Most young Cambodians have probably grown up hearing the word “ASEAN” since they were in high school. But, did they ever really learn about it?
Few youths know the importance of ASEAN, even though they’re worried about the future of their own job security.
Cheang Sokha, an executive director of the Youth Resources Development Program (YRDP), and a former organizer of the ASEAN youth forum, said that having an ASEAN community is vital for all – especially, young citizens who are members to ASEAN states.
“The ASEAN community can provide a lot of chances to people, especially youths,” said Sokha. “These chances provide future job opportunities.”
Sokha expressed worry, on the other hand, that young Cambodians’ lack of understanding of how ASEAN works will limit them from competing for these job opportunities.
“ASEAN should organise more youth forums, and the Cambodian government should encourage youths to participate in them – and the government should address what kinds of job opportunities are available for young Cambodians,” Sokha said.
Oum Chanvetey, 20, a third-year student at the Royal University of Law and Economics, said knowledge of ASEAN will provide many advantages to both her and her fellow students.
She added that the more young Cambodians know about the ASEAN community, the more they’ll be able to prepare themselves to be qualified competitors among the international job market across Southeast Asia.
According to an article in The Phnom Penh Post on January 11, senior officials who met in Siem Reap as part of an agenda-setting meeting agreed to implement visa exemption in 2015 for any citizens belonging to ASEAN member states, in an effort to promote travel between the 10 member nations.
Regarding this agreement, Chanvatey responded that in today’s challenging job market, only those with a good education – having completed a high-quality Bachelor’s or even a Master’s – will be the first, maybe only, to receive the best jobs in ASEAN member states. Others, however, will be unable to compete.
“When the ASEAN Community is established, many people from other countries will try to find jobs in Cambodia,” said Chanvatey. “Since they have a better education and better abilities, we might face being jobless in the future.”
Dr In Sophal, a professor of international relations at University of Cambodia, said that the university’s international relations curriculum primarily focuses on ASEAN. He stressed the importance of studying international relations, saying the field provides a necessary knowledge of how politics, economy and communication works within the international framework of Southeast Asia.