Cambodian Warns Youth to 'Behave' on Valentine’s Day

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cambodia-valentine-feb-2014-305.jpg Flower sellers in Cambodia, Feb. 14, 2014.

Cambodia’s government urged the nation’s youth Thursday to “please behave” on Valentine’s Day, saying parents in the Southeast Asia country were worried that teenagers would celebrate the Feb. 14 holiday by having sex.

Four government ministries issued warnings or announced measures to prevent sexual encounters by youth, but a teachers group criticized the Phnom Penh government for allowing the import of a Western holiday that is alien to traditional Cambodian culture.

“Parents are very worried on Feb 14. Please behave,” said Ministry of the Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak. He said Cambodia’s parents were particular concerned that teenaged females could sacrifice their virginity on Saturday.

Ministry of Education spokesman Ros Salin told RFA’s Khmer Service that young Cambodians were confused about the imported holiday and could interpret as a license to have sex.

“Teachers have advised their students. But we need parents to monitor their children,” he said.

The ministry has instructed schools to strictly monitor attendance and told teachers to notify parents immediately if students are absent from class.

Cambodia’s Ministry of Tourism has ordered hotels and guesthouses not to rent rooms to people under 18, officials said.

Minister of Women’s Affairs Ing Kantha Phavi said celebrating Valentine’s Day is not part of Cambodian culture, and any observations need not be only about romance.

“We can show love to your parents and teachers who educate you. We can show love to friends or lovers,” she said.

Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association President Rong Chhun weighed in on the debate, blaming the government for allowing foreign culture to invade Cambodia.

A 2008-9 survey of Cambodians aged 15-24 published by independent health researcher Tong Soprach found limited understanding of Valentine’s Day, with knowledge often coming from friends or media.  Soprach found that 12.4 percent of interviewees expected to have sex on Valentine’s Day in 2009.

Reported by RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Paul Eckert.


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