… I wish to express my humble greetings to our compatriots who have come to participate in the inauguration of the Kob Srov dike, which has been built and offered for use as both flood protection dike and road for traffic. It is a new achievement that I am very pleased to join with all of you for a celebration today. It is truly a significant building as it is mentioned by HE Lim Keanhor, Minister of Water Resources and Meteorology (MWRM) and by HE Chea Sphara, Mayor of Phnom Penh Municipality. With a cloudy sky and less heat from the sun, and we hope that this condition will bring some rains, I wish to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to HE Lim Keanhor and MPRM for devoting time and efforts in directing the project to success. I wish to thank also the Ministry of Economy and Finance for providing needed counterpart fund in a timely manner making the implementation project going smoothly.
… I wish to take this opportunity to also express my sincere appreciation to the municipality of Phnom Penh and its two districts – Russeikeo and Dangkao – and all concerned authorities for the efforts both spiritually and physically to speed up the project implementation. On behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia I also would like to express my gratitude to the people, whose homes had been built along this dike for their decisions to follow the appropriate solution proposed to them by the Municipality of Phnom Penh to move out. Equal thanks also go to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), whose representative is also present today, for the facilitation provided so that Cambodia could access the loan for this project. Usually the loan taking process would take days or months, but the loan agreement for the rehabilitation of infrastructure after flooding in 2000 had entered into force one hour after the signing event.
… Since 1979, I have inspected this dike very often. Each time I was here before I was always sad. Take for instance during the flooding in 2000, this place was compared to a thousand star hotel (or open-air hotel.) Those who stayed in this Thousand Star Hotel were Ministers, Secretaries of State and engineers of MWRM. If anything had happened, they would have been the firsts to suffer. If the dike broke, Phnom Penh capital — locating on the protected side — would have been swamped by flood which is no less than a nuclear bomb that hit Hiroshima in Japan. Because we now have a strong dike in protection against flooding into the capital, I have no fear any more to recall about this. Normally my officials and I would have kept silent on this for fear of jacking up of consumer prices.
… The flood in 2000 was big one in the history of 70 years and we had had a rescue operation going on for 56 days. At that time I decided to cut short my working visit in New York, where there was a Millennium World Leaders Meeting at the United Nations Office. After addressing the meeting, I had cut short my program to return to Cambodia to face with the flood situation. Our rescue operation was a large one as it helped saved up to four million people, who were affected one way or the other by the flood. It was in that moment that Phnom Penh was under severe threat from flood but we were all trying to calm our nerves and face with the situation. Cabinet meetings were also canceled and any meetings in Phnom Penh, which called in provincial Governors and/or Deputy Governors or senior staff to Phnom Penh were also deleted. We all have to stay close and help the people.
… In times of flooding, looking to Phnom Penh from above, it was broadly encircled by water around and at that time Cambodia looked like a sea. So if the dike broke, Phnom Penh would be smashed by flood pressure that is no less dangerous than a nuclear bomb. I am saying like this because it then had to face with flood pressure from the Tonlesap Lake and river and the Mekong River as well. Perhaps I should mention the situation along the national road one. In fact the flood had damaged parts of the road and we had decided to cut it open so as to let water from one side going to the other in hope of relieving pressure from the Phnom Penh’s direction. HE Lim Keanhor and I then called it “spreading strategy” because only doing so that we could relieve the pressure of water while the Tonlesap Lake could no longer absorb water and some of the infrastructures upstream have been destroyed. The part on one side of the national road had yet the potential to absorb more. Therefore we dug the damaged part open wider.
… A decision has to be made for the sake of our people’s survival. There had no choices that are good or bad, but bad and worse. We had had to avert the flood threat by all means so it is bad to have the national road one cut wide open but it could be worse if we let the Kob Srov flood protection dike to break. In those days, our people widely use radio in business. They had spread news of flood coming from Kob Srov. Asking to HE Lim Keanhor, the dike was still in tact and protecting the flood despite various holes made by water pressure. I then asked him to have an interview with Channel 95 FM radio to assuage people’s fear. At the same time I had instructed HE Chea Sophara to relieve people’s distress in terms of consumer prices, such as rice. We then supplied rice into the market quietly with an aim to rescue those in water/flood but not to jeopardize those on land. Instruction also sent to Ministry of Industry to get ready with power cut off in case of flooding for fear of electric shocks.
… Now we have put out the fire rather than blown the smoke as before. We now can protect ourselves. The situation was tense till I thought Phnom Penh might have been destroyed under the time of Hun Sen. If we talk about blowing the smoke we had used tons of sand bags. But the construction that we have in front of us today has ended the smoke-blowing situation. We also do not have to have our intervention teams stationed here as we did every year anymore. This dike as I said earlier is not only built in protection of flooding into the city of Phnom Penh but also a road connection between the national road 5 and 4. As far our resources could go, the road is now asphalt and we will bitumen it later. And we still have to seek funding for the rest 10 Kilometers. As a road connection, the dike is also helping to divert traffic from either national road (4 and 5) from going into the capital, as they used to do before. I hope ADB would not overlook this request as most of the project here has been financed by its loan.
… We now have a systematic construction aimed at protecting the city from flood and ADB has contributed its loans to a number of them together with Japan. Around the city, we now have this road-dike connecting national roads 4 and 5 and a road-dike in Saksampeo connecting national roads 2 and 3. From now on there should not be a request for sandbags to strengthen the Kob Srov dike or the one who files request would be arrested on the charge of corruption. As we already have the dike built we also have to think of maintenance and care. We should think of the possibility to wire our electricity for use in this area as well and this dike would not be serving the its purpose of protecting flood and communication but also tourism. Our people would love to travel and see the achievements by the new Khmer generation.
… Well we still have to tackle water issue as we always have problem of either flood or drought. But this situation has hit also many countries in the word. We are having flood in Prague of Czech Republic, Vienna of Austria, and a number of cities in Germany. Some parts of Europe are flooded while Cambodia has not got the amount of rain it has been waiting for. Because of the uncontrollable nature of water access in Cambodia, in this mandate of the Royal Government I have decided to establish two new Ministries – Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology and Ministry of Land Management, Urbanization and Construction. In fact MWRM should have been established in the 1980s but it has been delayed until 2000. The two newly established Ministries are quite successful. I hope they would be needed in the next term of Government.
… As we have less concern of flood from the Tonle Sap and Mekong Rivers, we still have concern on possible flooding from the western side of Phnom Penh. This flood normally comes from Kompong Speu and I am afraid it could happen again. Saying like this I do not mean to frighten our people living in Samraong Tong of Kompong Speu, Kandal Stoeung, Angsnuol, Dangkao, Takhmao of Kandal province at all. But we have to be vigilant of this situation. Maybe HE the Representative of ADB to Cambodia could help us in meeting with this concern. Flooding from this part of the country had happened once in 2000, again in 2001 and back to 1991 and 1996. Now we can say Kob Srov would not be damaged under the Hun Sen time but Hun Sen’s term will also expire by 2003. Next term would continue to be Hun Sen’s time if people vote for me…