Development & Education Personal Social Politics

Things impress me in Sweden

One thing that many of us may aware about Sweden is the Nobel Prize—known as the legacy of Sweden’s Alfred Nobel (1833–1896). However, after my second trip, I have more to tell than the impression I made during my first trip and I hope this will reflect to Cambodian context where we could learn.

Educating children is a key

There are things similar to Japan where school children are taught to interact and expose to outside community aside their school boundary. During my visit to Royal Palace—when the changing of the guard pirate were to show off—a middle age man shouted to the crowd where I was standing behind: Could you please move a bit and let kids stay in front? I then saw a group of roughly 20 kids walked into the crowd. Some tourists were not happy to let so many kids occupied their space, while many were smiling to see so many kids in queue and of course they were willing to let kids in as this is morally right thing to do. Kids were actively observed and discussing among each other on the performance and I believe this would be later discussed in their class of their visit. I was impressed at how schoolteachers were spending time with their students and such field-trip mission would let these young kids exposed to real world besides their daily theoretical learning in classroom.

Kids were standing to see pirate of changing guard at Stockholm's Royal Palace (Photo by the Author)
Kids were standing to see pirate of changing guard at Stockholm’s Royal Palace (Photo by the Author)

While I was impressed with such act, I reflected this to my own experience. I could only visit the Cambodia’s royal palace for the first time only when I was in grade 12 (the final year in high school degree) with other few friends as a study reward, meaning not everyone was entitled to such visit led by a teacher. Having said so, it means that such field visit was very limited in school agenda or let’s not hopes to be initiated by schoolteachers who were struggling to earn extra aside their official teaching time to support their low salary.

Despite of this, similar approach to have such field trip for students are seen in some private schools in Cambodia which is good expose but this shall be initiated in public schools too so that every kids would has access and learn from such extra activities and this requires sufficient funding in education program as well as the teacher’s salary.

Another component that I learned from a study visit is the fact that Sweden is already advanced at openness and compulsory to include “sexual rights” as part of their educational curriculum for kids from age 13 to 19 years old. Such educational platform allows students to openly learn the issue around sexual rights but this was believed a step forward to raise kids awareness to different gender identity and sexual orientation so that this would tackle on the discrimination against sexuality. What I gathered from the communication I had with few Cambodians who were also impressed at this openness approach with kids on sexuality in Sweden was that they would be still hesitate, although they well understood the topic, to accept such thing adopted in Cambodia if to reflect from parents’ point of view. They suggested for those including I myself who were trying to get their opinion on matter to wait until these people have our own kids. I could understand their concern with tradition we had been used to and while Cambodia’s education system is not that advance compared to Sweden, but Sweden also experienced similar tradition’s clashes until they could have a smooth transformation. It thus requires us to learn and see what and where we could start from it.

Openness and Engagement with Civil Society

I should not surprised at how openness and closed engagement the government as well as parliamentarians with civil society in Sweden has, yet coming from a country where position does matter, I could not help to impressed with this and think out loud how it be better for Cambodia to learn such positive manner. The city hall did not fail to welcome delegates—mostly from civil society organizations—for the second time of my visit in Sweden where my former visit in the role as blogger. The representative of city hall of Stockholm proudly welcomed guest and introduced the spirit of engagement with civil society regardless political or social background.

Cambodian delegates were greeting by the Deputy Governor of Stockholm's City Hall (Photo by the Author)
Cambodian delegates were greeting by the Deputy Governor of Stockholm’s City Hall (Photo by the Author)

The representative also brought us to visit the important building of the hall and explained the rationales of specific architecture. One thing that impressed me is the city hall’s Council Chamber —a venue where meeting of Stockholm’s city council will be conducted. The design was full of openness idea behind as shown with a painting on the cell of the building with sky, star, sun and noon to represent that the meeting of the member will be conducted in an open space where public can see their conduct and any discussion shall be made public as they are now practicing with live streaming and opening access to media and public observation.

Chamber of city hall (Photo by the Author)
Chamber of city hall (Photo by the Author)

We were also welcomed by representative of parliamentary at the parliament in which I am sure such practice would be rare in Cambodia.

I acknowledge these are the positive side of Sweden that I had exposed during two visits (I spent roughly a week per visit), so this is not to conclude the whole picture of Sweden as any place shall has its shortcoming and to the extend when the local resident would have more to say about their own country.

Community Work Development & Education Personal

??????????? ?????????????????? (Dare to Dream and Dare to Change)

(The English version is available after the Khmer text)

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Your life pathway can be blur yet you have to move on to the direction you are envisioned. (Photo by the author in 2013 at Rubber Plantation in Kampong Cham Pronvince). (cc-2013, Sopheap Chak)
Your life pathway can be blur yet you have to move on to the direction you are envisioned. (Photo by the author in 2013 at Rubber Plantation in Kampong Cham Pronvince). (cc-2013, Sopheap Chak)

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English Version:

After the recent high school examination result released, the students must be now seeking for their future path, I therefore would like to share a piece of lesson from my personal life with the hope that this can somehow contribute to your food of thought:

My Philosophy: Dare to Dream and Dare to Change

I had a dream since I was 3 years old that I could be a famous left handed doctor to help curing poor people. As I am a left handed writing type of person, I had that vision and I was good in biology yet I was not well prepared to jump into this major as I have no relatives who are doctors nor anyone could advise to study French in younger age. So when time come, I could only manage to pass the nursery examination on my own [referring to the climate that majority seats were already allocated with bribery], not the high level of medical university.

My parents advised me that it would take years (probably up to 10 years) with much financial resource to make my dream realized. With financial resource limited, I have no choice but I did not regret and I must thank my parents for supporting my life path to move on in another lane of dream, which was to start an internship with a civil society organization. It was the pathway that has changed my vision totally up to present time. I am now becoming obsessed with civil society work and social media platform and I have realized this is the real type of me, not the doctor I had dreaming about.

However, putting my life-path back to the intersection where I had turned my way to medical doctor career, probably other scenario would has happened and I may satisfied with myself or maybe not, and I kept making a joke around that probably those who have known me now maybe become one of my clients for medical service or we could not meet in this life-path.

This piece of shared lesson is aimed to prove that anyone of us can dream about our life and could make that dream come true at certain point but although your dream may have changed, do not feel discouraged to stop dreaming. You must continue revisit your dream and make another possible dream realize and who know, probably the dream you used to dream about is not the real dream or unless you make that happen.

Development & Education Enviromnment Personal Risk Management System

Things inspire me in Netherlands

Netherlands is one of European countries that speak Dutch. At first glance, this country was just similar to few other European countries such as Denmark where most of thing I have heard and know of is through the Prince and Me film. Well, I know this is no more relevant until I landed in this beautiful country and when I explored further about the nature of this society aside from my journey for the World Justice Forum.

The following are things that Netherlands impressed me the most and things that I wish Cambodians can enjoy the same way:

The world’s cycling leader

It is striking to see how cycling has been a way of life in Holland and it was recorded as the top country in the world in cycling. This country has developed a vast bike-friendly infrastructure to make cycling a practical and safe way to get on. With a wide route for cyclist, it also appears to me that cyclists are more prioritized than others on car or even pedestrians. While in Cambodia, the number of mobile phone penetration is surplus the number of population; Netherlands has more bikes than people. It was featured that “the 16 million Dutch inhabitants own 18 million bicycles.”

Full of bike

The friendliest people I have ever met

This assumption probably true as I was so fortunate to meet nice people in the Hague, Den Haag in Dutch—one of main cities of Netherlands and known as the city of justice and peace as the located in the city, including the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court.

From a senator who are considered as one of the high official in legislative bodies and they are entitled as Excellency in my country, Cambodia—where some would accompanied by few body guards or at least one and often on luxurious car or cars)—the lady senator who I met in the Hague, in front of the Parliament building was too kind on her way returning home on feet pulling her language on her own voluntarily guided my group to the parliament building as we were wondering around in front of the gate and asked her if this was the right place that we are looking for which is the parliament building.

She was so kind while introducing other two members of her, but from different parties (which in my country, different party members hardly talked to each other) who were heading on the route we were walking on. We were chatting for a short moment as if we have known each other since long and seemingly no class or position barriers between us. I feel so much convinced in the way these positive attitude can bridge the gap between those who govern and governed and this is a key that senior officials in other countries such as my own should learn to behave so that they could earn much respect and in return our social trust can build.


Just after a while, when my group was wondering nearby a traffic section waiting for a taxi, a gentle man walking with his dog stopped by and asked if he could help anything as we looked lost to him. In response, I bowed down a bit and we thanked for his kindness.

The cities that full of nature connection and conservation

Similar to other European states, Netherlands also has a habit of cultural conservation for their old buildings with full of history and human connection and of course they are just connected to much of nature including forests (most of their roads are decorated with a long trees that one can feel to walk in a forest); and rivers along their buildings in town and almost throughout the way.

In peace

This quite opposite to Cambodia where we would fill the lakes for a so-called development plans such as Boeung Kak which I would not debate on the eviction issue, but on the way that natural lake is filled with no advance study on social and environmental impact assessment) and the old buildings such as in colonial area are destroyed or decorated in a weird and wrong perception such as building at Bokor resort or some colonial building in Phnom Penh city.

In all, I could say I am in love with these peaceful cities of the Netherlands. I do believe in the way that people express it as the city of peace and this is indeed true since this has trapped the peaceful mind of an ordinary citizen like me and I hope readers enjoyed reading this and if persons in either government or non-government position that can impact the city master planning or development, please do visit and get Netherlands as a sample, although I am sure no one is perfect but learn something good from others and avoid their bad for a better human-kind society.

Once may argue for the case of Cambodia for example that we had experienced the civil war, genocide, etc that most of infrastructure including human resource were destroyed and without this we could reach that level as other developed countries, my question would be “to when we think we are ready, out of that war explanation and why a personal attitude that can be accessible and respectful to each other need also time to make it happen?” By putting other factors into constant; however, can we start doing it now with a measurable time-frame to reach that level?