Scholars, researchers, policymakers, NGOs, and university students gathered at the Toul Kork Center on April 8, 2015 for the ASEAN Economic Integration 2015 symposium.
The goal of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) is to transform ASEAN into a region with free movement of goods, services, investment, skilled labor and a freer flow of capital. While the AEC provides a framework that promises economic benefits for all, many questions remain regarding the implementation of the plan and its impact on the citizens of the ASEAN member nations. These concerns, with a focus on Cambodia in particular, were the topic of discussion at the symposium.
The topic of the first panel discussion was “Broadening Economic Integration: The Mekong Basin and Beyond”. Participants in the discussion included Dr. Kao Kim Hourn, former Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and current Minister Delegate attached to the Prime Minister; Dr. Sok Siphana, Advisor to the Royal Government of Cambodia; and Dr. Mariko Frame, Assistant Professor of Global Affairs (American University of Phnom Penh). The panelists agreed that while Cambodia faces many challenges as it prepares for ASEAN integration, the potential benefits outweigh the risks.
The second panel focused on “A Free Flow of Labor: Disparities in Regional Development”. The panelists, Sophal Chan (Centre for Policy Studies, Cambodian Economic Association) and Vutha Hing (Cambodia Development Resource Institute), engaged in a lively discussion with university students and NGO representatives who attended the event. Vutha Hing emphasized that while there are questions regarding Cambodia’s preparedness for ASEAN integration, these concerns can be mitigated by focusing on implementing modern, international standards in logistics and infrastructure, and by removing administrative barriers that currently place Cambodia at a disadvantage relative to some other ASEAN member states.
The event was co-sponsored by the American University of Phnom Penh (AUPP), Cambodia Development Resource Institute (CDRI), Human Sciences Encounters in Phnom Penh (HSEPP), and Cambodia Economic Association.
AUPP plans to host additional symposia in the future. Such events promote understanding and tolerance of a diversity of beliefs and foster the open exchange of ideas and knowledge, which is one of the University’s core values.