Who would have thought that the ambitious plan by ASEAN member states to have a unified ASEAN community would be achievable?
In retrospective glance, by looking at the successes of ASEAN having achieved what had been discussed and agreed among the leaders of the member states as to the three pillars, namely, the ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC), the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community, needless to say, the foundation of unified ASEAN community, where people of ASEAN from all walks of life can set foot on any place therein to reframe their future, has already started to take shape and is no longer what we might have thought as an aspiration that we would never be able to achieve.
To gain an insight as to whether, (1) the people, especially youths, in Cambodia has developed their understanding of ASEAN and (2) what the community means to them, I availed myself of the well-attended youth-led annual event, ASEAN+3 (ASEAN Plus Three) having been hosted on April 1st in my home university to have a short interview with the youths who participated in the event.
The ASEAN+3 is an event – planned and organized by the undergraduate students affiliating with the Department of International Studies of Royal University of Phnom Penh – that aims to promote social and cultural diversities of ASEAN member states to the Cambodian people; and with a lap of three consecutive years of great success and tremendous support from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport in Cambodia, the ASEAN+3 has become of the largest youth-led events about ASEAN ever held in Cambodia.
The all-day event saw the honorary visit from representatives of the embassies of the 10 ASEAN member states along with those of ASEAN cooperative partners, Japan, Republic of Korea and People’s Republic of China, local and international students, guests and visitors walking and viewing exhibitions of each country’s priceless artifacts, histories and tradition and cultures.
Each country booth was distinctively decorated with different layouts and styles, as well dedicated to the exhibits of the ASEAN country’s culture and tradition, apparently, their lifestyle, traditional and modern-day attires, drinks, foods, beautiful paintings and popular tourist attractions along with elaborate information about their ancient history.
In addition to the country exhibition, the festival, starting at 14:00, kick-started with cultural performances by youth volunteers of the participating ASEAN countries and the three cooperative partners inside the grandeur of Cambodia-Korea Cooperation Center (CKCC) hall.
I, too, had the opportunity to sit and talk with students who came to the exhibition as volunteers and guests; though, we did not converse with each other for long, I managed to ask them the questions and their responses truly convince me that the understanding of ASEAN among youths in Cambodia is on the rise.
“ASEAN is a regional organization which I consider as a place where ten countries in South-East Asia cooperate with one another in both political and economic ways,” said Mr. Zanarith, THA, member of ASEAN+3 photography team and undergraduate student majoring in International Relations.
Mr. Techhok, TAING, another undergraduate student who majors in International Relation and serves as the team leader of the Public Relation team during the ASEAN+3 Festival, adds that,
“ASEAN is an awesome community which consists of diverse cultures, languages, religions, ethnics, traditions, and norms between people in 10 different countries.
It is also a community where [member] states try to strengthen their connectivity and positivity in order to create one unified region like the European Union.”
Ms. Yee Mon, OO, a Burmese exchange student who participated in the ASEAN+3 performance, said, “ASEAN is a diverse unit which is being established for common goals by states of similar culture, tradition and customs meet together.”
The 2018 ASEAN+3 received more than 2,000 participants throughout the day, brought together not only the local but also the international guests to its platform on which the participants can learn more about the distinct culture and tradition of each ASEAN member state and promote mutual understanding of the differences we all share among the people.
The festival will make its official comeback in 2019, as confirmed by the project team of the Department of International Studies.
Sivutha, TAN, ASEAN Correspondent from Cambodia