Ladies and Gentlemen
On the occasion of the 53rd anniversary of the International Children’s Day, on behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia and myself, I am extremely pleased to join our beloved children at this ceremony; and express my strong support for all the activities to meet the basic needs of Cambodian children and children of all nationalities living in the Kingdom of Cambodia as stated in the international conventions on the rights of the child.
Children are the bearers of our common future, the pillar and the uniting force for the development of our nation in all fields towards a prosperous future.Indeed, the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) has adopted a National Action Plan on Children aimed at strengthening the momentum of children’s rights exercise and to catch up with the developments in the world.
In addition, we have ratified many other conventions concerning the children’s rights such as the Convention on the Involvement of Children into Armed Conflicts, the Convention on Child Trafficking, sexual exploitation and prostitution of children and the distribution of child pornography. Cambodia is one among the first ten countries to ratify the two important conventions.
Actually, though there are tremendous amount of efforts by the Royal Government and the civil society, this issue still remains the big concern and burden for the Royal Government.It is every Cambodian’s obligation to help make our beloved country a better place for children – a place where every child can grow to adulthood in health, peace and dignity. Therefore, we should put children and mothers first in the government’s social development program.
In this sense, each adult has the obligation to be part of the large-scaled and multi-faceted campaign to promote the cause of the children, such as care for every child, fight HIV/AIDS, stop harming and exploiting children, listen to their opinions, educate every child, protect children from war, protect the environment for children – and fight poverty by investing in children. Poverty and low level of development constitute the main obstacle to our effort to improve the rights and the status of children.
Therefore, poverty reduction is not only a moral requirement but also a political commitment of the Royal Government that has to be realized through intensive investments on children.I would like to take this opportunity to dedicate this day to a universal commitment and an appeal by children to all concerned institutions and adults that they should provide good care of children who are the future of the nation, especially by taking action to stop all kinds of exploitation of children including the sexual exploitation which is a grave and unforgivable violation of the children’s rights.
I would like to express my sincere gratitude and highly appreciate the love, sacrifices and unlimited kindness of all parents to their children; and encourage all the children continue to study hard to become a good child, good student and good citizen in the future. The Parade with our beloved children today, in an environment of sincerity and solidarity, is an important witness of commitment and great interest by the Royal Government, parents and the whole society to the wellbeing, rights and future of children.
The celebration of 53rd Anniversary of the International Children’s Day (June 1st) coincides with many other world events aimed at supporting and improving the rights of the child. In December 2001, the Second World Conference against Sexual Trafficking and Exploitation of Children was held in Yokohama, Japan. Recently, a UN Assembly on Children has been convened from 8-12 May 2002 in New York where a Royal Government of Cambodia’s delegation has also presented and actively contributed.
The Royal Government of Cambodia welcomes and fully supports the outcomes and resolutions of the two conferences. I would like to stress that this spirit reflected in the campaign in support for children in the Kingdom of Cambodia. The campaign was focusing mainly on three of the ten priorities, which include promoting the education for every child, no one child can be left behind, and the fight against HIV/AIDS. The outcomes of this campaign have gained support from His Majesty PREAH NORODOM SIHANOUK, the King of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Her Majesty the Queen, the Senate and the National Assembly.
I have also sent a letter to H.E. Kofi Anan, General Secretary of the United Nations informing him of the outcomes of the campaign and other RGC’s policies dealing with those issues.The killing of women and children during the World War II by Fascist Hitler in Czech Republic and France motivated people over the world to commemorate on the 1st day of June as the International Children’s Day. However, the genocide and horror that had been inflicted to the Cambodian people, especially the children by the Pol Pot regime were much more devastating than what Hitler had done.
Many Cambodian children died, lost their families or became orphans. After the country’s liberation in January 7, 1979, although we were in the most politically and economically difficult situation, we could still overcome all the constraints to set up orphanage centers around the country in all provinces and cities to take care of orphans and children of poor families who could not afford to raise them and others and help them to go to school in order for them to have a brighter future.
We have arranged to provide schools again starting from scratches by repairing and cleaning old buildings or monasteries for classes. Some hospitals were reopened to provide health services and treatment to elderly and Cambodian sick people, especially, the children by providing a six-disease prevention program.
In 1992, the State of Cambodia, during which I was the head of the government, ratified the Convention on the Rights of Children, and subsequently subscribed to the Declaration and Plan of Action in 1993. Moreover, the Royal Government of Cambodia in its second term of office is firmly committed to realizing the development’s goals for the new millenium such as reduction of under-5 child mortality rates, reduction of maternal mortality rates, reduction of severe and moderate malnutrition among under-5 children, increased access to safe drinking water and better access to basic education for children, and protection of children in especially difficult circumstances.
It is every Cambodian’s obligation to help make our beloved country a better place for children – a place where every child can grow to adulthood in health, peace and dignity. To this end, the Royal Government has been giving high priority to strengthening peace for the country; and implementing poverty reduction strategy and promoting social development. In these efforts, we should put children first in promoting the cause of the children, such as care for every child, fight HIV/AIDS, stop harming and exploiting children, listen to their opinions, educate every child, protect children from war, protect the environment for children – and fight poverty by investing in children.
As I have mentioned, a healthy and highly educated population is a firm foundation for development while investment in health, education and the stability of Cambodian children will result in an active, healthy, knowledgeable and productive citizens, as such investment will be repaid many times over. In this sense, investment in health and education of children is an investment in the future of Cambodia and is crucial for poverty reduction. All of us are fully aware of our obligation to ensure a successful completion of elementary education by our children in order for them to have the opportunity to further their education and fully participate in the society.
Only the education can clear the way for girls to realize their social and economic rights helping them to fully utilize their abilities and potential, and providing them with means to improve their “equity” status. The improvement in the quality of education would help female children more, who are vulnerable to exploitation or human trafficking, before they become an adult.Due to steady efforts made by the Royal Government of Cambodia in close cooperation with our development partners both national and international, we have improved the health status of our children to some extent. Cambodia is proud that the country has been declared by the World Health Organization as a nation free of polio disease.
We have significantly reduced the case of malaria and halted the epidemic of HIV/AIDS. After the Royal Government has increased the allocation for education, especially, by disbursing funds directly to schools through the implementation of Priority Action Program in 2001, there were more than 250,000 children being enrolled for the first time. The number of dropouts has been notably reduced.Actually, much more need to be done to improve the status of Cambodian children.
We have to strengthen the fabric of our society and to streamline them on a good way of life; teach them to love Cambodian traditions and culture; commit to solving all social issues which results in abandoned children; fight against AIDS, prostitution and other unlawful behaviors of life. We should have strong political commitment and flexibility in managing our job to help the children to live properly, receive health care and education in order them to become a good citizen of our society and develop them to be a real human resource for the country.
In this sense, I appeal all concerned ministries and institutions to propose their own plan of action joining hands to implement the 5-year National Plan Against Sexual Trafficking and Exploitation on Children, and the program against the exploitation on child’s labor.I would like to take this opportunity to express our deep gratitude to all Cambodia’s development partners especially the UNICEF, NGOs and International Organizations for their contributions for the cause of Cambodian children.
In conclusion, I would like to extend my best wishes to Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, success in the struggle for the cause of Cambodian children. I thank you all for your kind attention.