Travel Grant Series: The determinants of Cambodian cultural values on the Civil Service Reform

By Kongkea Chhoeun

I was doing a research project on “The determinants of Cambodian cultural values on the Civil Service Reform” during the summer. It was an enriching learning experience and had further deepened my interest and knowledge in Public Sector Reforms in Cambodia. It was a very successful project. Based on the result, I am strongly encouraged to build on this work and include it as part of my thesis.

My initial project was “Perceptions on Public Sector Reforms in Cambodia.” It was my intention to gauge the perceptions of the stakeholders of the reform movements. I wanted to see why Public Sector Reforms have failed. Well, my hypothesis was “Cambodian cultural values are the main determinant to the failures of these reforms.” In carrying this project, my methodology was mainly to collect secondary data and do face-to-face interviews with the stakeholders.

The scope of my research was narrowed soon after I conducted informal interviews with the stakeholders. I went to Cambodia in late May 2008. Before I undertook the core works of my research project, I visited a number of stakeholders whose works and interests are of relevance to my project. I talked to researchers in the Economic Institute of Cambodia, a leading independent think tank in the country. After a couple of meetings, I learned that I needed to narrow the scope of my research a little bit. Rather than focusing on the whole ranges of public sector reform programs, I decided to look specifically on Civil Service Reform, a reform that has been seen as slow progress when compared to Decentralization and De-concentration.

Right after I got a clear-cut research focus, it was time I went collecting the literatures on both the Civil Service Reform in Cambodia and Cambodian cultural values and constructing questions for the interviews. While research papers on Public Sector Reforms in Cambodia in general and Civil Service Reform reports by the Council for Administrative Reform of the Kingdom of Cambodia were readily available in the government institutions and research institutions, it was virtually impossible to collect those literatures on Cambodian cultural values for various reasons. First of all, very few scholars have so far attempted to study Cambodian cultures and society; therefore, few works in these areas have been produced. Second, these scarce literatures are hardly found. University of Hawaii library does not have any of them and Cambodia does not have many large libraries to store them either. Upon a number of conservations with the stakeholders, I fortunately learned that these literatures are scattered in individual researcher’s bookshelf. In acquiring these needed literatures, I used all means, including personal connections. I was very lucky to have known many of my former colleagues in research institutions and as a result able to access to those literatures. It took me almost one month to gather sufficient secondary data on Cambodian cultural values and about two weeks to summarize them.

Then I was able to write the literature review, a precondition before I can do the face-to-face interviews. I was advised by my academic advisor on the project that only when I have adequate background on Cambodian value systems can I do the face-to-face interviews because many of the interview questions are more about Cambodian cultures and value systems. Ok, I agreed. I spent two weeks to do the literature review while sporadically talked informally to a number of stakeholders.

As the summer came to an end, I had a clear-cut research focus, well-designed semi-structure questionnaires, well-written literature review, and a number of important findings. I am more than happy to share you these outputs if required.

In conclusion, I have made a great achievement. However, I would not call this work as completed as I am working on it and upgrading it into a thesis paper. It is still a work in progress!

One thought on “Travel Grant Series: The determinants of Cambodian cultural values on the Civil Service Reform

  1. Hi Kongkea,

    I have found at least two journals or a book that possibly apply to the cultural interpretation of Cambodian society.

    However, I still not believe the Public Sector Reforms in Cambodia has been constrainted by culture. It should be constrainted by many other main factors rather than culture. For instance, the political atmosphere in Cambodia is the gigantic barrier to reform; and the politically oriented patronage as well as favouritism environment is the scary barricade to reform.

    This is just my 1 cent of thought…I wish you success of your precise research…it is very interesting research question.


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