Cambodian Muslims See Opportunities in Asean Integration


The government wants Cambodia’s Muslim community to start its own bank to cater to the 600,000 Muslims living here, Labor and Vocational Training Ministry’s secretary of state Datuk Othsman Hassan said. 
At a World Islamic Economic Forum Foundation (WIEF) roundtable discussion, Mr. Hassan noted that the number of banks in the country is increasing. Currently, there are 36 commercial banks and over 40 microfinance institutions. 
“In the short future, I urge the WIEF to create an Islamic microfinance institution here in order to provide financial services and improve the business and livelihood of Cambodia’s people,” he said. 
Deputy prime minister Men Sam An told the audience of 250 Muslim businessmen that business opportunities in Cambodia are making the country a fertile place for investment. 
“Cambodia has become an investment key, as well as a potential consumer market, in South East Asia,” she said. 
Cambodia’s economic growth rate is forecast at 7 percent in 2015. For much of the last decade, Cambodia has been in an elite club of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies. But experts say Cambodia needs improvements to reach its full economic potential. 
Tun Musa Hitam, Chairman of WIEF, said that service sectors in Cambodia, including the financial and banking sectors, have room to grow. 
“Standardization means that every country will recognize it in terms of procedure, law, and the constitutional aspects that concern Asean members,” he said, adding that Cambodia should arrange a new law for service sectors that can bring it on par with Asean standards. 
Although other Southeast Asian countries, such as Myanmar and Philippines, have disputes with their minority Muslim populations, Mr. Hassan said Cambodia isn’t worried about religious conflicts. 
“I don’t think religious conflict will happen in Cambodia, even though in the other countries now they are trying to reduce it,” he said.