, pointed to evidence of growth in infrastructure—roads, schools, health clinics, and so on.

Independent political observer Chea Vannath said the survey results were not altogether surprising.

“It depends very much on the target groups,” Ms Vannath said, “because they have better roads, bridges, they are satisfied with the government…. The children go to school, they go to the pagoda, they get treated at the hospitals.”

“They don’t see a correlation to corruption in their daily lives,” Ms Vannath added.

Yim Sovann, spokesman for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, posited a harsher explanation for the survey’s highly positive result.

“These opinion polls were collected in a very oppressive political environment,” he said, pointing to government crackdowns on freedom of speech, including the jailing of journalists. “People are afraid to express how they really feel,” Mr Sovann said.

“How it is conducted is OK, but the answers did not come from the hearts of the people,” he said.

And, although the IRI’s Mr Willis stressed yesterday that the high rating does not necessarily correlate to an equivalent high public opinion of the government, CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said the results were invariably an endorsement of the ruling party and how it conducts its work.

“It shows that government is moving in the right direction because what the government has been doing is meeting the goals and the wishes of the people,” Mr Yeap said.

Though the results of the IRI survey were only made public yesterday, Prime Minister Hun Sen knew the outcome a lot earlier.

In mid-January, Prime Minister Hun Sen called attention to the IRI poll concerning the public’s opinion of the government and political parties—a survey item that is released only to politicians.

In that section of the IRI survey, Mr Hun Sen revealed that, “those likely to vote [for the CPP] increased from 52 to 53 percent.”

IRI claimed at the time that the poll data cited by Mr Hun Sen had not yet been released to the government.

Mr Willis yesterday confirmed that Mr Hun Sen’s numbers were correct, but added he didn’t know how the prime minister got the figures.

(Additional reporting by Cheng Sokhorng)


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