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Cambodian Citizens Call for Consumer Rights Organizations in Response to Increasing Scams and Scandals – Radio Free Asia

Once vibrant and rumbustious, Cambodia’s civil society has dwindled over the years. The authoritarian Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has systematically crushed the public sphere since 2013.

Despite millions of dollars being pumped into Cambodia’s NGO sector, there has never been an association specifically representing the interests of consumers. The few existing NGOs still operate but are greatly restricted and are afraid of legal actions or dissolution by the ruling party.

Without consumer protection associations, there is an imbalance of power between consumers and producers and sellers of products and services. The economic sector continues to expand, but concerns remain about the quality of products and the lack of consumer protection.

Hun Manet, the current prime minister, has positioned himself as a friend to the capitalist class. Meanwhile, there is no group defending the interests of consumers in the country.

While Cambodia adopted a Law on Consumer Protection in 2019, its actual implementation in promoting and protecting consumer rights is questionable. The lack of such protection has led to a damaging reputation as a “scam-state.”

Southeast Asia has good examples of consumer associations, such as the Consumers Association of Singapore and the Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations. A similar organization in Cambodia could engage in similar roles if properly funded.

There is a need for more targeted associations, including a “Taxpayers Alliance of Cambodia” and a “Microfinance Borrowers Association” to represent the interests of Cambodians facing debt and improper lending practices. Other potential associations include a “Cambodian Association For Food Safety,” a “Cambodian Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities,” a “Healthcare Consumers Association,” and a “Cambodian Citizens Advice Bureau.” These organizations would provide much-needed assistance and support to Cambodian consumers.

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