Rural development ministers from all Asean countries will gather in Siem Reap town on Dec 12 to discuss ways of reducing poverty in rural areas throughout the region, officials said Thursday.
The five-day meeting is the third such Asean gathering in almost six years and focuses on poverty reduction, especially among the three newest—and poorest—Asean members: Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, said Ly Thuch, minister of Rural Development.
“Cambodia is a new member in Asean—some of the other countries like Indonesia and Malaysia are older—and we want to get a good idea from those countries on how to develop Cambodia,” Ly Thuch said.
According to Ly Thuch, the main goal of the Asean meeting is to exchange experiences in developing rural areas, to understand the changes in economies and how those influence poverty eradication. Participants also will discuss possibly making a permanent “forum” of Asean ministers of rural development who are involved in poverty reduction.
Cambodia still suffers from widespread poverty in rural areas, Ly Thuch said. Only about 23 percent of rural people have access to safe drinking water, and a lack of infrastructure still affects swaths of the countryside, he said.
“We want to discuss with the more developed Asean nations how they organize their communities to raise themselves out of poverty and how decentralization can also play a role in that,” Ly Thuch said.
The meeting of rural development ministers in Siem Reap is the first official meeting of Asean countries in Cambodia since the Asean Summit, held in Phnom Penh last month. While previous Asean meetings centered on large-scale economic development or business opportunities, the Asean leaders rarely discussed ending poverty in rural areas, Ly Thuch said.
“We need to discuss how to upgrade the living standard of poor people,” Ly Thuch said. Nearly 40 percent of Cambodians live below the poverty line.