Distinguished International and National Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Today, it is a great honor and pleasure for me to participate in this ceremony to present the diplomas signifying the graduation of 86 new nurses. I understand that today’s graduates are the former first-batch students of the Maharishi Vedic University in Prey Veng who were transferred to the Royal Army School of Medicine, 1998-2001.
On behalf of the Royal Government, I congratulate all of you who are receiving your diplomas today! I am extremely pleased to share this important day with you. I am sure you have all worked hard and studied very intensively despite the constraints of student life to deserve your diplomas.
On this joyful graduation, I express great appreciation for the commendable performance of the management, staff and all the faculty members of the Royal Army School of Medicine, the staff of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, and of the Ministry of Health. Your whole-hearted efforts have again contributed to the implementation of our nation’s reform program in education and to the development of the human resources of Cambodia, especially in the health sector.
Your work has transferred valuable knowledge, educated and trained our youth, and is helping to create a socially connected, educationally advanced and culturally vibrant Cambodian society. These are the key elements for socio-economic development, reducing poverty and improving the living standards of Cambodian people, the main objective of the Royal Government.
This is the second time that I come here for a graduation ceremony. The first was when I helped present the diplomas to the first batch of graduates of the Royal Army School of Medicine in October 1996. At that time, my mind became filled with the memories of having survived the period following the collapse of the Khmer Rouge regime.
After Liberation Day, 7 January 1979, indeed we survived, but just barely. We inherited a situation with little or no public services. The entire infrastructure had been ravaged by the decades of civil war and political instability in Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge had completely destroyed our national health system. There were only about fifty doctors in the country – the fortunate few who survived the regime of brutality and genocide.
You all should remember this “renaissance period” when the army medical corps helped to save thousands of people’s lives. The army medical corps not only provided health care but also assisted the people to reunite with their surviving families and return to their home villages.
Therefore, I wish to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to the army medical personnel for their heroic contributions to the rehabilitation of our people and the development of the health care system. This is a remarkable achievement and success in the rebuilding of the health care system of Cambodia.
I have received the reports on the Nurse Training Program the Secretary of State of the Ministry of Education H.E. Im Sithy and Lieutenant General Dr. Lun Sokhun. I am very pleased by the report and highly appreciate the efforts and cooperation exerted by the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Defence and the Royal Army School of Medicine that have enabled the 86 students to complete their studies and be graduated today.
As I have stated on many occasions before, the Royal Government of Cambodia considers the strengthening and building the capacity and health of the population as its most important policy thrust in reducing poverty in our country. The assurance of good health for the population is crucial for improved productivity and sustained, long-term economic growth. The Royal Government is fully aware that economic growth alone cannot guarantee the success of the poverty reduction campaign. The complementary promotion of social and cultural development is crucial for improved equity in society, which in turn improves capacity and adds opportunities for effective participation in the development process.
Consistent with this strategy, the Royal Government’s health sector plans are focused on the improvement of basic health services, especially in the remote areas. From only 678 in 2000, by 2001 we already had 768 health centers that are well equipped and properly staffed.
Furthermore, even though considerable time, effort and resources are required to establish referral hospitals, we have successfully set up 10 district hospitals. These referral hospitals have the capacity to perform simple to more complex surgery, and thus add to total capacity apart from the existing province-level referral hospitals. Moreover, the Royal Government, as part of the Priority Action Program budget for the Ministry of Health, funds has been approved for expenditure in seven provinces and in eight national programs. Special budgets have also been set aside for the Accelerated District Development programs in 32 districts throughout the country.
At this point, allow me to comment on the development of education and health. With regard to education, I have observed the rapid growth in the number of private as well as public courses and institutions. However, quantity has grown much faster than quality! The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and other concerned ministries and institutions should take this problem seriously. These concerned offices must review and review its policies and improve and enforce standards for curricula and programs to meet the requirements of the labour market at standards at least equivalent to that of the countries in the region.
I raise this concern openly because I want the quality of the services of all higher education institutions and vocational training centers to improve. Education and training institutions must pay more attention to the improvement of the institutions. This includes attention to academic infrastructure such as libraries and laboratories. Attention to the technical base of education is attention to human resources with advanced skills in training and education consistent with the nature of information and technology in this the 21st century.
We must protect and promote the true value of diplomas. Excess supplies of under qualified and poorly trained graduates results in the problem of “dis-equilibrium”, where poor-quality graduates in unable to meet the demand for quality professionals and skilled workers.
Moreover, appropriate planning is necessary to ensure that the right number of graduates is trained in each field. For example, to meet the demand for Engineers as well as skilled workers, we should consider how many workers are required to support the work of each Engineer. Failure to analyze these issues may result in having too many Engineers and few workers, leading to an “inverted pyramid” in the structure of labor. The same applies to the training of medical workers, where an appropriate mix in the number of doctors, nurses and medical personnel. Indeed, training programs should be planned based on facts and careful forecasts.
I would like to say something about the Royal Army School of Medicine, which is a part of the health system. Lieutenant General Dr. Lun Sokhun has reported that the school has been training and retraining nurses, medical workers as well as pharmacists since 1979. The medical workers who were trained here have helped the Government in many ways, from treating the many thousands who were hurt during the time of the Khmer Rouge, to helping people affected by the floods.
Nowadays, the Royal Army School of Medicine has strengthened and improved its capacity. It has also cooperated with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports. The school accepted students from Maharishi Vedic University, those who are receiving their diplomas now, and trained them to be nurses. I believe that the Royal Army School of Medicine should continue to further improve its performance by rehabilitating its facilities, upgrading its laboratories and equipment and of course strengthen its curriculum.
Today therefore, I approve the request for the military nurses who graduate from the Royal Army School of Medicine to be able to enrol in the University of Medicine of the Ministry of Health. However, we should ensure that appropriate guidelines and procedures be followed.
[Start of Ad-lib Comments] “… I wish to add a few things as I am coming here today to give my encouragement for the on-going process of the school. It is true that our country is now in complete peace but we cannot neglect military development. In our history, the military physicians have been the first to called upon both in peace and in war times. It its close relation with people in local areas, the army’s physicians have been the first to assist the victims.
“… Cambodia suffered heavy flooding in 1991 and again in 1996. In addition to flooding in 1996 Cambodia had had an obligation to reintegrate people from the former Khmer Rouge controlled areas. In those times our army’s physicians played very important roles in examining our people’s ill conditions prior to forwarding them to the civilian hospital. Even we are now in complete peace, we also had flooding in the last two consecutive years – 2000 and 2001. Our army had actively taken part in providing assistance and treatment to our flood victims. They provide primary and necessary healthcare and treatment before further assistance could be provided.
“… As in the present, the armed forces have become absolute intervention forces on issues of roads and bridges renovation and construction. Wherever there are construction sites of the military engineering teams, there normally are a number of physician teams. In some sites they have provided treatments to up to thousands of people. The longer they stay, the more they provide treatment to our people.
“… It is called a special course because it is the first kind of graduation that is taking place in a period of 23 years. If I have to talk about the background of this course, this graduation has taken place in a very special way. These graduates were enrolled since January 1993, and they are just graduating in August 2002. The study period – nine months in all — for this group of mid-level physicians has expanded longer than that of the Doctorate level, as the latter would have completed their studies in just seven months.
“… I remember well that you all came from the Moharesseivedic University in Prey Veng province to file your complaint at the Ministry of Education and the matter had not resolved until it was brought to Tuol Krasaing, my residence in Takhmao, Kandal province. It was the night of March 28, 1997 that HE Chhea Thaing, the then Minister of Health, and HE Kea Sahan, then Secretary of State for Education, and I, were pooling ideas in search of resolution. At that time there were 142 students. Now I learned that two passed away and many have dropped out. The curriculum at the Moharusseivedic University was strange because they oblige the students to do meditation instead. The Ministry of Health could not accept our students who discharged themselves from the faculty of medicine there. So it was quite difficult to resolve the issue. Finally, with strong will we have got to the solution, though it has taken us a bit more time – continuing their studies at the Military School of Medicines. May be you share my feeling that it has taken us a bit longer to walk, but we have come to our goal.
“… I wish to take this opportunity to express my deep thanks primarily to the Ministry of National Defense, and especially to the Military School for Medicines who had accepted to offer its facility for these students to complete their studies. I wish also to thank the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and the Ministry of Health for giving me their supports to the arrangement we had agreed upon.
“… Just now General Luon Sokhon has made a request to the Royal Government to give priority to these graduates to be absorbed into the Government payroll. I wish to say that on this request you all may have to depend on your individual capacity. I could save you from a bankrupted study program to a professional institution. But when it comes going to competition for a career in the Ministry of Health, you all have to depend on your own capacity. We are now in the process of making a strict selection procedure. Sometimes we screen for only fifty successful candidates out of a thousand applicants. We have to do like this in order to assuage “corruption and/or nepotism – as they say, one has to have a nepotistic relation to be incorporated into the Government payroll.” So a strict exam and selection rule would help us guarantee transparency. I have a strong belief though that our mid-level physicians here could pass the exam as they have spent more time than doctorate level because of the above reason.
“… We have now what we called “liberalization on education,” the result of which there are many schools opened and provided various kind of courses. But they all have to refrain from repeating lesson of the Moharusseivedic University. Some of the students have graduated today and a number of them still have to go on until their study result is announced in the next few months. Some of you would also complete the studies by 2003. This clearly means that what we have tried to resolve together has proven to be completely resolved. This was perhaps an explanation of why this graduation is very special. Let me also warn in general “as toddler, you should not run yet.” This is true not only for you as a human being, but even a collective spirit like a university may also collapse, if not the whole university, it could be a faculty… [End of Ad-lib Comments]
Today, you are very proud of your accomplishments in your life and deserve to be awarded with diplomas and formally join a highly respected profession. Nevertheless, the respect you build and maintain depends on your strict adherence to humanity and to the code of professional ethics. Medical workers without professional ethics and conscience do not deserve any respect at all.
I encourage you all to work hard in your careers as medical professionals, using all the skills and knowledge you have learned here. However, do remember that the knowledge you have received in the course may be appropriate only for a limited period. The knowledge will be less appropriate with time, as science and technology expand and progress without limit. Therefore, it is important that you continue your studies and research as an endless process. I also hope that some of you will later on progress to higher studies and higher degrees.
Once again, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Defence and the Royal Army School of Medicine for their work in enabling the graduation of the 86 nurses today. Let me end by extending to you all, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, the five gems of Buddhist grace and my personal wish for your prosperity and happiness. I especially wish all graduates good health and success in their career.