Distinguished International and National Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Today is the Third General Assembly of the Cambodian Red Cross (CRC), and it is a great honor and pleasure for me to be here and celebrate this anniversary with all of you! This anniversary is very meaningful for Cambodia, because it signifies another important milestone in our continuing quest for the social development of our nation. Today we move on and start on another chapter in our joint efforts to reduce the suffering of the poor and vulnerable people of Cambodia.
In behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia, I sincerely congratulate and express deep appreciation for the Cambodian Red Cross. I congratulate the CRC for the election of its new Central Committee, particularly since the election was a free, Democratic and transparent process. I also wish to thank the efficient and effective management, staff and caring volunteers of the CRC for your wonderful work. Thanks also to all national and the international organizations and NGOs who have collaborated to accomplish the CRC’s crucial mission of helping rid the poor of terrible suffering.
I also very much appreciate that the CRC always works in close cooperation with government agencies, especially the National Committee for Disaster Management and all local authorities. I recognize that in your work you closely adhere to the seven fundamental principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies: Humanitarianism, Neutrality, Universality, Independence, Voluntarism and Impartiality.
The Cambodian Red Cross has always been an effective and efficient partner of the Royal Government in providing humanitarian services to the poorest of the poor among the Cambodian people. Thus year after year, the CRC has helped save thousands upon thousands from suffering and harm – particularly during floods and other natural disasters.
The Red Cross of Cambodia and those of other countries have performed admirably and improved in performance and capacity over the years. Yet the work goes on and challenges continue to emerge and grow in the modern, globalized world. Problem areas emerge each year and untold suffering is borne by the peoples of countries in war and civil strife. Deadly diseases still have to be conquered and the effects of natural disasters managed and mitigated.
Here in Cambodia, we were successful in ending war and internal strife in the last decade. However, we were able to end only one kind of war. Today we continue to be at war against poverty as an enemy.
In waging war on poverty, we are facing many difficult challenges, many issues and concerns that are complex and difficult. Fighting this war requires strength and collaboration of solidarity that promotes humanitarian caring for each other in sharing the burdens and sufferings of our fellow human beings.
The Cambodian Red Cross has cooperated with and shared the great burden borne the Royal Government in the war on poverty. The CRC has mobilized so many volunteers and financial and technical resources from many organizations and sources, domestically and abroad. These resources have all been efficiently managed and directed to alleviate poverty and suffering among the weak and vulnerable people.
Therefore, the CRC has contributed greatly to the implementation of the government’s policies and programs of socio-economic reform toward faster alleviation of hunger and poverty.
The CRC has helped Cambodia by enabling the Cambodian people to express, in an institutionalized way, our ancient culture of helping each other. This is a trait that is found in the core of our civilization, inherited from our forebears but one we have been unable to nurture in our dark recent history. The CRC has helped all of us re-awaken this important trait.
Let me ask those of you who were with all of us in Cambodia on the liberation day of January 7, 1979. How can we forget the difficulties and sufferings of those days? We bore hunger, disease, physical and spiritual distress and the continuing effects and pain of the genocide.
The most urgent need at that time was to save people from death by starvation. All the people then were very vulnerable and required emergency help. Can you imagine how valuable and important a meal of salt and rice was, in saving lives? Compare a drop of water in the Tonle Sap with a drop of water in the desert at high noon – and it is easy to see that water in the desert is so much more valuable than water in the river.
On May 16, 1979, the Cambodian Red Cross re-started its operations in Cambodia. The CRC began to provide humanitarian services anew, focusing on mobilizing funds, resources and assistance from all possible quarters to be used to help the poor and vulnerable people who had miraculously survived the genocidal regime. In this very complex, difficult economic and social situation, the Cambodian Red Cross emerged and helped the government to overcome all the difficulties, big and small, to save the people from hunger and restore them to life.
The task of humanitarian relief, care and supplies has not ceased or lessened since the liberation day. The job has expanded and grown. Over the years Cambodia has suffered drought in some years and floods in other years. These calamities have damaged our homes, crops and plants, seriously affecting our daily lives and caused great burdens to the government. Our government has had to act quickly to save and help the people affected, using a lot of valuable resources and disrupting our economic reform programs.
The Cambodian Red Cross helped us through all these challenges. Therefore, I would like, once again, to express my gratitude to the Cambodian Red Cross for its contributions and help to the people and the Royal Government, with courage and without discrimination. Indeed, the CRC works according to the motto: “Helping people to help the people.”
Through the past two decades, I have observed the speedy progress and growth of the Cambodian Red Cross. The Cambodian Red Cross has continuously worked to develop and strengthen itself by preparing a statute conforming to international standards. The statute clearly stipulates the roles and functions of the Steering Committee as the governing body of the CRC. The Steering Committee is separate from is tasked to oversee the General Secretariat which performs the day-to-day operations of the CRC. More recently, the CRC has finalized its national legal framework, including the Royal Decree recognizing the existence of the CRC, and the Royal Decree on the use and protection of Red Cross and Red Crescent Symbol. His Majesty the King signed both these important decrees on May 6, 2002.
Two years ago, in 2000, I was fortunate to visit Geneva in Switzerland as a guest of the International Red Cross. In Geneva I met with the President of the International Red Cross, Mr. Jacob Kelyn Berger, and the Secretary-General of the International Red Crescent Federation, Mr. D. Dyer Sepitel. In fact, Mr. Sepitel visited us here in Cambodia in March 2002.
During the meetings in Geneva I was very pleased to personally hear all the compliments and good impressions that these high officials have of the outstanding performance of the Cambodian Red Cross. They spoke of the fast progress the CRC has achieved in developing and strengthening its international relations. In particular the CRC was praised in its sharing and exchanging of good experiences in capacity building with Red Cross Associations of other countries. In recognition of the good work of the CRC, the highest award provided by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movements – the Henry Dunant Medal, was awarded to our very own, H.E. Ms. Plek Phirun, the former President of CRC.
The continuous institutional development of the CRC has brought about new, improved working conditions for the staff and officials of the CRC. The institutionalization of the appropriate legal and regulatory frameworks, and financial rules and procedures, has helped ensure financial transparency. Such transparency is the key to generating confidence from donors, partners and the people.
The activities of the CRC in all fields and at all levels – central, provincial and down to the local communities, are clearly defined in the CRC’s development plan. This CRC development plan has been designed to respond to the specific requirements of the various levels of governance and contributes very powerfully to the Royal Government’s program of poverty reduction.
Pervasive poverty and natural disasters will continue to be the real challenge that we have to face into the future. Because of this, we have to continuously improve our effectivity and efficiency in meeting these challenges. For example, the CRC should work more and more closely with the National Committee for Natural Disaster Management. We should increasingly focus more on prevention and proactive management instead of defense and relief. We have to be implementing preventive measures and providing efficient assistance to affected people in emergencies. This will improve our success in reducing the sufferings of our people and also save funds for expansion of operations or for use in other development projects.
The mission of the Cambodian Red Cross is of tremendous importance. I therefore applaud the continuous efforts being exerted to strengthen the CRC and improve its capacity for good governance, clear policies and vision. Along with strong support from volunteers, the professional and motivated staff, contributions from members and domestic and international assistance, these are the key factors ensuring the continuing success of the CRC throughout its existence.
Once again, I wish to thank the governments, international organizations, non-governmental organizations and all the contributors at home and abroad who have supported the CRC in its humanitarian activities. May I appeal to all of you and express my hope for continued strong support for the CRC.
I congratulate and officially recognize the new Steering Committee of the CRC. I enjoin all of you to lead the CRC toward greater success, strengthened credibility and closer cooperation with the Royal Government in its humanitarian mission.
As leader of the Royal Government, I pledge to stand by our obligations as signatory to the four Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, as well as the Protocols of 8 June 1977. These Conventions and Protocols declare adherence to the seven fundamental principles and support for the CRC in operations anywhere where necessary in the country with full support and cooperation from local authorities.
I also pledge that the Royal Government of Cambodia will enforce the dissemination and implementation of the Royal Decrees and protect the symbol of Red Cross and Red Crescent in the countrywide. I am pleased to declare that even with our very limited budget, the Royal Government has settled the exemption of taxes on all funds and resources raised by the CRC. Furthermore, the Royal Government recently provided one billion Riels to the CRC.
Finally, I take great pleasure to provide a clear signal of the government’s recognition of the efforts and sacrifices of the CRC personnel and volunteers. Today we confer medals to these outstanding staff and volunteers, as follows:
- 75 Gold Medals
- 133 Silver Medals, and
- 145 Bronze Medals.
These medals signify the Royal Government’s grateful recognition for your contributions in raising the spirit of solidarity and humanitarian action as part of the CRC. Let me end by extending to you all, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, the five gems of Buddhist wishes and my personal wish for your prosperity and happiness.