Your Excellency PHAN VAN KHAI,
Your Excellency BOUNNHANG VORACHITH,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
May I extend our most sincere welcome to H.E. Phan Van Khai, Prime Minister of Vietnam and H.E. Bounnhang Vorachith,Prime Minister of Lao PDR, as well as to all the Members of the delegations from the two countries, the friends of Cambodia to this the Third Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam Summit of Prime Ministers, in Siem Reap – the famous land of culture and civilization of Cambodia!
Our Third Summit is important for the social, economic, and political development of our respective countries. This Summit provides us all with the opportunity to review the social and economic outcomes thus far in the development triangle formed by our common border areas of our countries. The Summit will also enable us to set our future thrusts in creating opportunities for strengthened stability and sustainable development that further enhance our shared spirit of solidarity, friendship, and promotion of mutual national interests.
Since our Second Summit on 26 January 2002 in Ho Chi Minh City, we have made progress in our efforts to ensure security, maintain social order, and consolidate political developments in our respective countries, while generating high rates of economic growth.
As for Cambodia, though we have experienced changing situation and difficulties in the last year, but the Royal Government and People of Cambodia have successfully overcome all the challenges, big and small. Especially, we have successfully ended the political deadlock which lasted almost one year since the July 2003 national election. I am proud to inform H.E. Phan Van Khai and H.E. Bounnhang Vorachith that on 15 July 2004, with the active efforts of the two political parties – the CPP and FUNCINPEC and under the wise guidance of His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk, the King of Cambodia, the first plenary session of the Third Legislature of the National Assembly was convened to elect the leadership of the National Assembly and the Cabinet of the Royal Government of Cambodia. Samdech Krom Preah NORODOM RANARRIDH, the President of FUNCINPEC, was elected as the President of the National Assembly, and your humble servant as Prime Minister. Also approved were the nominations of the members of the Assembly and the Royal Government of Cambodia for the third legislature.
After taking the required Oath of Office, on 16 July I chaired the first Cabinet meeting of the Royal Government of Cambodia to define the key policy priorities and work arrangements of the RGC for the third legislature. I addressed to all Cambodian people and international partners on the policy priorities of the Royal Government, notably the Economic Action Agenda of the Political Platform of the Royal Government, in the Third Legislature of the National Assembly, which is entitled theRectangular Strategy for Growth, Employment, Equity, and Efficiency. The Rectangular Strategy will serve as a key tool of the Royal Government of Cambodia to implement its economic policy agenda in the Third Legislature. The Strategy has been formulated and prepared through extensive reflection and consultative review of all elements, streamlining all these into a comprehensive, systematic, intertwined, mutually-reinforcing package of priorities that is easily understood and managed.
I would like to note that, within the structure of the Rectangular Strategy, the Royal Government continues to give high priority to integrating Cambodia into the region and the world, including the further promotion of regional and sub-regional cooperation within the frameworks of the ASEAN, ASEAN+3, GMS and other sub-regional initiatives such as the Development Triangle between Cambodia, Laos PDR and Vietnam which we shall further elaborate upon today.
So far, we have implemented several activities toward the transformation of our region that is richly endowed with natural resources and great potential for economic development, into an important locus of economic growth, especially into a region of growth of agriculture, agro-industry, trade, and investment. Indeed, we have upgraded infrastructure in the area, with the aim to create opportunities for production, trade, and development of other key sectors such as tourism, in the border provinces.
Please allow me to highlight our key achievements thus far in the development of the triangle and propose some measures for implementation as follows:
First, tourism development: We all agreed at the Second Summit on cooperation in tourism in the triangle area, which is conceptualized as “three countries with only one objective.” Now I call on the working groups of the three countries to quickly finalize the feasibility studies for the rapid implementation of the concept. Moreover, as the border provinces have shared tourism potentials, the capacity of the provincial-level Cambodian needs strengthening in order to effectively attract tourists and establish and maintain tourist sites. Therefore, I propose, particularly to our good neighbors in Viet Nam, to help train at least 15 Cambodian tourism officials from the provinces of Ratanakiri, Mondulkiri, and Stung Treng. I also propose that henceforth, the province of Mondulkiri be included in the coverage of the development triangle.
Second, trade development: Cambodia has signed many important bilateral agreements with the two friendly countries to facilitate cross-border trade and transport, such as the agreement on transit goods signed in 2000 and the agreement on trade and exchange of goods and services in border areas signed in 2001. Moreover, our three countries have closely cooperated through the activities of the Cambodia-Laos and Cambodia-Vietnam joint committees that have met each year to consider various cooperation issues with political, security, economic, technical, socio-cultural, and environmental impacts. More importantly, our three countries are the signatories to the Agreement on the Facilitation of Transport of Goods and People under the GMS framework. This indeed reflects the agreement and good cooperation on a policy framework of bilateral and sub-regional trade and economic integration. In order to increase trade in the development triangle, I wish to propose a number of measures:
- Vietnam to provide technical and financial assistance to establish an open market in the area of Cambodian-Vietnamese borders, at O Yadav and conduct feasibility study on the establishment of other special markets in the development triangle;
- Vietnam to consider the possibility of selling petroleum products and other consumer goods to the people living in the border areas of the development triangle at the same price for Vietnamese consumers;
- Conduct study on the establishment of a Cambodian-Vietnamese joint venture in the development triangle and promote contract farming and border trade among farmers living in the development triangle, following the good experience that Cambodia is having with Thailand in the North-western border areas.
Third, transportation: We have embarked on priority projects to link key transport networks serving the development triangle. Thereby enhancing physical linkages among our three nations. Indeed, within Cambodia we still do not have all-weather roads that link our border provinces Ratanakiri, Stung Treng and Mondulkiri with Phnom Penh and key national markets. Given the geography and economic potential of the triangle, the establishment of good roads in Cambodia linked to our neighbors will enable all three countries to rapidly develop these highlands. Thus, we in Cambodia would like to express our thanks to the Prime Minister of Viet Nam for helping undertake the feasibility study on Road 78 that stretches for 70 kilometers from Oyadao to Ban Lung. We sincerely request the kind assistance of Viet Nam in the construction of Road 78 at the soonest possible time. On another section of Road 78, some 128 kilometers from Ban Lung to O’pongman in Stung Treng, I again request the assistance of our friends on the required feasibility study and later on, financing of construction on a soft or grant basis. Road 78 will serve as a vital economic artery facilitating trade, transport and tourism among our three countries.
Fourth, industry and energy: Expert Teams of our three countries have discussed electricity grids spanning Viet Nam to Ratanakiri and from Laos to Stung Treng. The feasibility of rehabilitation of water storage at the O’chhum hydro power station is also being considered. May I request their Excellencies, the Leaders of Lao PDR and Viet Nam to facilitate the development of electric power in the triangle by enabling a development-oriented and friendly structure of power charges for the entire triangle area, with the levels consistent across Cambodia, Lao PDR and Viet Nam.
Fifth, agriculture: the export of agricultural products is an effective means of reducing poverty among our people. The agricultural products that can be traded in the triangle area include soybeans, cashew nuts, sesame, bananas, rubber, vegetables, spices and many more. What is crucial is that we can cooperate to reduce poverty among our triangle populations by sharing technologies, seeds, planting and management methods and market information. Viet Nam has achieved far more than either Cambodia and Lao PDR in agriculture, and we request our Vietnamese neighbors for assistance in this regard.
Sixth, on labor and social affairs, where the main issue and a key factor in poverty is the high rate of illiteracy. While the population in the Cambodian side of the triangle area is small, the illiteracy rate of the population is quite high at an average of 36%. Moreover, the labor force is generally in poor health due to the lack of hospitals and physicians. Thus I call for cooperation in education and training and health care for the people in the triangle area. Indeed, we share the vision that human resources must be built apace with economic development, otherwise the pace of socio-economic development will be constrained. Thus I urge H.E. the Prime Minister of Viet Nam to deploy Viet Nam’s experiences and resources in developing human resources in the rural areas to facilitate opportunities for the Cambodians and Laotians in the triangle areas to study in schools and vocational training centers on the Viet Nam side, supported by scholarships and related facilities. Furthermore, given that health care is a very important factor, we further request our Vietnamese friends to extend health services to all people in the triangle, with services and fees provided at equal levels to all patients from Cambodia, Lao PDR or Viet Nam.
To further promote cooperation in the rapid development of the triangle area, I believe that we should focus on the implementation of the specific priority measures defined in the triangle master plan. I express my thanks and appreciation to the working groups of our three countries for their efforts in drafting the triangle master plan. While we continue to finalize and discuss the master plan, we can now use the plan to guide our continuing work in triangle development.
May I also urge the working groups to identify the short-term, medium term and long term priority projects that fit our key principles for triangle area development, such as:
(i) All projects must ensure balance between resource contributions and benefits shares among the populations of the triangle area. Thus, the partner-country that has contributed more resources deserves greater benefit from their investment;
(ii) Sustainable environmental management to help safeguard the futures of our peoples;
(iii) The importance of connectivity, consistency and complementariness between the national development plans of our collaborating countries and the triangle development plan and related regional and sub-regional development plans; and
(iv) The need to link specific projects to appropriate sources of financing. Therefore those projects for which firm financing has been programmed should not be included in further proposals for assistance from development partners. Moreover, there are those projects that may be financed by our internal resources as well as those projects for which financing has been pledged by Viet Nam as part of their assistance to Cambodia and Laos. These initiatives reflect our strong commitment and ownership in our common initiative for triangle development.
I strongly believe that development triangle will attract businessmen and investors to explore the opportunities offered by the resource-rich area. The location of the triangle in the GMS and ASEAN region provides a crucial geographic advantage for investors. Thus, the top priority is for us is to complete the transport links and set out measures that facilitate and enable trade and investment activities that shall
I believe that with the rich resource endowment and whole-hearted cooperation among our respective governments an enabling environment for economic activities will be created, especially the establishment of proper infrastructure in the triangle. This would provide a crucial geographic advantage and attraction for investors while contributing to the promotion of growth and employment that will help reduce the poverty and transform the development triangle into an epicenter of growth and prosperity./.