Chak Sopheap, 25, holds a Master’s Degree in Peace Relations from the International University of Japan and has published English-language articles on the international website Global Voices Online, focusing on corruption, the democratic process, and freedom of expression. She also works with the Cambodian Center for Human Rights and is a founder of Youth Network for Change, a voluntary group dedicated to social change through participation in community events and youth camping. Born in Cambodia’s Kompong Cham province, she now lives in Phnom Penh with her parents and siblings.
"I am very much interested in writing the way researchers do—not leaning toward any one group in civil society or in human rights. I like to write to express the viewpoint of an independent researcher … I have noticed that a lot of people are interested in what I’ve written for Global Voices Online. People from Bangladesh, France, and Russia have translated them into their own languages and have contacted me in person to learn about the situation in Cambodia.
"My family was not well-off. We lived in need, because when my father left Kompong Cham for Phnom Penh, he came alone. By then, he only had one old bike. He struggled to earn a living and later saved up enough to buy a row house, which cost quite a lot at the time. I think that if it had not been for my father’s efforts, this day would not have come for me.
"I received my Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations at Cambodia University, and in Economics at the Pannasastra University of Cambodia. Later, I continued my studies overseas—I had always longed to further my studies in Japan and the United States … I was so proud to be able to study in Japan.
"For the time being, I want to put the knowledge I received during my studies in Japan to use in my country by continuing the work of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights and by working with friends and other civil-society groups, sharing the experience and knowledge that I have. In the meantime, I want to become an independent analyst.
"I am convinced that the more we human beings come to know each other, the more we will reduce our misunderstandings and disputes, and thus help our country become more tolerant. We can help to build peace among us, which is my first goal. The second goal I long for is to see our youth share their experiences so that they can generate more ideas and initiatives to help develop our society."
Interview by Naline Pea of RFA's Khmer service.