Everybody involved in the development and reconstruction of Cambodia, should be reading and studying by now the Statement of the 20th ASEAN Summit hold in Phnom Penh on April 3 and 4. Here you can retrieve the full document. By sure, it will be the inspiration of many policy makers in the country as it is clearly declared : ‘We also agreed to work together based on the priorities to accelerate the building of the ASEAN Community by 2015 and to ensure the achievements of the ASEAN Community beyond 2015‘ (No. 2) It is, therefore, not only the concern of officials and the financial sector, but in a very special way, it must concern all Cambodian sectors, especially education, organizations working for human rights, environment protection, labor and many others. The coming three years must be followed with interest of how a country with so high levels of poverty and other problems, would contribute to the creation of a body such as AEC and how our people will join it.
Our concern must be to think what will be the role of Cambodia inside AEC. In a country of young people, the growing of social inequality and so many natural resources open to exploitation, we can presume that Cambodia will have to make several changes to be competitive inside a regional economic community :
‘We recognized that regional integration and narrowing the development gap are priorities in the ASEAN community-building process and, in this regard, we welcomed the progress of the implementation of the IAI Work Plan II (2009-2015).’ (No. 66)
The chapter on ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (No. 53-65) touches very important topics like the Declaration for a free drug ASEAN, the rural development and poverty eradication, the problem of human traffic and people smuggling, a commitment toward gender equality and the protection of rights of children and women, persons with disabilities, migrant workers, the humanitarian assistance during natural disasters and others.
No. 33 says :
‘We reaffirmed our strong commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights in the region. We welcomed the interface between the ASEAN Foreign Ministers and representatives of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) and noted the Progress Report on the drafting process on the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD), which would be adopted at the 21st ASEAN Summit, in Phnom Penh, in November 2012.We also noted the AICHR’s requirement for the support of a dedicated unit within the ASEAN Secretariat.’
It is possible that many other technical mechanisms will be ready by 2015 as a common ASEAN visa and the possibility for ASEAN citizens to move freely in the region, but the problems described in numbers 53 to 65 and the reference to human rights promotion and protection in No. 33 will need a more serious commitment of governments in all the ASEAN members and we are not talking only about Myanmar, but most of the ASEAN countries with a special chapter to Cambodia.
Organizations dealing with vulnerable people in a country like Cambodia, should meet and reflect on how to prepare the communities they attend to be really included in the benefits of a regional economic community like AEC. It will need more skillful personnel, for example, so the plans of education at all levels must be adapted in contact with the reality of an ASEAN Community.