Thun Saray describes, from the point of view of a human-rights activist, reforms needed to achieve social stability and economic progress in Cambodia. He says that, even though Cambodia has enjoyed some of the highest economic growth rates in its region and made progress on several fronts, direct foreign investment and general economic development has been deterred by failures to implement the constitution and the many laws. He suggests that a key problem was corruption and unfairness in the court system, a result of low salaries and political party control. He argues that many farmers were dislocated from their land as part of concessions to domestic and foreign investors. He asserts that military corruption and military-owned businesses contributed to widespread deforestation and that the military still acted in its own right without adequate civilian control. He adds that social stability and broadly-based economic development could be achieved only if the income gap between the powerful and powerless was closed and government became more accountable.
At the time of this interview, Thun Saray was the founding president of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association, a non-governmental organization that, among other things, provides legal assistance to the poor. He was a political prisoner twice in his life: once under the Khmer Rouge regime for 10 months of so-called re-education, and once under the People’s Republic of Kampuchea for being involved in an attempt to form an opposition party. He worked at the Institute of Sociology in Phnom Penh during the 1980s.