World Economic Forum Panel Talks Diversity, Democracy in Phnom Penh

A kickoff event for the World Economic Forum on Asean yesterday featured a panel of industry leaders and activists who lauded Asean’s potential for growth and entrepreneurship, while also stressing the importance of democracy in the bloc’s member countries.

“Diversity is strength,” AirAsia CEO Anthony Fernandes said at the event for Cambodian university students and business leaders at Phnom Penh’s Institute of Technology of Cambodia.

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Wai Wai Nu speaks at Phnom Penh’s Institute of Technology of Cambodia on Wednesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Another panelist, Rohingya human rights activist Wai Wai Nu, said the region’s leaders should also focus on promoting democratic values. Ms. Wai Wai, a lawyer who was imprisoned in Burma at the age of 18 on political charges, founded the Yangon Youth Center, which helps young Burmese people get involved in politics.

“We have to be very honest,” she said yesterday. “I think leadership in our Asean region has to be honest and supportive of each other internally as well…. Democracy is fundamental.”

Across town at the Sofitel hotel, Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon attended a session on Grow Asia, a World Economic Forum initiative to improve crop yields and market access for small-scale farmers, and commented on Cambodia’s development in the sector.

“In the progress of agricultural development, we still meet some challenges and difficulties, such as low productivity,” Mr. Sakhon said.

Cambodia joined Grow Asia last year looking to improve the productivity of its cassava, coconut, sugar, pepper, rice and vegetable farms.

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