There was a palpable sense of excitement as the vast hall of the Cambodia-Japan Cooperation Center was filled with students and young people last Monday. Everyone was eager to witness young people from Asean member states brainstorm ideas and defend their principles up on the stage for the 5th AICHR Youth Debate on Human Rights.
AICHR (Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights) held the debate competition on September 10 to further promote human rights awareness and protection through a platform that values the voices of the youth. The debate saw students from Cambodia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos and Brunei.
AICHR has put so much effort over the years to institutionalise the practice of organising youth debates on human rights every year. AICHR Youth Debate on Human Right 2018 had five motions designed mainly on the theme of the right to education of the Asean community. The controversial and dreadful issues on rape and invasion of privacy– which are becoming more of a common daily headlines than isolated cases – were also discussed.
During the competition, the participants from each country were divided into five pairs, with separate topics to be debated on. All the teams consist of three members.
Phork Sokunthea, a fourth year student at Royal University of Phnom Penh, stood on the government side with her teammates for the motion “Rape should be considered a capital crime”.
“With human rights being one of the most important systems in Asean, I think being part of this competition is a great opportunity for me to participate and build my capacity as well as share my perspective on issues that are relevant to me and to the society.”
“I think this debate has contributed a great deal to my improvement as a debater by allowing me to work closely and collaborate actively with the Southeast Asian contestants which enable me to expose myself to understand the perspective of other Asean members who come from different regions and histories by discussing and sharing the new ideas with the team.”
Behind the pride and glory of representing their nations on the regional stage is the fact that the debate contestants had to go through strenuous processes before reaching the regional finals. Each contestant had to under four tough steps – intricate application, complex interviews, cut-throat national debate and the finals.
Entering the hall with sincere passion and self-confidence, debate enthusiast Nay Maneth, a fourth year student at the Department of International Studies at Royal University of Phnom Penh, said, “there are three main reasons that inspired me to apply for this debate. First, I want to gain more understanding about human rights issues in both national and regional levels. Second, my desire to show my potential and enrich myself more about debates and public speaking. Lastly, I want to make new friends with other youth from Asean member states. These are my goals.”
“The regional stage of the competition is the most challenging because the contestants from Southeast Asia are quite outstanding. Therefore, I have to build up my capacity to ward off the challenges.” added Nay Maneth, who received medal for being one of the five best public speakers in the debate.
The closing speeches of H.E. Polyne Hean, Representative of Cambodia to the AICHR, H.E. Dr. Chealy Chet, Rector of the Royal University of Phnom Penh, and H.E. Keo Remy, President of the Cambodia Human Rights Committee contained words of inspiration towards young people of Asean.
They expressed fervent hope for the region’s future through the organisation’s initiatives to empower the youth and strengthen their capacity by engaging them in discussions and debates.
AICHR debate competition is just one of the effective ways of raising awareness about the human rights situation in Asean and letting the youth be involved in the process of upholding such rights. With the active participation of the young generation, there is something to look forward to in terms of political cohesiveness, economic integration and social connections in the region.