Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today I am pleased and honored to participate in this happy ceremony to officially open a section of National Road 7 linking the Kizuna Bridge to Thnal Toteung. This section also includes two bridges: one at Math Khmong and the other at Mream Teak. This section and bridges have been constructed with another grant from the Government of Japan.
Indeed, the history of the relationship between Cambodia and Japan is recorded on the “body of the dragon”. This body is reflected in the network of roads stretching from Phnom Penh towards Northeastern Cambodia, including National Road 6A and National Road 7 from Thnal Keng to here in Thnal Toteung, with the total length of about 132 kilometers. The rehabilitation and reconstruction of that entire stretch has been funded by the government and people of Japan. This covers the construction of 62 bridges with the latest and best technology, especially the long Kuzana Bridge that crosses the Mekong River and which is of enormous importance for the economy and society of Cambodia.
The Cambodian people will always remember and consider Japan as a very rare friend who has been supporting Cambodia in every sector and under all circumstances. The evidence has been obvious since 1993 in all our roads and bridges. Today we see Japanese help in the construction of the 12-kilometer road with two bridges at Math Khmong and Mream Teak.
The continuing assistance by our Japanese friends has undoubtedly proven the good will of Japanese government and its people to help Cambodia in our efforts to rehabilitate and develop the country. With deep gratitude, may I request H.E. the Ambassador of Japan to convey the profound gratitude of the government and people of Cambodia to the government and people of Japan. Indeed, Japan has helped Cambodia not only financially, but also personally in contributing with deep sympathy with Cambodia’s efforts to the building and maintenance of peace and political stability, rehabilitation and development of our economy and society, and ultimately to the considerable reduction of poverty among the Cambodian people.
This stretch of National Road 7 which we are going to open today will provide not only transport benefits but also improve flood mitigation, irrigation and drainage in the area. Traffic on NR 7 will grow and move faster, and thus increase its role as a principal economic artery of the country, strategic in facilitating inland transportation throughout the entire region, including the Thai, Vietnamese and Laotian borders. This road will enable us to better communicate through the region and into remote areas east of the Mekong River, an area which has long been quite isolated. Such communication enables the opportunity to promote development in those areas, including in education and health, so that the people’s standards of living will improve and poverty reduced.
It is clear that National Road 7 has contributed significantly to the development of the Kampong Cham economy and of the country as a whole. NR 7 is a key factor in regional integration since it links Cambodia to the international road network into the rest of the Mekong and father into East Asia. Eventually the ASEAN road initiative will improve NR 7 as a link from Vientiane in Laos to Phnom Penh and further South to the Sihanoukville port. Yes, NR 7 serves as the international road linking Vientiane through Paksé, Steung Treng, Kratie, Kampong Cham, Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville.
This stretch of road has been reconstructed at this time, when Cambodia’s credibility as a democratic and peaceful country is being strengthened and raised day by day. The Royal Government, in its Second Term, has exerted its utmost efforts to successful implement its priorities in constructing roads and bridges to promote national development in all sectors and improve the living and well-being of our people. Specifically, we are proud to have fully rehabilitated and reconstructed many parts of Cambodia’s road infrastructure, many of which has been left neglected since the 1970s. Indeed, the on-going construction of this NR 7 will soon stretch to Kratie, Mondulkiri and Rattanakiri. National Roads 48 and 4 to Koh Kong have been reclaimed from the jungle. These have been reconstructed and since April 2003 have been in use for trade, commerce, communications and tourism.
Recently, the respective Royal Governments of Cambodia and Thailand agreed to implement the offer of the Thai government to upgrade some roads and also to construct four bridges in the border areas. This will also help reduce cross-border travel and marketing costs. In summary, as of early in 2003, we have constructed road across the country, including about 2,000 kilometers of asphalt and macadam roads at the national level, 1,700 kilometers of laterite roads at the provincial level, and some 10,000 kilometers of rural roads at the village level.
All these achievements in infrastructure could have only been completed with the joint efforts and strong cooperation between public officials, government members, local authorities in all level and the people. Moreover, the generous support from Cambodia’s development partners have been crucial factors in the development of Cambodia after being dragged down by more than two decades of war.
As you know, Ladies and Gentlemen, many years of war since 1970 have damaged and destroyed Cambodia’s entire infrastructure. Moreover and unfortunately, continuous flooding in the three years from 1999 to 2001 caused additional serious damage to the nation’s infrastructures, including the destruction of several projects which had already been rehabilitated by the Royal Government in the period after our liberation on 7 January.
The challenge of meeting the huge and growing demand on resources for the rehabilitation and the re-construction of infrastructure is very difficult. And this challenge has to be met at a time when we also need to overcome the complex management of economic development. The Royal Government has been exploring all means and mechanisms for the mobilization of both national and international resources for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the roads and transportation system. Fortunately, the friends of Cambodia have responded positively. Many development partners, especially from the Government of Japan, the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank and governments of many other nations have provided substantial support to help meet the urgent needs of Cambodia.
We are very conscious about the key role that physical infrastructure, especially roads, are crucial to poverty alleviation and national development. If we had well-built roads and bridges, we can travel more easily and rapidly. We will be able to transport larger quantities of goods and products to the markets at lower costs and less time. Having good roads and bridges will help enable us to build schools to improve human knowledge, to build hospitals and provide medicines to improve the health of the people, particularly in remote regions. Having well-built roads and bridges will also attract foreign investment and tourists, enabling our people more opportunities for information and employment, increasing their incomes and improving their livelihoods. Good roads and bridges will connect the Cambodian economy with the regional and international market. Indeed, good roads will boost the socio-economic development of Cambodia, enabling our people to rapidly move up from poverty.
Once again, on behalf of the Royal Government and people of Cambodia, I deeply thank the Government and people of Japan who have generously assisted Cambodia. I also thank the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank and other nations and international institutions who have contributed to the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the infrastructure of Cambodia in support of our efforts at development and poverty alleviation.
May I also express my strong appreciation for the efforts of the officials of the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation, the local authorities and other related institutions of the government in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of our infrastructure. Specifically I acknowledge the work of the MAEDA and Nippon Koei companies in ensuring the completion of this road.
I would also like to appeal to the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation, the local authorities and all our people, and especially the companies that use heavy transport, to cooperate in maintaining our roads and bridges so that these will last and serve us all well into the future.
Finally, Ladies and gentlemen, let me conclude by most sincerely extending to all of you the five gems of the Buddha’s wishes. May I officially declare the opening of this section of National Road 7, including the bridges at Math Khmong and at Mream Teak…