Two UC Students Selected to Attend ASEAN Peoples' Forum 2011

By Lim Nguon (UC Student)

Two University of Cambodia (UC) students, Nov Sakarach and Eng Sokha, were selected to participate in the ASEAN Youth Forum (AYF) and ASEAN Peoples’ Forum (APF) in Jakarta, Indonesia, from May 1-5, 2011.

The ASEAN Youth Forum (AYF) and ASEAN Peoples’ Forum (APF) were both connected to the annual ASEAN Summit. The forums were established by the regional civil society with the purpose of strengthening cooperation among the ASEAN people and promoting a people-centered ASEAN community for the benefit of the people.

The two forums were very significant in that they brought youth and civil society together to discuss the challenges and opportunities in the ASEAN countries. The discussions and recommendations in the two forums were then shared in the ASEAN Summit, which was attended by high government officials from the 10 ASEAN countries.

The first AYF and APF were held in Malaysia in 2005, and were then organized in the Philippines in 2006, Singapore in 2007, Thailand in 2009, and Vietnam in 2010. Next year, Cambodia will be the host country for these two important regional forums.

Nov Sakarach, 22, a third year student majoring in International Relation, felt very enthusiast about being granted the opportunity to represent Cambodian youth and take part in the AYF and APF. Mr. Nov said that the forums were vital for the youth and ASEAN citizens to raise their concerns and have their voices heard in the region, and simultaneously, the forums gave him a great opportunity to learn more about problems in his own country and other ASEAN countries.

Sakarach said the AYF was a platform for ASEAN youth to get to know more about each other, understand the ASEAN culture, and build a network.

“There were many challenges for me in the ASEAN Youth Forum and ASEAN People Forum,” said Sakarach. “Communication was a little bit confusing because of the different English usages and pronunciations.”

He also said that sometimes it was hard for him to fully and actively participate and share his perspectives in the APF because of the large number of participants, roughly 1300, from many countries.

Eng Sokha, 22, a fourth year student majoring in International Relation, was another youth participant among the 10 selected from Cambodia to attend the forums. She had to go through many rigorous steps that included applying, being short listing, testing, and interviewing at Youth Resource Development Program (YRDP), before being selected to participate.

According to Sokha, she learned many things about ASEAN, gained a good experience in the regional forums, and learned how to communicate and work with people from different countries and different cultures.

“I have learned that youth play [a] very important role in state politics, and…youth ... [should]… stop ignoring the problems and put [their] efforts to solve [the problems] and [strive for] development,” said Sokha. Both students stated that this opportunity will be significant in helping them pursue their future goals. Sakarach said that the forums have educated him and deepened his understanding of the issues in the ASEAN states, and that he wants to be a legal and political expert in any of the ASEAN intergovernmental organizations.

Sokha shared similar goals. She said the forums were a good foundation for her, especially since she wants to pursue her Master’s degree in International Relations and hopes to become a communications officer in the future.