Most young urban Cambodians know that Cambodia will host the upcoming 2012 ASEAN Summit, but will often respond with silence when asked what ASEAN is. This week, LIFT found an expert who doesn’t just know what ASEAN is, but will also be involved in the Summit.
35-year-old Sok Thea Vuth, a lecturer at National University of Management, devoted his youth to learning about the functions and operations of ASEAN. Now, in addition to lecturing, he serves as president of the Cambodian ASEAN Youth Association (CAYA) – a group that he also founded.
“I’ve been interested in ASEAN since Cambodia became a member state, and at that time there weren’t many documents or information about ASEAN for research [in Cambodia],” Vuth said.
“Since I was so curious about ASEAN, I started to find any opportunity to attend conferences and forums related to ASEAN at other ASEAN member countries.”
In a preparatory meeting for the ASEAN Civil Society Conference and ASEAN People’s Forum, organised by a group of Cambodia civil society organisations and held on March 15, Vuth had been elected to be a representative of CAYA at the ASEAN Youth Forum 2012. He was also selected to represent Cambodian youth during the 20th ASEAN Summit.
The selection process took place at the University of Cambodia during a meeting of over 3,000 people, comprising of civil society members ranging from NGOs to youth associations.
“I almost cannot believe that I gained a lot support from the election . . . to attend ASEAN Youth Forum 2012 and, as a representative of Cambodian youth, to have the opportunity to interface with ASEAN leaders during the informal meeting,” he said.
Vuth graduated from university with a Bachelor’s in English Literature. After that, he spent a few years volunteering in public institutes and learning about the politics of international relations. Eventually, he won a scholarship to complete his Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Wales, in the UK.
After attending the ASEAN Youth Forum in Thailand back in 2009, “Empowerment Through Education”, Vuth was inspired to form CAYA in order to share his knowledge and experience.
“I find most of Cambodian youth have little knowledge when it comes to ASEAN, so I had an idea to form a group of youth and establish this association. The purpose is to share knowledge and experience about ASEAN to all youth in Cambodia and also encourage them to join and to be aware of ASEAN,” he said.
“It’s especially important now, because in 2015 ASEAN will become one community, as the motto states: One Vision, One Destination, and One Community.
“Youths are the vital source and one of the main driving forces for economic, social and cultural development in Cambodia. And they’re peace builders. They are the future leaders of our society.”