A few days after the closing of the GMS and ASEAN Summits, Samdech Hun Sen re-orientated focus on rice production situation in the countryside. Talking to the villagers of Kok Popel commune, he covered a number of topics that are being excerpted as follows:
… Today we have come here for a brief harvest of rice, which should symbolically show that rice harvesting through out the country has started. We have gone through the rainy season and entered the cool breeze season, in which some farmers have started the harvest, some are preparing for the soon coming harvest, and some are even starting their dry-season rice planting. My presence here is also to review what I had seen about a month ago when I had instructed an intervention in terms of irrigation to help relieve our people’s hardship in dealing with lack of rain. I also would like to take this occasion to tackle some of the requests made earlier.
… We now have eight kilometers of the 44-km canal built by the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology. With the help of HE Ouk Chan of the Ministry of Transports and Public Works, about eleven canals of a total length of 12,390 meters have been restored. I am grateful for the helps and as I have seen here we have both the engines and permanent officials in charge who are members of the Senate like HE Tep Ngorn, Ouk Prathna, etc. In contribution to the development in this area, KAMSAB has also provided a sum of ten thousands US dollars for the manufacturing ten pieces of 2.5 centimeters diameter pump under a new brand not the Hun-Sen brand as before. The Hun-Sen brand manufactured only the five and three centimeter diameter pump. Since this company could produce 2.5-centimeter diameter pump, we should share our expertise with one another.
… There have been some rains after the Prochum Ben Day. They spread across the whole country and they have been a strong encouragement for me. I was very concerned when we prepared to host GMS and ASEAN meetings in Phnom Penh because there were no rains. I could not even concentrate on the meting documents. But I am quickly relieved when rains poured everywhere. It was like an injection into me. So we ought to thank Devada for the rains that had come. Only the Dongtung district in Kompot that does not benefit from the rain and my body guard unit has been sent there to provide irrigation assistance in face of the lack of rain. I have mentioned many times already that we must not leave any person to die of hunger in absence of our help. If the authority at the local level does not implement this order, they will be held accountable to the Prime Minister. The second order I have issued is we must not let the transplanting rice being damaged. I have instructed senior officials to leave here only when rice no longer need water, and it is even better if they leave only after rice is harvested. Once rice is collected and stored in the barns, our concerns will be gone too. Well this order is also exceptional if the drought affected rice field does not have water sources from where water could be pumped.
… Let me take this opportunity to express my deep thanks and gratitude to our people throughout the whole country, especially local authorities and the armed forces, who have taken serious order since the day I issued it when I was presiding over the tree re-planting ceremony (in Siemreap province.) I have noticed that the police forces and Government officials have taken their times to actively help our people in their transplantation. Some farmers’ families, because of handicaps or women-headed households, are lacking of labor forces. In this case our armed forces have been a relief of their labor shortage problem as well. Let me tell you all that because of this help is so tremendous, we would benefit only when our rice yield turn out to be 3.5 or 4 tons per hectare. If we were to gain only 1.5 or 2 tons per hectares, we would face a loss. And who would lose this? Not our people, but Hun Sen who provides all the assistance necessary here.
… I think we should introduce rice for export to be grown here. We could grow rice twice. First we could plant IR rice which is not giving high yield but is manageable in terms of timing. Next we grow the sort of rice that is aimed to serve the export purpose. HE Minister Chan Sarun, Agriculture, have brought the species here as they could be sold at a high price in the export market. We could not compete with Thailand and Vietnam if we were to aim IR rice for export. In terms of assistance provided, five districts could draw benefits from the project. Two districts of Kompong Speu – Samraong Tong and Kong Pisey, two districts of Kandal – Kandal Stoeung and Ang Snuol, and one district of Phnom Penh, Dangkao. We have invested a large amount of resources already in this area. We have more than one five-centimeter diameter pump, and eight pump stations.
… The area of four districts covered in this operation is 24,000 hectares and it is eight time larger than Krang Yov (development project area.) We have built three lines of master canals, which allow our people living on either side of the road will benefit from the system. In addition to those dug by machines, we also have reserved those canals that our people could be involved in exchange for rice. They could come to work in the morning, and by the end of the day they will get rice as payment. As for the 44-km canal, we will have a side road to be covered with red coarse. When it comes to bridges, the four-meter Bailey Bridge could be used. We also should put some 1.5-meter diameter concrete drainage wherever necessary. I wish to instruct that the bailey be taken from the Ministry of Rural Development.
… Usually my way of providing assistance almost anywhere have been to resolve three problems all at once – 1) irrigation, 2) roads and bridges and 3) human resource training. Here I already have hundreds of school buildings already built and some may need proper cares. We also have here the Bun Rany-Hun Sen Vocational Training Center in Kraing Chek and I have another two-floor center under construction. So school could be put aside for the time being. Focus of assistance could now concentrate on irrigation and roads. As for the dirt road, we will provide rice for the operation and those to be covered with red coarse soil, will be done by machines. In this way our people do not have to leave their homes in search for jobs in town, the result of which could be a HIV/aids infection disaster. I have already allocated between 1,500 and 2,000 tons of rice for food for work in the five districts.
… As far as roofs of the school buildings are concerned, my cabinet is instructed to contact Mong Rithy Company to replace the fiber cement with corrugated sheet to the six buildings with leaking problem. The fiber cement taken out should be kept in a safe place for the sake of donating to needy people at the later stage and those in good condition should be given out for the construction of Sala Bon (public use building.) In addition to the bridge Kun Kru that is already in place, I would command a study to build one more bridge in the Village of Svay of Prey Puoch Commune. This bridge is about 100 meters or 100 meters less than the Kun Kru bridge. But this is my vision and now we have to tackle first the canals and roads. Next year once all this is completed, I would request HE Chan Sarun to provide more jasmine rice into the area. We have also to think of locating the station for the cultivation of the species for further distribution. They should be grown in this area because we could guarantee water irrigation even if we do not have rain.
… We have the GMS Summit last Sunday followed by various ASEAN Summits. Maybe I should give you all a brief on the event. In addition to the previous projects, China has agreed to provide us a further sum of between US$ 12 or 13 million. During our dinner, I mentioned about roads and bridges in the rural areas and Prime Minister Zhu agreed to provide an additional 1,500 meters of Bailey and I have requested for 7-meter wide bridge in my letter to him afterwards. He also decided to help us with the national road 7 between Kratie and the Cambodian-Lao border. The total length of the road to be rebuilt by China is 198 km. India agreed to provide us 10,000 tons of rice and ten million US dollars that will be used for the restoration of Baray reservoir and water pump. There have also some assistance in terms of textiles. Thailand will assist in the building of a road that connect Koh Kong and the national road 4 (160km) with four concrete bridges of 1600 meters in all.
… Vietnam provided us 500 tons of rice already and will instruct some of his provinces along the border with Cambodia to provide further assistance to our provinces. I have asked Vietnam early last year to build us a road. Vietnam already conducted a feasibility study and alleges that it builds us a road from the Cambodian-Vietnam border to Ratanakiri and further to Stoeungtreng.
… Japan pledges its year by year assistance and will not scale it down. We have also raised a number of proposals with regards to the renovation of the national road 1 and the bridge across the Mekong River at Neak Loeung. So Japan is still the biggest donor as all these have been pledged in addition to donation of thousands tons of rice through the World Food Program… Korea has provided us previously some millions for telecommunication, information technology and over US$ 20 millions for the construction of the national road 3. In Kandal province we have US$ 190,000 for the renovation of the Ta Mork reservoir. In addition to this we also have long-term assistance. We also have US$ 117 million from the Asian Development Bank.
… What I have sounded out on Cambodia in the meetings was the fact that Cambodia is poor. There were remarks that our city is disciplined, our people are smiling, and everything. But I told the Presidents of Indonesia and the Philippines that in 1979 there were only 70 peoples in Phnom Penh. They were taken by surprise. I also mentioned that Cambodia is the poorest among the ten ASEAN members. In ASEAN, four of the ten members are poorer. Among the four poor, Vietnam is better than the tree others – Burma, Lao and Cambodia. We were the poorest because of the Khmer Rouge’s devastation.
… By signing with China, the ASEAN-China Trade Agreement, we could export starting from January 1, 2003 a sum of 297 items to China free of taxes. So we need to increase our products standards for exports. In other words we have a huge market open for our producers. Korea also would like us to open exports to Korea. He first of all suggested that Cambodia should think of exporting coconut and yam.
… Even if we would not get any assistance, we would still organize the meetings because it was our turn to host the meeting. If we do not host the meeting, why should we become a member of ASEAN. Some people object the event and go on hunger strike. If he were to support us, he could have gained 30% but he did not do that. He went on hunger strike but he had bread and disturbed our reverent head monk at midnight. Overall, the meetings had gone smoothly. His Majesty the King and Her Majesty Queen Monineath had made great efforts to help bring success to the Government and people of Cambodia. We also have message of congratulations from the Presidents of the Senate, the National Assembly and also from the people all over the country.
… Some people might have asked why China cancels bad debt with Cambodia? When did Cambodia owe China? Let me clarify that I did not owe China and I did not take any loans. They were state heritage and the debt is due and we have got no money to pay back. China cancels all previous debts and offers to give new loans and assistance. For some countries, they have to pay back all bad debts before new loans are given… But Cambodia does not have to do that but to make use of new loans for the construction of new roads…