– Your Excellencies, Deputy Prime Minister, Members of the Royal Government, Parliament and Senate;
– Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Ambassadors and Distinguished International Guests;
– Your Excellencies, Delegates of Vietnam Veterans Association;
– Participants of the Conferences!
At the outset, on behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia and myself I am very honored and delighted to participate in this first conference of the all representatives of Cambodian Veterans Association.
I am in the view that this first conference of the all representatives of Cambodian Veterans Association is an important event regarding the activities of Cambodian’s veterans. The Cambodian Veterans Association which just has been established is a new partner of the Royal Government and Ministry of Social Affairs Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation as well as other relevant ministries/agencies to promote the effective implementation of national policy related to the veterans. I would like to thank the participants of the conference for giving me the honor to be the president of the Cambodian Veterans Association. I am extremely pleased to have this responsibility as I am one of the veterans who has been injured during the war.
I hope that the Cambodian Veterans Association will contribute to provide moral development and material support to veterans for their valuable services to our motherland. On behalf of H.E. Tea Banh, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of National Defense and H.E. Ith Sam Heng, Minister of Social Affairs Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation, I would like to thank the conference for electing both of them to be the vise president and Secretary General respectively of the Cambodian Veterans Association. Taking this opportunity, let me also thanks and extend my appreciation to all the management, civil servants of the Ministry of Social Affairs Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation, governors, commanders of all levels of the Royal armed forces of Cambodia and beloved veterans for establishing the Cambodian Veterans Associations and for organizing conferences at all levels – district, provincial and municipal and finally for holding this first conference of the all Representatives of Cambodian Veterans Association. At the same time, I would like to express my warmest welcome to all veteran’s representatives for participating in this occasion.
May I also profoundly welcome the delegates of Vietnam Veterans Association for attending this conference. This is the evidence of the tightening friendship and close cooperation among veterans as well as both of our people Cambodia – Vietnam, which are compatriots, side by side fighting together in the past.
The veterans are the servants of their motherland; they are the symbol of sacrifices for the country and real patriots through their noble actions. Cambodian’s veterans are the evidence of the heroism of Cambodian people.
Taking this opportunity, allow me to recall again that Cambodia has gone through war and genocide regime that led the country into the total destruction of the national social foundation. Furthermore, over one million of Cambodians have been killed. Our people and youth during the war time have joined their hands together to fight; many have left their families and many have died, injured and become handicapped and now at the present time are the veterans.
After the Paris Peace Agreement on 23 October 1991, Cambodia has moved into a new era of national reconciliation. The success of the “win – win” policy since 1998 led to the integration of the remaining Khmer Rouge armed forces. The whole Cambodian territory has been united and full peace has stretched across the country. Political setting is becoming stable and people all over the country are living in harmony; this is the basic environment and a good condition for country development.
Base on the progress of such situation, all the former rebellion armed forces has integrated into a single national armed force. Besides, former veteran has also integrated into a single national veteran sector. Meanwhile, after having gone through the process of the Royal Cambodia Armed Force reform the number of soldiers have been gradually reduced and transferred into the veteran sector where the role of veterans becomes even bigger overtime.
According to the report of the Ministry of Social Affairs Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation, until today there are a total number of 81,857 veterans in which 29,736 of them are handicaps, 45,270 passed away, 5,744 retired, 1,107 lost the ability to work, the total number of dependents is 479,936 including 350,067 children, 25,897 fathers, 35,388 mothers and 68,584 wives. The Royal Government has spent a total of 50,256,608,329 Riels to support the veteran allowance policy.
So far, the Royal Government has been determined in gradually improving the policy regime for veterans in accordance with the available national budget such as the increase in their annual salary by 15% to be parallel with the increase in the government official’s salary. For instance, recently the Royal Government has decided to increase financial support for the children and families of the deceased veterans from 4000 to 8000 Riels.
At the same time, handicaps have received retraining services for free and received other professional training, job creation and participated in sport events. The veterans’ families who faced with difficulties in life always received various supports from the Royal Government, the Ministry of Social Affairs Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation, and other organizations. However, as reflected in the Veteran Community Reunion at all levels, it showed that more than 50% of veterans faced difficulties in life and has not received proper shelters, in that, about 10% of them has sold or pawned their allowancesreceived from the government to businessmen for money to address the immediate challenges faced.
It should also be noticed that, the veterans allowances policy has been established since after the Liberation Day on the 7thJanuary 1979, and the institution in charged of the veteran sector was gradually changed. At first, it was the role of the Committee for Social Affairs, then the Ministry of Social Affairs, after then it was the Ministry of Handicap and Social Affairs, and after that during the first term, it was the Ministry of Veteran and Social Work Affairs, during the second term it was the Ministry of Women Affairs and Veteran, in the recent time it is the Ministry of Social Affairs Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation. The reason behind all the frequent changes of the institutions in-charged is because the Royal Government wanted to pay particular focus on the veteran sector and has considered it as an important sector of the nation. Nevertheless, there are still some challenges such as the incomplete broadening of institutional capacity, the disconnected and flawed leadership which resulted in the state of inactivity, and the flaw of experts regarding their capacity to manage and use files. For instance, in 1999, the veteran department has been transferred from the Ministry of Social Affairs to the Ministry of Women Affairs, when there was proper office building for use. However, in 2005 when the department was transferred to the Ministry of Social Affairs Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation, it was a private leased building. Only in the recent time when there are proper office buildings for use.
Taking this opportunity, I would like to praise the Ministry of Social Affairs Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation, particularly H.E. Ith Sam Heng, for taking measures to strengthen the management and overcome every inactivity in this sector until achieving some remarkable outcomes such as the canceling from the scheme of the over-aged children without any education certificate, re-married couples, and the deceased parents which amounted to 60,203 people. By doing so, we can save up to 3,288,317,616 Riels per year. Moreover, we have identified some 1,097 cases of irregularity which equal to 397,218,372 Riels per year.
At the same time, we have taken measure to stop the trade of allowances which is done overtly during the beginning of 2007 and have dealt with some instant violations. The implementation of policy for veterans is the duty of the Royal Government and the whole nation to appropriately thank them for their great sacrifices. The efforts in taking good care off the veterans both mentally and physically, has the political meaning to upgrade a sense of nationalism and sacrifice of the people from all walks of life for the cause of the nation which has been known as the great tradition of Cambodian people. For instance, during the great Angkor civilization, our ancestors have left us with the Angkor Temple as our today’s heritage. Every struggle to gain national independency and to liberalize the people can not be done without the participation from the veteran such asKing Norodom Sihanouk, who have claimed independency from France Colonization in 1953 and joined the national liberalization front to rescue the people from Pol Pot regime until achieving victory in 7th January 1979 under the leadership of Cambodia People Party (CPP).
The roles of the veteran sector have been determined in the Third-Term of the Royal Government’s Rectangular Strategy and the national economic development document, and in the programs of many related institutions and ministries. The good implementation of this policy is a part of the implementation of policy on equal distribution of economic growth. In the recent years, the country’s state of affairs has been making very good progress. Peace and political stability are conducive to economic and social restoration and development. Evidently, 1.3 million tons of rice has been exported, and industrial exports and tourism sectors increased every year. The exploration of mineral resources such as oil and bauxite etc. will become the sources for infrastructure development and expansion, and economic and social development. In general, we have a future full of optimism and pride. The outcomes expected in the future will be distributed equitably, of which there is a share for veterans as well.
I agree with the report on the Situation, Work Directions of the First-Term Cambodian Veteran Committee (2007-2012) and the constitutions of the Cambodian Veteran Committee which is being discussed and approved. I would like to congratulate the Central Committee, Permanent Secretariat, Development Commission, Appointment Commission, Finance Commission, Audit Commission of the Central Committee, and the Committee of Provincial-Municipal Veteran Association which was elected recently in the meeting of the Cambodian Veteran Association of all classes. Taking this opportunity, I would like to propose some additional works as follows:
1st – Continue to implement properly policy regimes for veterans:
– The Ministry of Social Affairs Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation must continue to strengthen the provision of allowances timely to veterans. It must continue to check the payment list permanently to avoid a situation in which there is a name in the list but the person does not exist, or the same person can claim the money at different places, or making claim under a different name.
– The Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Interior must double check the names list of the veterans and the families of the deceased accurately before sending to the Ministry of Social Affairs Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation. At the same time, we must strengthen the inter-ministerial working group of the Ministry of Social Affairs Veteran, and Youth Rehabilitation, Ministry of Defense, and the Ministry of Interior to verify the payment list for veterans.
– The Council of Ministers, especially the Information Technology Authority must increase the database management programs on veterans through information technology and return them to the Ministry of Social Affairs Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation for use to increase the efficiency in the management of veterans.
– The Ministry of Social Affairs Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation must address the issue of allowance trading by 2007 as I have agreed in principle. We must carry out strict measures for officials who do not comply with this directive, regardless of the ministries or institutions they belong to.
– The Ministry of Social Affairs Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation must manage to provide the first remuneration, the 15% increase of allowances for handicaps, people who lost the ability to work, retirees and, the increase allowances for the children of the deceased families timely.
2nd– We must conduct a study to build the national safety net fund for veterans to address their well-beings comprehensively in the following years in consistence with the Royal Government’s national financial sector strategy.
In this case, I would like to directly request the Ministry of Social Affairs Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation to cooperate with the Ministry of Economy and Finance to conduct a study to establish an allowance payment system through private banks in order to increase the effectiveness of allowance payments and avoid inactivity.
3rd– We must establish development projects for veteran communities aiming at collecting data on veterans’ situation, looking for the most vulnerable families and their immediate needs. We must also establish professional training programs, address the housing and land issues, scholarship, micro finances, concessions, and loans, etc. in order to facilitate and upgrade the veterans’ and their families’ s living standard.
– In this context, the Ministry of Social Affairs Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation must prepare the rules for using the social safety net fund in the Ministry’s budget nomenclature to implement this project.
At the same time, the Ministry of Defense must continue to strengthen and implement the policy outlined in the “White Book” of Royal Army of Cambodia relating to the distribution of land concession for demobilized soldiers who do not have land for residential and agriculture purposes as stated in the Sub-degree on Social Land Concession.
– Relevant ministries/institutions, all hierarchical authorities, particularly the Commune/Sangkat Council that has been recently elected, must give priority to veterans for any public goods delivered under their authorities, for instance the allocation of concessional land, scholarship, health services, retraining service etc. Local authority should select good and qualified veterans to be community leaders, for example, fishery and clean water communities, village chiefs based on their capacity and possibility.
– Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Interior, RCAF, General Command, National Police Commissary, Commandant of Royal Military Police, Military Zone Command, Military Division, Command Unit of Provincial-Municipality/District-Khan and Military Unit in charge of any area must cooperate with Social Workers at that area to visit our veterans disregarding their backgrounds as long as they are close to the responsible area and must support them within its capability and take care of them the same way as taking care of yourselves.
4th– Must organize Veteran National Forum in the Royal Government as I have suggested and use every 21st day of June as the national day.
This decision is based on the actual circumstances of our veterans which were combined and integrated into a single national veteran sector. After a careful consideration, I have decided to pick the opening of the First Conference of the All Representatives of Cambodian Veterans Association as the birthday of Cambodian Veterans Association and also to be a national day of Cambodian veterans. I hope that people from all walks of life would accept this consideration without reluctant.
On behalf of the Royal Government, I would like to hand over these tasks to the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation to organize the National Day of Veteran with cooperation from the Committee that organizes National and International Holidays and all the hierarchies of Cambodian Veteran Association in order to stir up a social movement and to broadly participate in the dissemination of the national policy on veterans and to take stock of annual veteran works of the Royal Government, relevant ministries/institutions and Cambodian Veteran Association.
5th– Must strengthen the organization of all hierarchy of Cambodian Veteran Association. An organization can be sustained by three factors: (i) having the right principles and activities; (ii) having strong organizational structure which consists of members and supports from the people; and (iii) having financial resources to sustain its main activities. Leaders and members of CVA at all hierarchy should connect these three factors as the mean to strengthen our CVA. Moreover, I would like to suggest some ideas for the successful operation of the CVA:
– All hierarchies of Committee of the CVA must follow the terms of reference as stipulated in the statute of CVA which is a collective democracy led by a responsible person. Therefore, all hierarchies of committee must strictly follow this rule. Chairmen, deputy-chairmen, secretariats, members of the committee must responsible for its duties respectively.
– Must maintain solidarity in the committee from the bottom to the top hierarchical level and among members of the CVA and must strengthen the internal solidarity and unity for the sake of CVA.
– Must explain and encourage veterans to voluntarily apply for membership in the CVA to be able to support each others.
6th– all hierarchies of the CVA must promote a “Good Three” movement among the veterans. “Good Three” are (i)good use of government allowance, not to sell it, because even though the allowance is not much but it is the effort of the Royal Government and represents great benefit of veteran. Thus it should only be used for yourself and your family’s benefit; (ii)organize yourself and your family’s livelihood well. Even with difficulties the family should stick together, no household violence, send the children to school or to receive other social services, be innovative and hard working in making a living or seeking for job without migrating out of home town, without a clear employment; and (iii) participate in the community development. Veterans should participate in activities of the community that they live in, even with the lack of resources it can be physical or mental contribution according to their ability and must not do anything to offense the society. If veterans can do all these, they will be chosen as role models by the authority and people in the community.
The Ministry of Social Affairs, Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation have to cooperate with the CVA to organize an annual championship for three veterans according to their achievements to receive rewards such as medals, appraisal certificates, trophies, money, domestic and international travels etc. Veterans should broadly participate in this movement, it is a self-help movement of veterans because we should help ourselves first before the Royal Government and the national and international organizations can help us.
7th, I would like to appeal to all donors, national and international organizations for their cooperation and support for Cambodian veterans. Aid programs should also include the veteran sector.
I would also like to appeal to generous people including monks, businessmen, investors and those who are resourceful to contribute in materials and funds, to provide jobs and trainings for veterans, family and children of veterans, handicaps and deceased veterans who are very poor in order to find a relief for their difficulties and help this vulnerable group of people to have a better livelihood.
Oh behalf of the CVA, I would like to honestly congratulate the friendship and cooperation between the Cambodian Veteran Association and the Vietnamese Veteran Association.
I have a strong belief that in the future the cooperation of veterans between both countries will become stronger in order to tighten the friendship and cooperation as good neighbors between Cambodia and Vietnam. At the same time, the CVA also welcomes for the cooperation from other countries in the region and in the world for the sake of common interest in the framework of development and humanity.
Finally, I would like to wish Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen and the conference with good health and success in all your endeavors and wish you all the Five Gems of Buddhist Blessings.