Cambodia should be neutral, pragmatic, and focus on economic development as the country moves toward a fully digital economy, according to experts from different sectors who shared their views on what Cambodia would be like 20 years from now.
The opinions were expressed during a panel discussion organised by Future Forum think tank, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Cambodia and the German embassy on March 4 to launch Cambodia 2040 – the third volume of the series which focuses on international relations and governance.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation secretary of state Chem Widhya said Cambodia would stick to a foreign policy of neutrality as stated in the 1993 Constitution. But the current neutrality is different from that of the 1960s, he noted.
“Our current neutrality is that we opted to join ASEAN in 1995. Why? Because we believe that peace on the inside could only be secured by peace on the outside, and that living together in a village is better than building a house in a forest,” he said.
Beyond ASEAN, he said Cambodia is looking outward to all countries near and far from China, Japan and South Korea to Australia, New Zealand and India. And further out to the EU, Russia, and the US. In terms of trade, Cambodia is looking to make inroads into Africa and Latin America.
Pou Sothirak, executive director of Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace said the country needs to be pragmatic, neutral and adjust itself to maximise national interests, but focusing on national interests doesn’t mean neglecting regional interests.
Cambodia should try to make sure that when it tries to maximise national interests that looking inwards doesn’t impede Cambodia’s national interests and global interests working together.
“Cambodia would be seen as a respectable member of the international community,” he said.
Young entrepreneur Heang Omuoy, founder and CEO of Camsolution Technology, said in 20 years from now, the Kingdom would be a fully digital economy.
“But realising that vision requires high quality education in Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics or STEM. It will need digital and technology entrepreneurship, a positive environment for investors, a strong technology infrastructure, and digital transformation,” she said.
German ambassador to Cambodia Christian Berger said economic development should be the priority in Cambodia as it is the key feature to success. Success in this area will be followed by success elsewhere.
“If you are economically successful, you will be able to mobilise funds for education, for digitalisation and health, and reinforce the system. Cambodia will be able to mobilise necessary and effective energy resources. The country can relieve pressure on natural resources. So, sound long-term economic development is very important,” he said.
He said Germany’s contribution to Cambodia is economic policy and maintaining industries that provide jobs for people, particularly in textiles. It is also about creating an environment for keeping this sector alive.
“Germany helps develop new sectors like mechanical engineering and digital economy. But to integrate Cambodia’s value-added agriculture into the international value chain was something that should be looked at systematically in the medium term,” Berger said.