… Today I am very glad to have a chance to return to Siemreap once again. It is true that I have come to Siemreap many times to preside over various construction projects. Today I am coming also to preside over the opening of the project site but this project is different from those before. We have moved in further to make use of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, which has transformed into the civilians in military uniform. It is a marvelous transform with a revolutionary nature.
… It is a very important day because the General Staff has convened commanders at all levels in provinces/cities, the regional army commanders also included, to share experiences before instructions would be made. The event of reforestation today could not be separated from a marvelous idea that came out after my inspection to the construction site by the Chief of Staff engineering team of the national road 5 that links Phnom Penh and Kompong Chhnang. In our exchange I have given my recommendations, one of which was to replant trees so as to prevent erosions as they could be detrimental to the national road 5. I am glad to notice that soon after that the chief of staff together with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and HE Senior Minister Keat Chhon of Finance and Economy have come up with the project of replanting trees in this area. It was also from there that we have this idea of the participation of the armed forces in replanting as well as safeguarding trees.
… As a result today we have noticed that our armed forces have been transformed into hired laborers to grow the forest for their nation. Let me take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation for the Ministries of National Defense, Economy and Finance, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) for their active implementation of this new task. In time of war, our armed forces have no choices but seeking means to weaken our opposite forces. But by implementing the win-win policy, we have been able to put a final end to the state of breakaway and secession, which have plagued Cambodia in centuries. We have got to dare say that Cambodia has had its history of internal fractures not in just 30 or 40 years but in many centuries already. The country shrunk by times until we abandoned Angkor City… and moved to the current city of Phnom Penh. In this span of time Cambodia never had less than two groups of armed forces. Take for instance prior to 1970, there were four different armed groups – the Government army, and other armed groups named as Red Khmer Rouge, Blue Khmer and White Khmer. In between 1970 and 1975, there were at least two major armed forces fighting against each other. Between 1975 and 1979, in time of fighting against the Pol Pot genocide, though they resided in different areas of Cambodia, there had been many armed groups created for fight against the genocide. From 1979 to 1993, we also have four different armed groups – the Government forces and three different guerilla forces. By late 1998 we have reduced to two armed groups – the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and the Khmer Rouge, whose control had been the areas along the Thai-Cambodian borders and certain spots. The win-win policy has brought about an end to secessionism and division of controls while eradicating all internal boundaries.
… Full integration has been achieved and also the game of “the fish eat the ants when water rises and the ants do vice versa when the water recedes” has ended. We have brought our country to a state of peace and peaceful culture in the last four years. What is “the fish eat the ants when water rises and the ants do vice versa when the water recedes?” This is a policy of taking revenge without end that was had happened in the past. When we won, we kill our opponents and when our opponent won, we stood to be killed. It was a true story in the past. Take for instance in 1970 the Lon Nol group eradicated those followers and supporters of Samdech Preash Sihanouk and when Pol Pot came to power, both supporters of Samdech Preah Sihanouk and Lon Nol had been killed… The war saw no ends. We have put an end to this policy and that is why we dare have our armed forces demobilized and ten of thousands firearms destroyed. Not only that we destroyed old weapons, but we also do not buy new ones as well.
… The defense budget these days are not given for purchasing aircraft fighters, warships, tanks and/or all kinds of weapons. They are for use in purchasing food, uniforms, training, and medicine – about 75% of the national defense budget. The fact that all this can be implemented because we trust in long-term peace in our country. I think there are not many countries in this word that dare do as Cambodia did, especially in the area of reducing the number of soldiers. We at the present time are prepared to demobilize another 15,000 soldiers. But because we have some problem in the proposed procedures with the World Bank, the financier, we might have to postpone the demobilization until 2004. They wanted our soldiers to be demobilized without having a down payment that we had paid for the first pace of demobilized numbers. We gave them US$ 240 per person with a sum of materials. As they proposed not to give them that assistance for the next group to be demobilized, I would say we could not afford to give one group and not the other group. If so, I would say the demobilization would cease to proceed. Then there may be a Hun Sen-plan to resolve the problem. We may have to borrow the money from the bank and pay them back by installment on a monthly basis. I had proposed similar option in the case of CMAC (Cambodian Mine Actions Center). I said if CMAC was dead, then the SEN(Hun-Sen)MAC would be born. So we might have to reschedule the demobilization to 2004, but if we were to get the money, we then would demobilize another 15,000 soldiers immediately.
… It is true that I am no longer commander in chief of the armed forces but I wish to take this opportunity to say a few things in this regard. I had transferred the position of commander in chief to HE Ke Kim Yan since late 1999 but as Head of Government I also take strong consideration into the army. HE Ke Kim Yan has mentioned already that in our duties as the armed forces, we have the obligation and task to defend independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity – the prime duties of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF). So far our RCAF have fulfilled four main duties. First, RCAF has become an effective contractor to the Government in various construction projects of roads, bridges and a number of other constructions. Various places are inaccessible by civilian engineering, our military engineering team would take them. Take for instance our military engineering teams are present in areas of high malaria or mines to build the road between Siemreap’s Banteay Srey and Anlongveng or the road 56 between Porsath and the Thai-Cambodian border. We have gathered in all about 1000 construction machines, which the largest intervention forces in Cambodia. Their equipment is even more than that of ten construction companies combined. Second, RCAF helped in de-mining in various regions to clear land for our people to cultivate. It is a very important contribution that also brings down the numbers of death and maimed among our people. I wish also to take this opportunity to express my deep thanks and appreciation to them. Third, in the last few years, especially 2001 and 2002, RCAF had proven to be the most effective intervention forces of the Royal Government in saving our people from the flood and drought disasters. They are placed for emergency assistance along the rivers and also sending their forces to our people planting rice in drought affecting areas. Fourth, they also assist the Royal Government and other institutions in taking measures against dishonest actions. Before some people put the blame on the army, but now we have seen that the honor of the armed forces have been restored as they have implemented the Royal Government’s policy in fighting against the forestry anarchy that is a very important issue in the policy of forestry reform. If we were to have no support and intervention of our armed forces, we would not be able to conduct such large-scale search for and prevention of the large-scale forestry anarchy in between 1993 and 1998. They also assisted the Royal Government in the tax collection task making our tax revenue going up in numbers.
… Now we have one new task for the RCAF and it is the reforestation. We have consecutive plans for the reforestation. This year we grow forest in an area of 200 hectares in the military region number 4, which is adjacent to the Kulen Mountain in the commune of Tbeng, district of Banteay Srey. Last year I also accompanied Samdech Preah Reach Akkamohesey Monineath in the trees planting event in Banteay Srey. Here we grow trees in a farm-like system. Next year we will put another 2200 hectares of land under forest – 600 hectares in military region 4, 500 hectares in military region 3 and 5, and 200 hectares in military region 1 and 2. In addition to that they also have to grow trees in areas where they station so it should become a movement to grow trees.
… Our task nowadays is first, to prevent deforestation from happening, and second, to replant trees. But growing trees only is not sufficient because we have to provide care like what has been mentioned by HE Ke Kim Yan just now. I wish the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to make an inventory to see what is the current status of the 9000 hectares of forest that were planted previous years. To prevent waste of trees, labors and other resources, we have to have a system of monitoring of the forest situation. Like in this area there have been many forest fires. So a systematic studies have to be conducted to find out how to prevent the forest from getting burnt other wise the more we grow, the more we waste. I would also encourage our people to grow more trees in their homesteads. They could range from fruit to firewood trees. I used to mention about community forest, in which I imagined of newly married couples planting trees for their own children. They may also do that somewhere in their home compound. It is now time for us to take care not only trees left in our natural forest but also newly planted ones for many generations to come. In fact growing trees in the community forest is like helping to strengthen their marriage relations, as we have come to the present situation of so many broken marriages.
… This year the weather created a difficult condition in our country as drought hits some parts of Cambodia and some other parts is affected by flood causing destruction to various infrastructures. For our people living along the rivers, they have suffered serious losses. Take a bush of banana for one US dollars. And in three years, how many banana trees have been destroyed. Take also the papaya, if were to get 0.5 US dollar for a tree, how many trees have been destroyed. So our loss is enormous. The same impact could be calculated in drought affected condition. As now we have had some rains, some provinces also have almost completed plans. Like here HE Governor Chap Nhalivuth is somewhat relieved and as for Banteay Meanchey I heard that rice planting has completed already. Taking this opportunity, I wish to reiterate my appeal at the Council of Ministers to the Co-Ministers of National Defense, Interior and the armed forces that they must get their forces ready for intervention/assistance. Any places with seedlings but lack of labors, police and military police in those respective areas have to come in to help our people so that they could finish planting rice in time. It may be late now and planting late will result in low yield. The best way to do is to mobilize forces to help them. So I think that the armed forces or in time of peace called the civilian in military uniform have their duties, in addition to defending the country and security for our people, to provide assistance to our people ranging from sharing food, medicines, hard works, etc. So I wish the commanders would go with their soldiers to fulfil this mission.
… In addition to growing trees today I also have a number of requests to grow human resources. Just now there have a number of requests for roads and I would say let’s have a study first as we have had plan already. Well growing human resources is not that simple as growing trees. That is why I have introduced the construction of many school buildings and it is not a simple task at all as we have to have a good combination of education in the society, family and schools so that they become valuable asset of our country. No country in the world achieved development in absence of human resources and Cambodia has had thousands of school buildings now for the sake of human resources training and development…