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Cambodian Youth Ill-Equipped for Asean Integration: Advocates

Him Sothearoth, (far left) is a 4th year student of International Studies at Royal University of Phnom Penh with Cheang Sokha, executive director of Youth Resource Development Program, on "Hello VOA" program on Monday.

Cambodian youth need better knowledge and skills to compete within the Asean marketplace, as the region becomes more closely integrated, youth advocates say.

“It is difficult for individual young people, especially those in the countryside, to know what the job market demands, because their understanding of Asean is still limited,” Cheang Sokha, executive director of the Youth Resource Development Program, told “Hello VOA” Monday.

“So, the government must do research to find out where we are now, what our strong and weak points are and what the regional market demands will be, so that we can start focusing on the skills required,” he said. “And then it must make its findings widely known to youth so that they are better prepared.”

This year, Cambodia is the rotating head of Asean, which hopes to fully integrate economically by 2015.

Despite a population of 14 million people, Cambodia is only able to employ a small number of the 300,000 university students who graduate annually. Students say their skills do not match the market demands.

“Youth themselves need to focus more on real sciences like technology, rather than social sciences, if they want to integrate well into the Asean community,” Him Sothearoth, a fourth-year student of international studies at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, said as another guest on “Hello VOA.” “In terms of know-how, the abilities of Cambodian students are the lowest of Asean countries,” she said.

A caller from Kampon Speu province who identified himself as Sareoun said it is unfair to compare Cambodia, which suffered years of civil strife, to other Asean countries.

“Even though the quality of our education is not as good as we want now, we have improved to an acceptable level,” he said, adding that Cambodian youth will be competitive in Asean in the near future thanks to what he called “a mushrooming of higher education institutions.”