Socheata Vong, had a busy year professionally and personally. The 33-year old development professional started 2014 by meeting International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Madam Christine Lagarde at a private luncheon for young leaders in Cambodia. By mid-year she volunteered with hundreds of others, to help monitor the controversial high school exam where she met H.E. Hang Chuon Naron (Minister of Education). She wrapped up the year by traveling to Stung Treng Province to meet the widow of Sin Sisamuth, a dream come true for her. In between that she appeared on Cambodian Television Network (CTN) to discuss her views of youth & ASEAN Integration. Passionate about development, arts and culture of Cambodia, Socheata is working on some very interesting projects in 2015, one of which is helping to preserve the legacy of Cambodia’s most famous singer. I caught up with Socheata to see what her year was like in 2014 and what exciting things she will be working on in 2015.
Q: What were your biggest challenges and achievements in 2014?
Socheata: 2014 was one of the most rewarding years for me professionally and personally. Let me start with December 2013 in which I had a privilege to be invited to a private group luncheon with Madam Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) during her first official visit to Cambodia. I had a wonderful opportunity with other young leaders in their respective fields of expertise to discuss the aspirations for Cambodia’s future with her.
In 2014, I worked with my colleagues of the Cambodian Professional Network (CAMPRO) to organize several informal dinner discussions with Cambodian dignitaries such as H.E. Hang Chuon Naron, Minister of Education; H.E. Ek Sonn Chan, Former Director General of Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority; H.E. Say Samal, Minister of Environment; and Dr. In Channy, President & Group Managing Director of ACELEDA Bank, to learn about their leadership experiences and challenges in the institutional building. I also helped arrange a private dinner for CAMPRO with Dr. Sophal Ear, Tenured Associate Professor of Diplomacy and World Affairs at Occidental College, and author of the “Aid Dependence in Cambodia: How Foreign Aid Undermines Democracy”. Dr. Sophal Ear is a founding member of CAMPRO network.
2014 was a great year in that I participated in some social activities. In March 2014, I watched the Oscar Live at Bophana Center awaiting to hear the result of the first Oscar-nominated documentary film, “The Missing Picture” by Cambodia’s legendary filmmaker Mr. Rithy Panh. Although the film did not win an Oscar, it was a great pride for Cambodia for the first time to be nominated for the world’s prestigious award. I had a rare opportunity to meet with Mr. Mang Sarith (from Prey Veng), an unusual talent who sculpted more than 500 beautiful clay figurines for Cambodia's first Oscar nomination. In the same month, I was invited by Mr. Rithy Panh for a dinner reception at Bophana Center for his homecoming from the Oscar. I also wrote an article, “Rithy Panh and The Missing Picture” on Banyan Blog in my appreciation to the legacy of Mr. Rithy Panh.
In August 2014, I volunteered to participate in the national high school exams at the Chaktumuk Primary School examination center. At Chaktumuk exam center, I met Education Minister H.E. Hang Chuon Naron who stopped by some exam centers all over Phnom Penh to check the situation. It was a rare opportunity to meet him by chance there. I also wrote an opinion article, “Cheating: bad for the student and the nation” on the Phnom Penh Post both in Khmer and English versions.
In December 2014, I was invited to speak on CTN and CNC TV to talk about my perspectives on youth and ASEAN Economic Integration. It was a great opportunity to be able to discuss challenges with young people.
On New Year’s end, I had a rare, yet special opportunity, to visit widow Khav Thong Nhot, the wife of the Golden Voice Sin Sisamuth, at her home in Stung Treng. I had the privilege to help support the family in a small way. Indeed, visiting the family in Stung Treng was the best part of the year 2014 for me.
Q: What are your plans for 2015?
Socheata: I will continue to engage more discussions with CAMPRO members to discuss political, social and economic issues. I will also continue to get more involved with social activities and build social networking.
In January 2015, I joined the Board of Directors of Transparency International Cambodia. As a Board member, I work closely with the Board of Directors to provide strategic direction on governance, decision-making and accountability of the organization.
A big plan that I am strongly committed to doing is to continue to support the family of the Golden Voice Sin Sisamuth. I have been given the great honor by H.E. Sun Chanthol, Senior Minister and Minister of Commerce, to serve as a member of his organizing committee for a planned fundraising concert to support the family of the Golden Voice in the coming months. It is beyond my dream as I just hope to support the family personally. I feel truly honored and inspired and I am strongly committed to contributing to making it a success. H.E. Chanthol is a great fan of Sin Sisamuth and he has visited the family in Stung Treng over the few past years. I saw his picture with the wife of Sin Sisamuth in her Stung Treng home, and I was deeply touched. In December 2014, H.E. Chanthol and Minister of Culture and Fine Arts H.E. Phoeurng Sackona worked together to authorize the copyright of 73 of Sin Sisamuth’s songs; a rare event to happen in the country after the last decades. I was also given a great honor to be part of the ACLEDA Bank in purchasing the 73 copyright songs (not exclusive rights). It was the first time for the newly authorized 73 copyright songs to be purchased by the bank in honor of the Golden Voice. I have high hopes that the legacy of the Golden Voice will be well preserved.
Q: What are some key trends to watch in your industry [in Cambodia] in 2015?
Socheata: Cambodia experienced political impasse for a year before a negotiation was finally reached in July 2014. I hope to see a culture of dialogue being rooted among politicians. Something I want to emphasize is the increasing engagement of youth in the political process. Young people who are armed with smart phones and technology are better informed of issues pertaining to Cambodia. I hope they continue to constructively engage more in the society to be the leader of their generation.
Q: Who will be the change maker in Cambodia (the person we should pay attention to) in 2015 and why?
Socheata: Young professionals in their early and mid 30s in government, political parties, development, NGOs and private sector are whom I see are the change makers in their respective industry. These young professionals are already serving as a role model for the young generation. They are the catalysts for democratic transformation.
To learn more about Socheata, click here to read her first interview.
To learn more about Sin Sisamuth, Cambodia's most famous singer, click here.