Jakarta (The Jakarta Post/ANN) - Cambodia expects the arrival of the Asean Community in 2015 to present challenges as well as opportunities for its people.
Economic advisor to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Sok Siphanna believes that the Asean integrity will create more opportunity for Cambodia.
"Cheap labour in Cambodia is one factor that can attract investment," he said.
In the manufacturing sector, the opportunities could be even wider.
"Our manufactured products could be available to the 500 million people in the Asean region," he added at a roundtable discussion on the Asean Economic Community 2015, organised by the Club of Cambodian Journalists and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Phnom Penh recently.
He realised that opportunity should be pursued and urged Cambodians to take initiative.
"Cambodians should be prepared for the future. It is time for Cambodia to further develop," he said.
Cambodia's Information Minister Khieu Kanharith stressed the need to reform education as a tool to better develop its youth into the leaders of tomorrow.
The education system in Cambodia is still not standardised across the country, and though there are good schools, they are far too expensive for the average Cambodian.
"Education is an important factor which could give Cambodia the ability to compete with other Asean members."
Moeun Tola, head of the labour programme at the Community of Legal Education Centre, said that in order to compete with Asean members in 2015, Cambodia has to strengthen the ability of its students, increase vocational training courses for unskilled workers, and further educate farmers on land, budget, market and technique.
The Asean Community 2015 would see people and products crossing freely in the region.
His main concern is that Cambodians are not able to compete with their immediate neighbours such as Vietnam and Thailand. "They have an abundant amount of skilled workers," he said.
Labour analyst Kem Ley criticised the government for not setting up a comprehensive programme to prepare its people to work overseas. Cambodians should be trained with certain skills so that they can compete with other Asean peers. "Migrant workers need more vocational skills," he said to The Jakarta Post over the phone.
One major challenge that should be addressed is language. "English is commonly used in the Southeast Asia region," he added.
Ken Chanthan, president of the Young Entrepreneurs Association of Cambodia, said that 2015 would also provide big opportunities for young entrepreneurs to expand their business.
Having deep knowledge about different cultures, politics and regulations would broaden understanding throughout the region.
The writer is an intern at The Jakarta Post.