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Across Asean, Women Need More Development, Advocate Says

Thida Khus, executive director of SILAKA, joins VOA Khmer's Hello VOA radio call-in show Thursday, June 4, 2015, to discuss “Women's Participation in Economic Development when ASEAN Economic Community is integrated in late 2015.” (Lim Sothy/VOA Khmer)

As Asean heads toward greater economic integration at the end of the year, a Cambodian advocate says more needs to be done in the region for women’s rights.

Asean has a working group for women’s issues, but the region faces challenges in social and economic equality, Thida Khus, executive director of the Silaka development group, told “Hello VOA” Thursday.

Asean integration will bring much more competition in trade, investment, goods and services, as well as jobs across the region. That means more work will need to be done to ensure development for women, Thida Khus said. That could include conducting public forums and other campaigns ahead of integration, she said.

Women leaders from across the region have been working together since 2010, and last week, a working group completed documents to submit to Asean leaders, after discussing the issues women in Asean countries face, she said.

She recently participated in an annual people’s forum in Malaysia, to prepare similar forums in Cambodia and other Asean countries.

“We’ve also cooperated with regional women to do advocacy and to prepare plans and policies on sustainable development, which need to be enforced after the end of the year,” she said.

Meanwhile, Cambodia should focus on improving protections for human and natural resources, the environment and especially its forests, she said. It also needs to instill accountability for private companies and improve its record on human rights and women’s rights, she said.

Failure to do so will mean Cambodia “will face bigger problems, because our country will have few mechanisms to protect and sustain people who are weak and have no representatives, like the indigenous, or rural women, or uneducated women,” she said.

Cambodia should improve the rule of law, allow civil society to participate in law and its enforcement and allocate money for the protection of women who seek work abroad, so that they can be monitored, protected and rescued, if need be, she said.

Development without proper thought and planning will exacerbate those problems, she said, and ignores the needs of future generations.