Cambodia takes center stage as host for WEF on ASEAN

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With the World Economic Forum (WEF) on ASEAN kicking off on May 10 in Phnom Penh, for thress days all eyes are on host Cambodia, one of Southeast Asia’s most impoverished country with a poor record on corruption, human rights and law enforcement.

However, Cambodia has also seen rapid economic development in the recent past and increasing interest of international investors in its dominating industries, namely textile manufacturing, tourism, construction and agriculture. Thus, holding the WEF is expected to give the economy a further boost and could probably help improve Cambodia’s image and international reputation.

The WEF event, which will be held until May 12, focuses on youth and technology, as well as on the future direction ASEAN is going to  take. More than 700 people are attending, coming from diverse backgrounds in business, government, academia and civil society. Presided by Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen, the event will also be attended by Rodrigo Duterte, President of the Philippines, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Prime Minister of Vietnam, Thongloun Sisolith, Prime Minister of Laos, and Malaysia’s International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed, among others.

Justin Wood, head of the World Economic Forum Asia-Pacific region, is of the opinion that choosing Cambodia for the meeting was a good decision. He said while Cambodia still faced challenges, there were also “some positive stories” emerging.

“The economy is growing very rapidly; poverty has fallen very sharply. There is a different story to be told about Cambodia,” he said, adding that “we want the world to understand a bit more about what is happening in the country”

Sun Chanthol, Cambodian Minister of Public Works and Transportation, said the WEF would help Cambodia shed its image of an impoverished land that was home to the “killing fields” of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s, as it has caught up rapidly since that period.

The meeting is also an opportunity for the Cambodian government to underscore its legitimacy, with Prime Minister Hun Sen facing communal elections next month and what is likely to be a tense general election in July 2018.

However, critics point out that to speak of a Cambodia success story is a bit far-fetched. The country, despite accelerated economic growth, keeps suffering from grave inequality, which means that growing business income is not trickling through to the poorer classes. There is also a high degree of corruption, the legal system is underdeveloped, the governing style is autocratic and freedom of speech is suppressed.

Adding to that. opposition party supporters have been jailed for criminal defamation and other charges in the past, while senior leaders have been threatened with prison terms and legal maneuvers which could bar them from holding public office.

Huns Sen also ordered another clean-up ahead of the WEF meeting – held in the upscale, brand-new Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel – which included clearing the city of poor people, homeless and sex workers, who are regularly thrown into detention amid what the government calls “beautification campaigns.”

The WEF’s Justin Wood acknowledges Cambodia’s problems of inequality in economy, education, health and political systems, which were exacerbate by “poor governance, lack of transparency and weak institutions,” as he said. He, however, emphasised that the WEF event was “economically oriented” and “not political”.

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With the World Economic Forum (WEF) on ASEAN kicking off on May 10 in Phnom Penh, for thress days all eyes are on host Cambodia, one of Southeast Asia's most impoverished country with a poor record on corruption, human rights and law enforcement. However, Cambodia has also seen rapid economic development in the recent past and increasing interest of international investors in its dominating industries, namely textile manufacturing, tourism, construction and agriculture. Thus, holding the WEF is expected to give the economy a further boost and could probably help improve Cambodia's image and international reputation. The WEF event, which will...

Reading Time: 2 minutes

With the World Economic Forum (WEF) on ASEAN kicking off on May 10 in Phnom Penh, for thress days all eyes are on host Cambodia, one of Southeast Asia’s most impoverished country with a poor record on corruption, human rights and law enforcement.

However, Cambodia has also seen rapid economic development in the recent past and increasing interest of international investors in its dominating industries, namely textile manufacturing, tourism, construction and agriculture. Thus, holding the WEF is expected to give the economy a further boost and could probably help improve Cambodia’s image and international reputation.

The WEF event, which will be held until May 12, focuses on youth and technology, as well as on the future direction ASEAN is going to  take. More than 700 people are attending, coming from diverse backgrounds in business, government, academia and civil society. Presided by Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen, the event will also be attended by Rodrigo Duterte, President of the Philippines, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Prime Minister of Vietnam, Thongloun Sisolith, Prime Minister of Laos, and Malaysia’s International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed, among others.

Justin Wood, head of the World Economic Forum Asia-Pacific region, is of the opinion that choosing Cambodia for the meeting was a good decision. He said while Cambodia still faced challenges, there were also “some positive stories” emerging.

“The economy is growing very rapidly; poverty has fallen very sharply. There is a different story to be told about Cambodia,” he said, adding that “we want the world to understand a bit more about what is happening in the country”

Sun Chanthol, Cambodian Minister of Public Works and Transportation, said the WEF would help Cambodia shed its image of an impoverished land that was home to the “killing fields” of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s, as it has caught up rapidly since that period.

The meeting is also an opportunity for the Cambodian government to underscore its legitimacy, with Prime Minister Hun Sen facing communal elections next month and what is likely to be a tense general election in July 2018.

However, critics point out that to speak of a Cambodia success story is a bit far-fetched. The country, despite accelerated economic growth, keeps suffering from grave inequality, which means that growing business income is not trickling through to the poorer classes. There is also a high degree of corruption, the legal system is underdeveloped, the governing style is autocratic and freedom of speech is suppressed.

Adding to that. opposition party supporters have been jailed for criminal defamation and other charges in the past, while senior leaders have been threatened with prison terms and legal maneuvers which could bar them from holding public office.

Huns Sen also ordered another clean-up ahead of the WEF meeting – held in the upscale, brand-new Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel – which included clearing the city of poor people, homeless and sex workers, who are regularly thrown into detention amid what the government calls “beautification campaigns.”

The WEF’s Justin Wood acknowledges Cambodia’s problems of inequality in economy, education, health and political systems, which were exacerbate by “poor governance, lack of transparency and weak institutions,” as he said. He, however, emphasised that the WEF event was “economically oriented” and “not political”.

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