Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today, I have a great honor and pleasure to be here with you all in this closing of the 2nd Cambodia Muslim Development Fund General Assembly (CMDF), with participation of the many member representatives across the country.
On behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia and my own self, may I extend my warmest congratulation and appreciation to the Cambodia Muslim Development Fund for the successful and substantial outcomes especially in uniting all the Cambodian Muslims and reducing the differences in following the Islamic religion and the RGC’s policies.
In particular, as H.E. Osman Hasan and CMDF’s Chairman Oknha Soh Kamrey reported, the Fund and development partners have performed many social works especially in education, health and economic areas in order to contribute to poverty reduction in Cambodia and to follow the policies and strategies set by the RGC especially in implementing its Rectangular Strategy of the 3rd mandate national assembly.
I believe you all remember that, during 3 years, 8 months and 20 days of Pol Pot regime, Islam was completely destroyed along with the destruction of schools, hospitals, pagodas, mosques and other infrastructures. By the time, schools, hospitals, pagodas and mosques were transformed into warehouses, common dinning rooms and poultry and livestock farms. However, with the National Solidarity Front of Cambodia to save Cambodia under the leadership of Samdech Chea Sim, Samdech Heng Samrin, myself and other prominent dignitaries, we stood up to a “flesh and blood struggle” to liberate the country from this darkest regime. Then, all the religions in Cambodia including the Islam were revitalized because of the 7 January 1979, and they all were reborn at the same hour, the same day, the same month and the same year. More importantly, all Cambodian people were happily reconciled with their families. Though physically weak and unhealthy inherited with all kinds of diseases, we were then trying our best physically and spiritually to mobilize together the resources left over to rehabilitate and reconstruct our devastated economic, social, cultural and religion foundations from a ground zero level.
Moreover, since 7 January 1979, our people have enjoyed freedoms of life and works, freedoms of expression and equal rights in participating in politics, organizations and associations which are guaranteed by the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia. The statistics show there are now more than 1,500 NGOs operating in Cambodia, including more than 20 Islam-oriented organizations and associations. Here, we have noted that the CMDF has contributed with the RGC in developing all the sectors at the grassroots levels, expanding their membership in large scale and deeply structured well into every villages and communes across the country where our Muslims are living. Now, the CMDF has the strong support from its members and has set to cooperate with other associations in order to make this organization stronger with the support from national and international communities.
Once again, I wish to sincerely appreciate the activities carried out by the CMDF in helping develop the Cambodian Muslim community while keeping the traditions of internal solidarity among Muslim community and the solidarity with Buddhist and other religious communities. Here, I am pleased to note that the Muslims have a very good tradition in promoting and respecting and following their leadership. Thus, I wish this good tradition remains forever in the hearts of all Muslims. Moreover, I still remember that, before and after 7 January 1979 until 2000, the legality of Cambodia’s top Muslim leaders was lost over these 25 years. Recognizing this need, I, on behalf of the RGC, requested to His Majesty the King to appoint Oknha Soh Kamrey to be the Head of the Supreme Council for Islam in Cambodia, in order to facilitate the governance of this religion in compliance to both religious and state rules, while authorizing the Head of the Council to appoint provincial and municipal, district and mosques’ religious heads and teachers. At the same time, to promote training of human resources the RGC has granted the Um Alkura School to Muslim community under the oversight of Oknha Soh Kamrey who serves as the Head of the Supreme Council for Islam in Cambodia. Now, the school has changed its name into the Center for Cambodia Islam which now has more extended and strong social and religious activities.
While we have witnessed a number of regions having unsolved problems, Cambodia on the other hand can manage the situation, which means that the Muslim communities in Cambodia are living in harmony with other communities. This is the culture of “cold water is abundant with fishes”. Indeed, Cambodian Muslims have had good relationship with other religious followers in many centuries and they have never caused any troubles for the government.
I would like to take this opportunity to remind the representatives of Cambodian Muslim Communities that Hakimtoun conference is annually organized countrywide by the “National Solidarity Front of Cambodia”, which is later changed to “National Solidarity Front for Construction and Defense of Cambodia” and in present changed to “National Solidarity Front for Development of Cambodia”. In that time, the Hakimtoun conference had been sometimes organized separately and sometimes jointly with Buddhist head monks in 1980s in order to increase the understanding about the context of the management of communities, society and the country according to law and religion and to communicate with each other about each religion as well as Islam and Buddhist followers with other religious followers, which rarely happened before. In that time, all religions had been taken cared through our Front. All minorities in Cambodia have been promoted and given priority. At the time, all problems related to religions and minorities had been tabled for solution with pessimistic and they are allowed to participate and discuss about the development in all fields.
In the policy with equity, equal rights and national obligations, the minorities in general and Muslims in particular have actively participated in the society and politics starting from national liberation until the present time as members of National Solidarity Front, members of parliament and senate, members of government and arm forces, officials at all levels as well as participating in social organizations and NGOs.
Indeed, I have today met with the representatives of the communities once again in the friendly atmosphere, and I believe that through the representatives of the city-provincial funds all over the country will continue to fully support every activity of the government.
Through the efforts and solidarity among the leadership of Cambodian Muslims and Muslims at all levels, I strongly believe that the Cambodia Muslim Development Fund will be successful more than what we have planned. In the past, present as well as in the future, on behalf of the Royal Government, I would like to support on what has been provided to the Muslim communities and will solve any remaining issues appropriately for the Muslims, which will contribute to improving the living standard of our Muslims without any discrimination and narrow-mindedness. I will always welcome and support any aid-receiving organizations and communities that have clear responsibility and unrelated to any hidden activities that affect the security, social order and reputation of the country.
Moreover, the Cambodian Muslim Community following the request from Muslim donors countries of the Persian Gulf, when H.E. Usman Hassan, my adviser, led the delegation to meet with the ambassadors in Bangkok from 18 to 19 August 2005; there is request from other Muslim countries to establish a single organisation for receiving support and assistance from other generous Muslim countries. Concerning to this H.E. Usman Hassan has sought out my guidance and I have made a decision that the best appropriate way in managing support is through the Supreme Council for Islam in Cambodian the highest institution of Muslim with the approval of the Prime Minister and official appointment by the Sub-decree from His Majesty the King.
Indeed, all people are looking for happiness in life without pressure or aggression from others, thus I think the harmonization policy among nationalities and religions adopted by the government is the most appropriate policy for concord of all nationalities and religions in Cambodia. In this spirit, I believe that because of appropriate deliberation, especially active participation of all citizens in society is an important factor for Cambodian Muslim Community to have confidence in us and post no concern for the Royal Government. On behalf of the Royal Government and my own behalf, I would like to express my sincere thanks to all of you who are here and those across the country for the supports extended to me, my wife and the government.
I would like to take this pleasant opportunity to provide with some recommendations regarding to the planning and direction for the implementation of activities which this General Assembly has adopted this morning:
1. The Cambodia Muslim Development Fund should continue its efforts in development of social sector, in particular related to education, health as well as economic sector have contributed to the real poverty reduction in Cambodia. Thus, to continue cooperation with Muslim friendly countries, especially in terms of scholarships for Muslim students to continue their study in general, technical and religious educations in order for us to have more human resources in rehabilitating our country.
2. To continue cooperation and relationship with countries, organizations, communes, and generous people that have provided supports; in terms of cow bank and rice bank, in particular for those countries and Islam Development Bank (IDB) to provide consessional loan for Muslim communities for agriculture, rubber plantation, fish and livestock farming aiming at improving family living standards in communes.
3. To exert your best efforts in coordinating with leaders and supporters of other Islamic sects to return to its original glory of close solidarity while seeking cooperation by all means with other communities in Cambodia, in particular with Buddhism religion.
In conclusion, once again, I would like to express my appreciation to all Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, and all 1560 participants, in particular fund representatives from all 22 provinces and municipalities for their participation. And may Allah bless us all with happiness, prosperity and progress. I would like to declare the closing of the 2nd Cambodia Muslim Development Fund General Assembly from now on.