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Dr. Scott: Concerns of Change in Cambodia

By: Charlotte Lancaster Posted: July-04-2009 in
Dr Gavin Scott
Charlotte Lancaster

Citing Transparency International's latest report, which finds Cambodia in the top percentile of most corrupt countries in the world, Dr. Scott elicits his point that Cambodia is a function of money and not a product of progress. "The absence of a sound rule of law is a more important issue here than poverty", states Dr. Scott, who has lived in Cambodia for 15 years. Further elaborating that while the disparity between the rich and poor may be 'ok' for now, history has repeatedly demonstrated that such tension will eventually boil over. "It is amazing how quickly a society can degenerate into anarchy. Cambodia is stable now, but the potential and reasons for unrest exist."
Pausing to add that while all countries are victim to some form of corruption or another, it is the lack of morality spawned from Pol Pot's regime that sets this country apart. Predicting that it will take two generations (i.e. another twenty years) to rebuild the decimated societal framework, Dr. Scott argues that progress in Cambodia necessitates education and not fast food, fast cars nor fast cash.

The lack of educated man power is the single largest problem Cambodia faces, maintains Dr. Scott as he argues his point that education in Cambodia is 'awful'. Supporting his claim, he refers to the President of the Cambodian Independent Teacher's Association, who spoke famously of Cambodian students: "The majority seem to know nothing … 75% of public students pass through the system without getting even a basic knowledge of the subject," Phnom Penh Post, August 2007. Further supporting his argument, he details that by sending their children overseas to be educated the people in power openly acknowledge and admit that the national educational structure is substandard. "People vote with their feet and if the rich want good products they go overseas, this is the same with education."

According to Dr. Scott, the lack of skilled education has unsurprising but damaging consequences in the field of medicine. Referencing Dr. Richner's, Kantha Bopha Children's Hospital, thoughts on the dengue epidemic last year, Dr. Scott stresses that Cambodia does not have access to vital medical training or services: "90% of deaths are due to wrong drugs, too many drugs and wrong perfusions given to children outside," Cambodia Daily, 18 July 2007. Hinting that local doctors in local clinics are products of limited training, he recommends that investment be focused on medical training and not equipment: "There is no point in having 2 or 200 more ambulances if the hospitals and doctors are not capable to deal with an influx of patients."

The ever increasing presence of fast food joints and 'rubbish' in the supermarkets will place further pressure on a struggling medical infrastructure as heart disease and diabetes become more prevalent within the Khmer population, predicts Dr. Scott. The move away from traditional, local, natural foods towards cans filled with preservatives and flavoured with excess sugar and salt worries the doctor who has observed a change in the shape of Cambodians over the years. Fast food restaurants, cars, high rise buildings and the emergence of vanity products all feed into the illusion of progress, he further exemplifies, however, in reality they are fast burdening limited socio-economic infrastructures, creating a reliance on the unnecessary and alienating the rich from the poor. Commenting on increasing traffic burdens, Dr. Scott is puzzled by the apparent lack of urban planning, "prestige projects will congest the streets with traffic and sewage. Immediate acquisition of status and money take precedence over long term planning."


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