Ladies and Gentlemen, and to all children,
On behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia, I am very pleased to participate in this parade and large gathering of children to commemorate International Children’s Day of 1st June and World Day Against Child Labor of 12th June.
On this happy occasion, I wish success to our meeting and other activities. May these encourage the spirits of all government institutions, non-government organizations, international organizations and Cambodian citizens to continue to actively fulfill their tasks to meet the basic needs of children as stipulated in the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, for all Cambodian children and the children of all nations.
I would like to express my warm welcome to all national and international guests, the diplomatic corps, the donor community, and especially to Mr. Kul Gautam, the Deputy Executive Director of the UNICEF, for joining this happy gathering.
Indeed, the children’s parade and grand meeting which has been organized bear witness to the serious commitment and attention of the Royal Government, parents, teachers and Cambodian society on the protection, welfare enhancement and better futures of children.
Cambodia has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflicts. Cambodia is also party to international agreements against the trafficking of children, prostitution and inappropriate advertising. Moreover, Cambodia has incorporated the UN declarations and related statements on children into Cambodia’s Socio-Economic Development Plan. Thus all ministries, agencies, NGOs, civil society and other concerned stakeholders are properly guided with respect to for child rights in consistent with the world trend.
Attention to children and mothers is indeed explicit in the social development priorities of the government. The entire government is mandated to take very seriously our responsibilities and obligations to ensure that each and every child is healthy, intelligent, and lives in happiness and dignity within the family as well as in society.
Complementary with these goals is the provision of care and support to children in fighting against disease, vulnerability and exploitation, including drug abuse. We also protect children against poverty by appropriate investment and creating a policy environment that shall transform children into productive resources, pillars of the community and the successor generation in the development of the country in all sectors, leading Cambodian society toward farther progress and prosperity.
The remarks made by H.E. Ith Samheng, Chairman of the Cambodian National Council for Children, and Minister of Social Affairs, Labor, Vocational Training and Youth Rehabilitation, clearly highlighted the history of the International Children’s Day and the World Day Against Child Labor. In Cambodia we specifically remember the cruelty of the Pol Pot genocidal regime of the latter 1970s, which brought vast devastation to the country and people of Cambodia.
Since 7 January 1979 we have achieved great steps in the rehabilitate, rebuilding and development of socio-economic infrastructure in order to provide services in health and education especially for children and the youth. We have established orphanages, schools at all levels, hospitals and health centers. These health facilities provide children with vaccinations against six crucial diseases, nutrition support, malaria care, healing and prevention of HIV/AIDS. Positive gains have been achieved, marked by the recognition by the World Health Organization (WHO) of Cambodia’s success in polio eradication and treatment.
During our second term in 1998-2003, the Royal Government of Cambodia increased the budgets for the social sector, particularly health and education, to improve health care for mothers and infants, and channeled education budgets through the Priority Action Program (PAP).
May I express my deepest appreciation for the great love, care, and dedication rendered by parents, teachers, government officials, and all NGOs who serve in so many ways to rescue children from desperate conditions, shelter and care for them, and help them become good children, good students, good friends, and good citizens.
While we have made some advances, there is still much work to be done. We still have much to do before we can fully achieve the policy agenda of the Government and the Cambodia Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The remaining tasks are still heavy burdens for government.
To tackle all the remaining tasks we do need the continuing support and good cooperation of international development partners, NGOs, and civil society at large including generous individuals. In this spirit, may I request the Ministries/institutions, civil society, NGOs, and all development partners to pay close attention to four priorities as follows:
First, reduction of maternal and infant mortality rate, with priority on vaccination, prevention, alleviation of shortages in micro–nutrients including various vitamins, treatment of worms, appropriate foods for infants and children including breast feeding, proper maternal care and of course birth control.
Second, quality education for all, especially for girls, including enhanced education and training, especially for female students; continued efforts to reduce the gender gap in all social and economic activities, including primary and secondary schooling in both urban and rural schools. We should also pay more attention on enhancing non-formal education for youths and to strengthen the readiness of children by enabling them to enter school by the age of 6 years.
Third, combating HIV/AIDS, focusing on vulnerable youths through enhanced awareness, education, health services, and health care for HIV/AIDS affected children and youth, including orphans whose parents died from HIV/AIDS; and
Fourth, child protection, especially against drug trafficking, exploitation and abuse, including strengthening systems of birth registration, promoting minimum regulations of child care, protecting of children from illegal activities and abuse through implementation of existing laws, and accelerating the preparation of the National Action Plan on Child Labor and Abuse and the 5-Year National Plan Against Trafficking and Exploitation of Children.
Now, may I call upon all ministries/institutions, authorities at all levels, civil society, and national and international NGOs to study and understand the document “Cambodia for the Children”. This document contains the four priorities I have enumerated and serves as the blueprint for all institutions concerned in order to protect the rights and welfare of children. Moreover, I appeal to the Cambodian National Council for Children to continue to strengthen their sub-committees in monitoring and evaluating implementation in accordance with the document “Cambodia for the Children,” while working more actively to mobilize children and youth to effectively participate in this process.
Once again, may I extend my deep gratitude to all ministries/institutions, donor community, civil society, all national and international NGOs, who have provided support for Cambodian children. I also highly appreciate the honor given to Cambodia by the international community in hosting the 7th Asia-Pacific Ministerial Consultative Meeting, which will help improve our common efforts to protect the rights and welfare of children in Cambodia, the region and the world.
Finally, I wish you all, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, good health, happiness, and success in your efforts for the wonderful cause of each child in Cambodia. I also wish you and all children the five gems of Buddhist wishes.