Your Excellency Jerry D. Jennings, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State of Defense;
Your Excellencies, Delegates from Laos PDR and Vietnam;
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today I am most honored and pleasured to participate in the opening of the “2004 Four-Party Dialogue on the Search for U.S. Missing Citizens in the Vietnam War” at the Sofitel Royal Angkor in Siem Reap.
On behalf of the Royal Government and People of Cambodia, may I warmly welcome the Delegates from Laos PDR, Vietnam and the United States for coming to this magnificent land of Angkor, Kingdom of Cambodia!
Cambodia has a great pleasure and honor today to host this important meeting. This event reflects our strong efforts in humanitarian activities and integration of our country into the international community, providing appropriate contribution and cooperation to regional and world communities as a sovereign state. I believe that this meeting will provide us with a great chance to take stock of all achievements and define measures for further implementation of our effort to search for American citizens missing during the Vietnam War era.
You may clearly know about the bitter history of our country and people who suffered prolong wars. Wars and the genocide destroyed all the fundamental infrastructure of the economy, society, culture tradition and our religion almost to the zero level. As a result, it was the separation and loss of lives of the family members across the whole Khmer society during 1970-1975 and 1975-1978 periods due to the wars and the genocide of Khmer Rough. Every Cambodian citizens living in the country or those escaped from the killing all have family member, friends and relatives killed or separated in the “open prison” and “killing field” of the genocidal regime.
During 1979-1991, our compatriots had hoped that one day they would be able to find or meet their missing family members. However, their hope of that day seems to be far away and it never comes for most of them. So far, some of our citizens still have not met their missing family members. The searching efforts for information about the whereabouts of those missing family members have been a sad perseverance that our citizen have come across and continue to suffer.
When I saw advertisements seeking family members separated during the wartime on TV, newspapers and radio, I always feel painful and pray to the sacred objects to allow those people to meet their family members again.
I have myself experienced the suffering of the separation and loss. I was really sad to be separated from my wife and children for a long period during the wartime without knowing about the fates of my beloved persons. And what I can tell you today was the excitement that nothing can be compared with, when I found and met my family members again. My wife, children, parents and some relatives have been reunited. However, some others of my family members and friends have forever left me, but I do know exactly about their fates.
In 1991, a U.S. delegation came here for consultation in search for the remains of 81 Americans missing in Cambodia. I regarded the mission as a humanitarian mission and did not impose any conditionality. I advised the American delegation to look for a possibility of convening a “Four-Party Meeting” in the name of humanitarian mission, because the loss of American lives happened along the border of the three countries, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. However, my advice was neither rejected nor accepted. Nevertheless, the bilateral mission between Cambodia and the U.S. has progressed step by step, achieving satisfactory results.
I would like to take this opportunity to appreciate the good cooperation between the Cambodian and American POW/MIA Committees that have found 25 remains of the American citizens in the past 13 years. This result has originated from the cooperation between Cambodia and an American humanitarian organization, named “the National League of POW/MIA”, with Ms. Anne Mills Griffiths as Executive Director. I received a letter from Ms. Anne Mills Griffiths in 1984 during my visit to Africa and advised Samdech Heng Samrin and H.E. Chan Sy to provide humanitarian cooperation on the matter.
The tragedy left over from the past wars has forced us to endlessly wait for answers about the fates of those missing people. The documents and witnesses that can be used in search for missing persons have become obsolete and older. Some witnesses have passed away. Some documents have been damaged due to climate and flood. All these factors have made the mission to search for missing persons requires more and more energy, time and money, especially the enhancement and enlargement of cooperation and profound understanding among the four countries.
I also have a great pleasure to learn that H.E. Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of National Defense of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam have agreed in principles to grant American officials the rights to search for information about the remaining missing American citizens in the Vietnamese Documentation Center that deems as necessary. Another good news is that senior Laotian officials have accepted the United States’ proposal, helping search for the missing Americans in Laos as well.
One behalf of the government and people of Cambodia, I would like to extend my sincere admiration and profound respect to the representatives of Laotian and Vietnamese delegations for these humanitarian gestures of the leaders of the two countries.
As for the Kingdom of Cambodia, we are proud to take part in this regional effort that would help strengthen security and peace in general. Thus, the Royal Government is well conscious that, by firmly upholding the principles of democracy and free market, the respect for and protection of human rights, peace and national reconciliation, we can meaningfully contribute to peace, stability and economic growth in the region and the world.
Cambodia is now in a situation where trade plays an important role in promoting economic growth and poverty reduction. The growth in trade, due to trade liberalization policy, is a catalyst for economic growth. Especially, the open trade regime and liberalization will lead to high rate of growth and promote the understanding of international knowledge, which is a mean promoting higher growth. In some circumstances, trade can replace foreign aid in the process of country development.
However, the Royal Government recognizes that there are still a lot of works need to be done. The national construction and reform measures will not be fulfilled in one day or by a person or even in a giant step. The development will be successful through a continuous and secured process. I am truly proud that the people and the Royal Government of Cambodia are clearly aware of the reforms that have already initiated and need to be continued and expanded. Our nation clearly understands that there is no other choice but to continue the reforms with strong commitment and goodwill.
In summary, the efforts to concentrate on investments and official development aids are necessary to promote economic dynamism and speed. However, private sector can play a catalyst role and driving force in the economic development and growth. Therefore, the promotion and encouragement of foreign direct investment combined with the flow of official development aid to Cambodia are necessary for development and prosperity of our country.
In closing, I wish to encourage for a strengthened and expanded cooperation and understanding among our four countries of our efforts for the cause of humanity. Finally, I wish the Four-Party Dialogue successful and productive. I also wish you all present here the five gems of Buddhist blessings. Now, may I declare the opening of the “2004 Four-Party Dialogue of the POW/MIA Committee.