By Kimkong Heng
Scholars are people who pursue academic and intellectual activities. They are intelligent and well-educated people who know a lot about particular topics. In any society, scholars, researchers, academics, professionals, and other highly educated individuals have an important role to play to contribute to the development of their country.
In Cambodia, as is also true elsewhere, there are certain moral expectations that intellectuals or scholars must take part in fostering the positive development of Cambodian society. The expectations are high and have been embedded in the role of this group of educated people.
Cambodian people often speak of how intellectuals in previous generations sacrificed their time, energy, or even freedom and life to contribute to the betterment of Cambodia. From preserving Khmer literature and language to protecting Cambodian land and dignity, there are many accounts of noble sacrifice and patriotic endeavors. These heroic accounts provide lessons and sources of motivation for the current generation of Cambodians, lifting their spirit and soul and encouraging their courage and heroism.
Given the current political context which appears to discourage intellectuals and educated individuals to contribute their part to the development of Cambodia, the role of scholars and researchers has been put under scrutiny and criticism. Some criticize that these educated Cambodians do not play their role effectively or meaningfully, citing their indifference, selfishness, and lack of activism. Others blame these intellectuals for their lack of involvement in bringing about positive changes to society or their lack of confidence, patriotism, and heroism to effect changes and make a difference.