Socheata Vong

My thoughts about beloved Cambodia

Kem Ley’s Death: A Wake Up Call for Democratic Reforms

To my leaders and fellow citizens: I feel humbled and proud to be one of over a million citizens to have attended Mr. Kem Ley’s historic funeral procession on 24 July 2016 (Photo: The Cambodia Daily). His death is a wakeup call for democratic reforms. The overwhelming support was not for the courageous man alone but it was a collective voice of people’s discontent with the country’s current leadership. During the 12-hour parade, I didn’t hear any political message favoring Number 4, Number 7 or any other numbers. I didn’t hear any message calling for regime change. All I heard were inspiring messages that Kem Ley left for people to stand up for social justice and unity and to “Wipe Your Tears and Continue Your Journey!” The entire event served to silently mourn the loss of a powerful voice. Kem Ley was more than just a courageous voice. His was the voice of the people.

To all the leaders: Please, both sides, stop the culture of blame and taunt. Please stop expressing your words that create anger and hatred that can result in polarization. You blame and point fingers at each other, yet you rarely blame yourselves. Whatever happens in this country is the shared responsibility of leaders and citizens. You, the leaders, are not the victims of your own decisions. Your decisions affect the people to whom you are accountable under the constitution which you often quote in your rhetoric. You should not make too many promises if you know that you cannot deliver them. That can jeopardize your image and credibility among people. Make only promises that you can deliver and your success will prove your ability to deliver on your commitments. You blame or accuse other individuals, groups, parties or foreign countries for inciting revolt against you. But you fail to acknowledge your shortcomings or improve your accountability among people whose support you seek. If your own citizens listen to others more than they listen to you, it is time for you to pause and reflect on what you have done and you need to showcase your ability to restore their trust. You blame people for wanting change quickly without giving you sufficient time for improvement. Don’t put all the blame on the people. You need to work much harder to explain why you need more time for change. You are surrounded by many of your advisers and peers who may tell you that things are going well while the reality is the opposite. You, all the leaders, are so blinded by your egos that you believe that no one else is better than you, that only you can lead the country. You are completely flawed. You should not make people believe that you are the only one and that there are not others. You can’t take a picture of yourself on the bridge that you stand on. You need someone else to take it for you to reflect your perfections as well as your flaws. You should listen to people. This is not the old population that you knew before. This is a population that is 70% young and new to you. You need to work much harder to win their hearts. Do not feel saddened or disappointed if they do not show gratitude for your historic efforts to help their parents and elders survive the darkest hours of our history. Just like other young people in the world, they think of history as something they learn about and not something for which they should be grateful. While they appreciate your efforts to maintain peace, stability and development, they want you to do much more. They want you, both sides, to sit down together and talk to each other. You should listen to what people need now and in the future. I understand that it is not easy to do, but you have only one choice: to make people happy or unhappy.

To my fellow citizens: Please stop the culture of blame and taunt. You can exercise your rights as a citizen, but you should also take responsibility for your own ideas and actions. You should not express anger, irrational emotion or hatred. You should not blame, insult or taunt any leader(s) in order for them to change the country for the better. You should offer constructive criticism. You can support any party you like, but you should not treat those who disagree with you as an enemy. Your vision should be long-term. Don’t daydream. You dream high, don’t act low. You should work harder and help each other realize your vision. What happens in the country now (positively and negatively) is a result of what we did 10 or 20 years ago. Ten or 20 years from now, you will regret what you did not do more than what you did. The fate of the nation is in your hands.


  1. I was shocked and heartbroken to hear the news a month ago. Till now I still remember that horrible feeling, the feeling that I have never had for anyone before. I was hoping to see positive changes in my beloved Cambodia but the hope is getting less.

  2. This is so sad, I hope you will all find a way to feel better. But, I know it takes time for that.

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