HE Eva Nguyen Binh, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the French Republic to the Kingdom of Cambodia,
HE Carmen Moreno, Ambassador of the European Union to the Kingdom of Cambodia, Director of the French Agency for Development of AFD in Cambodia,
Excellencies, Lok Chumteavs, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Workers and Compatriots.
“Clean Water for All” – One of the Four Priorities
Today, on behalf of the Royal Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia, I would like to announce my support to the slogan proposed by Senior Minister Cham Prasidh: “Clean water for all.” This orientation makes us all think very carefully about the activities to provide clean water for all. This is also part of what I should remind you all about the 1987 proclamation (that I made) before I stepped into negotiations to find a solution to the Cambodian problem in Fère-en-Tardenois, France, with Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk. At that time, preparing the budget for 1988, in November 1987, I announced and issued the four priorities for investment – water, roads, electricity and human resource.
Now we continue to follow the four priorities, which we just shifted human resources to the first angle, but water is still (one of) our (four) priorities. The water I want to talk about at that time was not just about irrigation, but also about the water used for the livelihood of our people. We have been doing the right thing for over 30 years. I believe that these four priorities will be in place for at least another 50 years for our country. “Human, water, roads and fire” are the four corners prioritized for continued investment. Today, we open the construction site for Bak Kheng Water Treatment Plant. We also officially inaugurated the Chamkarmon Water Treatment Plant, which we have already built and put into operation.
New Normal Operation
A moment ago, HE Senior Minister Cham Prasidh has made a report to the meeting. I hope that Senior Minister Cham Prasidh’s report is not just heard by the more than 1,000 people here in this gathering, which we consider a second exercise after the January 22 gathering exercise on how to proceed normally in the new normal way. Previously, our platform could accommodate 4,000-5,000 people, now we accommodate just over 1,000 people, while keeping a safety distance of 1.5 meters from each other. Today, there are many live and relay broadcasts on TVs, radios and online medias, where HE Cham Prasidh’s report is not only heard by the more than 1,000 people here, but by people all over the Kingdom of Cambodia and our brothers and sisters abroad.
Achievements of Cooperation between Cambodia and the French Republic, EU
It is true that HE Cham Prasidh raised this issue already and I highlighted a little bit more about our (project implementing) process. We now see that what we are trying to do today is the result of the cooperation between us Cambodia and the French Republic, as well as the European Union. As reported, the project consists of two steps mentioned in the report. In the first phase, we will produce clean water with a production capacity of 150,000 cubic meters/day, which will take 36 months to complete by the end of 2022. The first phase of the investment will cost US$ 247 million, in which US$ 155.5 million for the construction of a water treatment plant and US$ 91.5 million for the distribution networks. This funding comes from the counterpart fund of the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority of 47 million US dollars. The loan we borrowed from the French Agency for the Development (AFD) was US$ 85 million. The loan we borrowed from the European Investment Bank was US$ 100 million and the grant financing from the European Union was US$ 15 million. The builders are the one who implemented the project in Chamkarmon, a well-known French company, VINCI, which has been our partner since 1995 on airport operations in Cambodia. We believe in the ability of the company to build and inspect by the French company as well.
New Technology to Transmit the Main Pipe under Water and the Ground
Just before coming here, I also visited the construction project. Look at this drain, if there is no water, they can make a house since the diameter is up to 2 meters in size. Well, they can sleep in it and can walk too … but more importantly, at the inauguration of a water treatment plant in Kampot, I mentioned a new Japanese technology in construction. Previously, we built (networks) to transmit water from one side to the other by placing it along the bridge, which made it heavy for the bridge. In Kampot, however, we started pushing the pipe underground, but it was only about 150 meters in size. Now we have to push under Tonle Sap River at the Prek Pnov Bridge and under the ground to transfer water supply to the other side. This is a new technology for use in the new generation […]
For the first phase, the plant will produce 195,000 cubic meters/day. In the second phase, we will build another plant that produces 155,000 cubic meters/day. It will start in the third quarter of 2021, before the first phase is completed and the second phase will start. The completion will be the end of 2023. The investment of US$ 101 million will come from the French Agency for Development (AFD). Therefore, for both phases of the project, we have to spend 348 million US dollars, which produces 390,000 cubic meters of clean water per day, which is a high capacity in addition to the supply capacity we have today.
Ministers in Charge Seek Development Partners in Line with Inclusive Policies
I would like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to the Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation, led by Senior Minister Cham Prasidh. To lengthen it a little further, Senior Minister Cham Prasidh, who has been with me for 42 years, began his career as the Office Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as my personal secretary during a period of intense negotiations. He always accompanied me. (He) also serves as Deputy Minister of the Council of Ministers. When I left the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I took His Excellency Cham Prasidh along, and appointed him Deputy Minister of the Council of Ministers and worked with me. After that, he became the Secretary of State for the Ministry of Finance for a while and then became the Minister of Commerce. His Excellency Cham Prasidh is one who negotiated accession of Cambodia to the World Trade Organization. Now, the new ministry, which recently renamed Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation […] is adding more works related to scientific, technical and innovative research.
(That is my way of) working habits that (I always) provided (chances to those around me). Some say that Hun Sen is concentrating his power in his hands. Yes (and as) the Prime Minister, if s/he is not in power, s/he does not have to be one. My way of working is to deploy a minister in charge to find a partner in line with the overall policy. Today I came to seal it. The Minister in charge, authorized by the Prime Minister, shall carry out all this work, signed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, by the Ministry of Economy and Finance, and allocating funds for the development of such projects. The same goes for every ministries. Of course, I needed a report, but the work related to this kind of development requires leadership from the beginning, and my guidance/advice wherever and whenever needed. This is how I work. Well, today we celebrate the ground-breaking ceremony for the construction to address water shortage that I will make more comments on the report of HE Cham Prasidh.
Chamkar Mon Water Treatment Plant, Water Supply Distribution Networks
Today, we also congratulate the inauguration of the Chamkar Mon Water Treatment Plant, which has already been built with a production capacity of 52,000 cubic meters … it was completed in October 2020. The cost of plant construction there is US$ 47.1 million, and the budget for the construction of the factory is US$ 25.2 million and the distribution network is US$ 21.9 million, of which the government counterpart fund was US$ 5.5 million. The contribution of Autonomous Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority is US$ 8.9 million, and US$ 32.7 million is the loan from AFD.
We should note our problem here. It does not just need to produced (clean water), it needs a distributed system as well. Let me talk about the distribution network, which is what HE Cham Prasidh pointed out. The distribution network in Chamkarmon is a long distribution system, but its pipes sizes are small – 0.6 to 0.8 meters diameter pipes are 25 km long, and 0.06 to 0.003 meters are 548 km long. This distribution network means a network that connect the water into the houses. Today, the distribution network here needs up to 91.5 million US dollars. Distribution pipe with a diameter of 63-300 mm are up to 1,000 km. We need to see that when we started the water treatment plant, there will be needs for distribution system. Similarly, irrigation system, when we build a dam somewhere, we have to have distribution canals. Well, this is a requirement for the progress of the nation.
Improper Assessment of Cambodia’s Progress
When I came to the inauguration of the Win-win Monument (and the Techo Heritage Stadium) sites for the upcoming 2023 SEA Games, I always reminded that the area was from where the Khmer Rouge shelled the city of Phnom Penh. In 1989, we were celebrating the 10th anniversary of the country’s liberation from the Pol Pot regime. That day (there was) shooting from that area into Phnom Penh. When I was both the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister, I even sent Foreign Ministry officials, staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and others from state institutions, to help cut down the (inundated) forest so that the Khmer Rouge could no longer hide. At that time, the land was not valuable. No one would take it even if given free of charge. I went to negotiate (a political settlement). Upon my return from the negotiations in SAINT-GERMAIN-EN-LAYE in January 1988, I came there. At that time, the negotiations in SAINT-GERMAIN-EN-LAYE, France, called the Sihanouk-Hun Sen talks. From FERE-EN-TARDENOIS to SAINT-GERMAIN-EN-LAYE. I came (to this area) with Thong Khon, who at the time was the mayor […]
The border of the (Kandal) province and Phnom Penh is at the base of the Chroy Changvar Bridge, not here. I have signed no less than five sub-decrees to cut land from Kandal province and give them to Phnom Penh, which has now expanded from more than 300 square Kilometres to more than 700 square Kilometres. (Such expansion has made) the water supply and electricity challenges. Previously, both the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, the IMF and economists misjudged Cambodia’s progress. They had estimated demand for electricity to increase by only 12% per year. In reality, electricity in Phnom Penh increased by more than 40% per year. In the past, after the liberation of Phnom Penh, we used about 30 megawatts, but now we use up to a thousand megawatts.
PP Autonomous Water Supply Authority Established by Royal Decree in 1959
That we are today celebrating and talking about the supply of clean water in Phnom Penh does not mean that there was no clean water for consumption from before. According to history, Phnom Penh has progressed remarkably. There was water supply authority since the French era. In 1895, the area near Phnom Daun Penh and Old Market there had clean water. They had a 40 km distribution network with a capacity of 15,000 cubic meters/day at that time. In 1959, there was this Royal Decree to establish the Water Supply Authority. It was clearly a Royal Decree of King Suramarit at the request of His Majesty the King Father, who then abdicated and became Prime Minister. By 1969, our production capacity in Phnom Penh was 155,000 cubic meters/day. However, from the coup d’etat of 1970 until now, there has been no expansion, only destruction because of war, which erupted from March 18, 1970 and later destruction by the Khmer Rouge.
Insufficient Clean Water for Phnom Penh after the Liberation in 1979
When we arrived in Phnom Penh, we did not have running water. I would like to confirm that I was one of the victims in Cambodia after the death of a child during the Khmer Rouge regime, an unforgettable pain in my life. I lost another child when Phnom Penh was liberated. Why? (There was a) miscarriage. My wife had to fetch water from the ground level to our floors. It is my fault. It was until 1994 that there was sufficient running water at my house at the Independence Monument. In 1979, (Samdech) Heng Samrin, living in a house next door, and I went fetching water from the river. We dragged water from the river to the ground floor and then carry it up floor. Later, we received technical assistance from our Vietnamese friends to restore some factories, including the water plant. Our water production is not enough because the pipes sometimes break. In each place, they dug a hole in the ground to find a pipe and some even took the water to sell. As the water had not come to my house yet, I used the water transported by truck to fill the tank below and then the motor to pump it up. Some days there is no running water. My house as Prime Minister did not have running water until 1994. My wife had another miscarriage. It was unlike Phnom Penh nowadays. Grandchildren and great-grandchildren born after the shelling period would not imagine what had happened […]
Victims of Genocide Punished by Democracies
Phnom Penh was miserable in that situation. No one dares to take a house even if given. Two or three families lived in one house together. Later, they started arguing. At that time, we were miserable. Some countries supported the Khmer Rouge at the United Nations. They punished us (like what) Eva (Mysliwiec) and Onesta (Carpene) wrote in a book called “Punishment the Poor.” We are victims of genocide, but we came under punishment by countries calling themselves democratic. Those countries supported the Lon Nol’s military coup that overthrew the Head of State, Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk, and later supported the Khmer Rouge at the United Nations. Fortunately, they later provided assistance to the Khmer Rouge tribunal, which is now nearing its end. However, they have never expressed any remorse for past wrongdoing. This is the history of Cambodia.
Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority – Profitable and Successful
I appreciate the efforts of Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority, which is the only company that is profitable and successful. The loan that we borrowed from France, borrowed from Europe, (lenders) do not worry that the Water Supply Authority lacks money to repay. Once it borrows, it will repay both principal and interest. We have not yet asked any country for a delay of payment even in the COVID-19 crisis. We repay both the principal and interest. We pay on time. Cambodia has not yet reached the so-called penalty point (for non-payment). Punishment imposed (in the past). I would like to say a little more so that our people know. After the signing of the Paris Agreement, they rushed to provide assistances to Cambodia. Let us look into the move. Was that a benefit for Cambodia? No. The aid was only to pay off past debts. This or that country provides so much and so much in assistance. For whatever they offered, it was for Cambodia to repay the debts that the previous regimes owed. For instance, the Asian Development Bank, at that time, in order to get a loan from it, Cham Prasidh and with Chhay Thorn (now, Minister of Planning) thought together of selling the land (where the) Canadia (building is now) to repay the ADB … because without repaying the money owed, they would not lend a new loan to us. That is the story. The past regime owed them. We have not even settled the debt they had with the United States. We, the next generation, are the victims (of debt) that the previous generation had to make war. The next generation made peace, ended the war. This is the duty of the Cambodian children to do, and for achievements, which we have scored ourselves we know how valuable peace is and how we must prevent war from happening.
Cambodia Does Not Comment on the Internal Affairs of Any Country
In Rangoon, things has already begun. The president and state adviser were detained by soldiers. Cambodia does not comment on the internal affairs of any country within ASEAN or any other country. As of now, His Excellency Prak Sokhon said that the Internet is gradually disconnected and reduced. (This is what has happened) about the current situation in Myanmar. That is the affairs of friends within the framework of ASEAN. We only publish news but do not comment.
Phnom Penh Needs 756,000 Cubic Meters/Day, 600,000 Cubic Meters Produced
The history of our (water supply efforts) construction is difficult. We have started from the time when as Prime Minister I was entitled to only 10 kg of rice, 6 kg of corn. Cham Prasidh then rode a bicycle to bring documents to my house. Later he had a Peugeot car. The Peugeot car left from Di Lamthol, and then Long Visalo, and then Sok An, and finally to Cham Prasidh. One after the other. In fact, Cham Prasidh did not need to drive, but the documents needed a drive to my house. It was our story. Now, the streets are crowded with cars. Well, now maybe people are complaining about the road closure. If we did not close the roads, I could not make it on time. They would ask me to ride my helicopter. Helicopters can fly down here, but doing so is a waste. As the head does not reach the sky and the feet do not reach the ground, it is very risky […]
I have yet to express my appreciation of the Ministry, of the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority’s efforts, and thank the French Republic, thank you to the European Union for providing loans and assistance for water supply development along with the Japanese assistance. In Phnom Penh, Japan helped us a lot, and now Japan plans to help in Takhmao, because the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority covers both Phnom Penh and Takhmao. If we get another station in Takhmao, it will improve the water supply in Takhmao area. I am living in Takhmao. I use water that runs all the way there. We must not forget the law of supply and demand. We now look at our needs and supplies as we accelerate construction. If possible, (I wish) VINCI speeds up construction a bit. Currently, the demand for clean water in Phnom Penh is 756,000 cubic meters/day, while our supply capacity is only 600,000 cubic meters. We are lacking 150,000 cubic meters/day. This is a point that we need to work on.
Water Imbalance in Phnom Penh Solved in Early 2022
Thus, about 40,000 households, or 12% of the population, are experiencing problems with clean water shortages, such as low water pressure, access to water only at night, or waiting to receive clean water from the state. This problem occurred during the dry season of 2020 and 2021, and possibly early 2022. It will be resolved in the first phase, which completes the construction of 2022. If the company can speed up the construction, it will be able to solve the (need of) 150,000 families (who still lack water). I always bring up such imbalances. Previously, the main imbalance we talked about focussed on the imbalance of supply and demand on food […] now (we talking about this) water problem. (It is) human needs and do not forget day by day the number of uses increases. How much water do we need when one child is born? The baby needs water to use. There no way to say we have enough. There may be a time when it reaches every households but then it would start to need more too. Therefore, readiness in water supply must be continuous. There must be a clear goal. The slogan “clean water for all” is right and we need to cooperate with all stakeholders, both inside and outside the country to solve the problem of clean water shortage.
Clean Water Prices; Save Electricity and Water Together
As for the price, we need to understand the price. The price we recommend for the poor is for those who would use not more than seven cubic meters/month and it is 400 riels per cubic meter. This does not just mean that you are poor. I also do not use more than that because I take a shower about 3-4 bowls. Lazy to brush. I use less water, which means saving. Use from 8-15 cubic meters (and the price per cubic meter would be) 720 riels. Use from 16-25 cubic meters (the price per cubic meter would be) 960 riels. Use from 26-50 cubic meters (the price per cubic meter would be) 1,250 riels. Use from 51-100 cubic meters (the price per cubic meter would be) 1,900 riels. From 101-2,200 cubic meters is (the price per cubic meter would be) 2,200 riels. Business customers not more than 15 cubic meters (the price per cubic meter would be) 950 riels. 16-45 cubic meters (the price per cubic meter would be) 1,100 riels. 46-100 cubic meters (the price per cubic meter would be) 1,400 riels. 101-200 cubic meters (the price per cubic meter would be) 1,700 riels. 201-500 cubic meters (the price per cubic meter would be) 2,100 riels. Use of water by customers that are ministries, institutions, units and embassies do not limit by the amount. They pay the price of 2,500 riel per cubic meter, the most expensive – because the ministries use the state money to pay back to the state […]
Families, especially government institutions, must be careful about the use of electricity. Some ministries, such as the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Public Works, and perhaps the Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology, which is under construction, may use solar to reduce electricity consumption. To reduce power consumption, it is important not to turn on the air conditioners too cold. COVID-19 is living (in the) cold (temperature). Be careful. When leaving work, turn off the air conditioners/lights. Now, the technique of making toilets is better for saving water. Like Japan, the country is rich because they are good at saving, they do not waste. Now Japan produces toilets for sale in Cambodia. When we urinate, we use the smaller button. In defecation, press the bigger button, more water and pressure comes. The innovation is about saving on water consumption, and if you save on water, it leads to the problem of electricity that we do not use too much.
In 2019, Cambodia Invested US$ 594 Million; In 2020 US$ 1,425 Million
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you once again on what has been happening on the territory of our poor Kingdom of Cambodia. In addition to raising funds for investment, we also invest with our own money every year. Let me just show the figures to our compatriots. In 2019, we invested US$ 594 million, of which US$ 415 million was direct investment and US$ 179 million was counterpart fund. All projects require our counterpart funds, just like this project there is this counterpart fund from the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority. All projects are subject to counterpart fund. The Chamkarmon project has had a counterpart fund from the Royal Government that we inaugurated today. In 2020, the COVID-19 era, we will invest 1,425 million US dollars. Increase direct investment, not foreign investment. Our direct investments of 1,215 million (US dollars) consists of the counterpart fund of 210 million (US dollars) that makes it 1,425 million US dollars. We do not earn only for salaries or ordinary current expenses. Every year we have money to build and repair roads, canals, wells, schools, hospitals. We do a lot.
Cambodia Plans Direct Investment of 1.4 billion USD in 2021
In 2021, our direct investment projects will be 1,400 million (US dollars), of which 1,189 million US dollars are of direct investment and 211 million US dollars will be counterpart fund. How much money does Cambodia need to have a road built. Impacts taken into account. What had caused the problem? The biggest is because we had much understanding. In the past, we had a decree defining the width of the road. At that time, people came to stay and asked for permission to set up temporary shops to sell noodle, etc. As time went by, they built houses. When time comes to widen the road, we had to offer them money so that they leave the required areas. (If our offer is not acceptable to them) s/he refused and took the protest to Phnom Penh. They went especially to the European embassy, the French embassy, the US embassy, the UN embassy. While in fact, it is a state land. Give her/him little money, s/he protests. We do not want to use the expropriation law. Just the third ring road for instance, I had instructed in writing more than 20 notes already. For one time, we spent 5 million (US dollars), again 4 million (US dollars), and then 6 million (US dollars), 7 million (US dollars), etc. However, that is what we (must) do to liberate traffic in Phnom Penh. Our country has to clear mines, no matter which road projects. We have to spend money to clear mines, because this country was at war. We must remove and destroy mines, shrapnel and unexploded ordnances. The scars of war and genocide plague us. We try however to stand up from empty hands […]
Clean Water Even in Rural Areas
I hope we will reach a stage where water supply is not just for people in Phnom Penh, but all cities and even the rural people, have access to clean water through various means, such as wells. In some places, the water supply could not reached people because they set up a village on the outskirts. Only the well water method will be possible and that is in charge of the Ministry of Rural Development. We need water and distribution system for irrigation to reach unused land and for increasing production from one time a year to twice a year. We have been (and will be) a country rich in rice or other agricultural products. That mentioned, the four priorities “human resource, water, roads, electricity” are still our correct priorities. I think even in 50 years from now. It is not a matter of taking risks. There are specific plans. Which year to which and we do what.
COVID-19 Remains a Regional and Global Challenge
Let me take this opportunity to say a few more points as it is a necessary to make a statement for our people. First of all, in relation to the management of COVID-19, which the whole world, as well as in the region has not yet recovered, including Cambodia, I would like to ask for understanding from the nation as a whole, especially more than 7,000 people who are in quarantine along the border areas in the seven provinces. The province with the most people in quarantines (is) Banteay Meanchey (where there are) 3,600 people. In Oddar Meanchey (there are) more than 2,000 people. In Battambang (there are) more than 1,000 people and other provinces – total of over 7,000 people who are in the process of being in quarantines.
COVID-19 14-Day Quarantine Observed
We must strictly practice the 14-days quarantine either at the border or in Phnom Penh. I urge our people to do the same. We have sufficient experience to realize that we needed to observe the COVID-19 14-day quarantines strictly. We cannot reduce the quarantine period to 10 or 7 days. In fact, in today’s case of one COVID-19 infected person in Pailin province, the woman had been traveling to Pailin province since January 15, but because she was traveling with the COVID-19, she had to be tested. Taking result from the Pasteur Institute, she found herself to be positive. There are many such cases. Do not underestimate the need for quarantines. I beg the workers from Thailand and Cambodians who live abroad and who are coming home must do the 14 days quarantines. In the event that a person travelled along with those infected, further quarantine is a necessary to ensure that COVID-19 is not leaking into the community again.
I am willing to feed our people in quarantine at the border. Even this morning I order to deliver money to Banteay Meanchey and Koh Kong and am planning to transport clean water from Phnom Penh. Quarantined persons have three meals a day – three times better than daily food of the army, with clean water transported from Phnom Penh. Now that the Chinese New Year is approaching, we have to prepare to transport water to be stored at the quarantine centres, lest when the New Year comes, they will stop transporting, there will be no water for them. We feed them food and let them live in hygienic order to ensure prevention of diseases from transmitting.
Together Solve COVID-19 Problem
Cambodians and foreigners who have arrived in Phnom Penh must take the tests and have a quarantine period for 14 days without exception. This is not a time to rebuke or quarrel. It is time for all the countries of the world to work together to solve this COVID-19 problem. Am not sure which country’s lessons to share to which country or which country to teach, but we can consult equally with the right to share experiences with each other. I saw an article drafter asking developed countries to share their experiences with poor countries. The developed countries has been so far the most infected and the most deadly … Thai (COVID-19) infection in the community. Two days ago, more than 900 people were infected and yesterday more than 800 people were infected. Do not know how many people are today. We know that there have been 136 infected Cambodian workers who are being treated in Thailand. As for those who returned to o Cambodia, there have been 70-80 (COVID-19) infected. If we do not control the border, allowing them to enter the country (without) the quarantines, it is likely that the disease will break out in the community as in Thailand. Vietnam also had an outbreak of (COVID-19 infection) in the community, which yesterday reached 50 (COVID-19 infection). We had 41 infected of (COVID-19) in a community outbreak. We have closed this community event. We now try to prevent the recurrence of this community infection.
Fighting COVID-19 Is Difficult
I used to be a soldier who entered the battlefields. My hands never shook when I was under shower of bullets. I negotiated with all the French presidents from the time of Francois Mitterrand to Jacques Chirac, to Nicolas Sarkozy, to Francois Hollande. And President Emmanuel Macron whom I just met in Brussels. Negotiations with the UN Secretary-General have been going on for generations since Javier Perez de Cuellar to sign the Paris Agreement, then to Boutros Boutros-Ghali, then to Kofi Annan, then to Ban Ki-moon and Antonio Gutteres. With so many heads of state and government in the world that I have become a negotiating partner, I never feel shocked about it. As a combat commander with COVID-19 battlefield is a difficult thing. As the reporting time approached, my hands shakily hold the phone. First, they send me paper from the Institut Pasteur. I counted (COVID-19 infected people). Eight, 9 and 10 … my hands shook … Yesterday, there was one case of infection. HE Mam Bun Heng initially sent me before daybreak. At 5 o’clock, I get up and look at the report of HE Mam Bun Heng. Now I have the report in the evening instead so that I can sleep a little longer.
Three ASEAN Countries Have No COVID-19 Deaths
The problem is not about rich or poor country. It does not rest on whether advanced in science or less advanced science a country is. It is about governance. Look at all the rich countries, technically advanced, doctors are 100 times better than our country, but have the most number of deaths and infected. We, the poor countries, consisting of Cambodia, Laos, East Timor, have less number of infection and death. These three countries are the poorest in ASEAN. Not that we are good, but this is a time of thorough management without negligence.
Our past successful experience has been the participation of the people. Without the participation of the people, we would not have been able to control this situation. It is true that the number of (COVID-19 infection) is growing slowly, but still the number has risen to nearly 500. With 70-80 people from Thailand infected, it added up. The (Cocid-19) community outbreak on November 3 gave us a quick rise of over 200 infection, but we did not have any deaths, only one woman treated at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital. Yesterday she was relieved. Hope she recovers soon.
Do Not Forget Three Dos
I am begging again as the Chinese New Year is approaching. In Khmer, we used to say that the Chinese celebrate their New Year, the Khmer got drunk. The story is true. We Khmers do not care to know where (the foods and drinks) come from. They just have them. The celebration of the Chinese New Year really drunken the Khmers. As you enjoy, do not forget the three dos or protections – wear a mask, wash your hands, and keep a safe distance. This is an exercise of preparation. Work is still possible, but we ensure safety for all. I am a submissive person. The best way to win a COVID-19 is to be scared. Do not be panic. Be afraid of (COVID-19) because we do not know where it is. If it is in military warfare, we know from which direction artillery come from. For COVID-19, we cannot know where it is.
COVID-19 Mechanism and Source of Vaccines
People really want to know (about vaccines against COVID-19), because they have contributed to the purchase of vaccines and the fund has come up to US$ 57 million. How far are we concerning the vaccines? The people and the monks really want to know. I would like to thank His Majesty the King and His Majesty the Queen Mother, the Buddhist monks, the charitable persons, and the compatriots who have contributed to show solidarity to solve the need for vaccines against COVID-19 … Armed Forces civil servants cut their salaries for the first time. Now comes the payroll donation. Some countries even issue regulatory instruction for payroll deductions. We leave it to individual voluntary contribution – some donate 30% of their salary for a few months. Some donate all for a few months. Thus, people have a right to learn about the management and operation relating to the vaccines.
Now we know that the first vaccine we would get was from China – one million doses, which arrived in February. The first leg will arrive with 600,000 doses, followed by supplementation will come from China. Then we get seven million doses from COVAX, which belongs to the World Health Organization, in addition, we buy from COVAX another one million doses. We got nine million doses then. The vaccine is not yet in our hands, but our plan is like that. After the meeting between the Australian Ambassador and HE Deputy Prime Minister Aun Porn Moniroth, we will receive from Australia three million doses which Australia decided to provide 28 million dollars to Cambodia for 2020 to 2023 via the Vaccine Initiative. With the first package provided in mid-2021, this grant will enable Cambodia to vaccinate 1.5 million people, or equivalent to three million doses. Well, if we add 11 million (people more for vaccination) we still lack nine million doses. Where can we get it?
I wrote a letter to the Prime Minister of China for further provision, and a letter to the Prime Minister of India. We have already considered buying the British vaccine AstraZeneca. (I may address to) the EU Ambassador (here that I) heard that the European Commission has now banned the export of the vaccines. If that is the case, such a barrier is not appropriate because the world considers vaccines common goods. If Europe keeps it for them alone, what would happen to the rest of the world? I hope Madame Ambassador sends a message on behalf of poor countries to the European Union not to ban vaccine exports. There is information however that there is no prohibition for provision to COVAX. If so, it is a good thing. 200 million doses of AstraZeneca will be available to COVAX. If there is no prohibition, it will be a little easier for poor countries.
Why do we think of the British vaccine? This vaccine is can survive at 2-8 degrees above zero as the Chinese one. It costs between US$ 4-5/dose. Chinese Sinopharm (costs) US$ 20/dose. Well, we will ask for more from China and buy more from China in case of lower price and AstraZeneca vaccine may be produced in Thailand. If they made in Thailand, it may be easier for us to get the vaccine for injection. As far as the sources are concerned, we use vaccines from China and the UK. Even if we have to buy directly from the UK, at this price, we can afford. We have to prepare for 20 million doses. Previously, 26 million doses needed for 13 million people. Now, as we reduced the rate from 80% to between 60% and 70%, we needed 20 million doses for 10 million people. The vaccine team is now reviewing.
Welcome China Sinopharm at the Airport
I have already affirmed that the Chinese vaccine arrived first, I went to the airport to get it and I will get the first vaccine. However, the problem now is who will inject us. What happens if the ones to give us the jabs have not had the vaccination? This is the problem. Ask Singapore (and Indonesia), (for the cases of) the Prime Minister of Singapore and the President of Indonesia, have the doctors vaccinated themselves? If they have not vaccinated and they can vaccinated them, I will follow their examples. Take, for example, Indonesia’s presidents Joko Widodo and Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
This vaccine does not work for a day or two as we can keep them at 2-8 degrees above zero and we have a delivery truck. In addition to the Ministry of Health’s trucks, there are private sector trucks that we can borrow to transport the vaccines to the destination for vaccination. Doctors in the army have already had training in vaccination, but the problem is they must have vaccinated themselves before they can apply the jabs to others. Would I be one among the medical team members or let doctors get the vaccine first and start vaccinating other people who are not doctors? We are still thinking about this issue. However, the vaccine is coming in February, and if it is required to be vaccinated. I am not afraid of vaccination, because this is a confidence-building measure and a model for people on vaccination.
No COVID-19 Vaccination License Not Allowed into the Country
On the 22nd, during the inauguration of the Ministry of Public Works, I said that at some point, those who have not been vaccinated will not be able to enter their country, as in this case of Africa. If a person has not had a license proving a vaccination against yellow fever, s/he was not allowed to enter Africa in the past. As Europe is vaccinating (against COVID-19), one day Europe may say any foreign national without a COVID-19 vaccine record cannot enter the country. For local company … they may set a condition for COVID-19 vaccination too. If so, many need vaccinated […]
Allow me to inform our people that if the vaccine costs only 4-5 US dollars, the amount of money provided/contributed by HM the King (and) Luang Me (the queen Mother), the monks, and philanthropists of more than 57 million (US dollars) is enough. As Australia gave us 20 million, on what basis do they decide? Maybe, they think of AstraZeneca for that price. Apparently (they think of the) British (vaccine). They use British vaccine in India. Now India uses in his country and distributes to Nepal/Bhutan/Myanmar. I wrote a letter to the Prime Minister of India. I do not know yet how he would respond.
“Look in All Directions” – Cambodia’s Foreign Policy
I would also like to appeal to the European Union, if possible, to assist Cambodia. I would like to thank the French Ambassador (and please) tell President Emmanuel Macron that Cambodia also needs generous assistance from France. Please do not see that Cambodia only needs China. We needed from everyone. It is not that that Cambodia only looks to China. Cambodia looks at all angles. That means looking around, not just looking in one direction. India has a policy of looking east, and then Prime Minister Narendra Modi used the term action to the east. South Korean President Moon Jae-in uses the term action to the south. For me, look in every direction, not in one direction. This is our foreign policy. We would also accept if the United States provides, but the US vaccines to be stored at 70 degrees below zero would not be easy for Cambodia. If the US wishes to help, they can give money to buy AstraZeneca like Australia did. Well, we get it all. However, what we do know now is that one million doses of Sinopharm from China will arrive in February. (It will be) for the first time that Cambodia will jab the vaccines from China. Whatever comes first, we inject it first. For instance, if suddenly India ships in its vaccines first, we will have to get the jabs from India first. That is our vaccination policy […]
The First Oil Well, AO1D, Gives 1,236 Barrels/Day
Our people really want to know how far have we proceed concerning the drop of oil. Since the announcement, they would say they have not heard anything. Today, I would like to affirm to our compatriots the issue of oil, which I announced we started to have the first drop of oil on December 29, 2020, coinciding with the 22nd anniversary of the end of the war through win-win policy. Our first well operated for 33 days. Our second well has just opened. Our first well, called AO1D, produced 1,236 barrels/day. In 33 days, the first well produced 40,788 barrels. The second well, which started on January 30, called AO4D, will be separating mud from oil because the pump was initially only mud. Once the mud is gone, only oil will come. We now have just extracted 41,056 barrels of oil in total, and the remaining third, fourth and fifth wells will be in action in 2021.
7 to 7.5 Thousand Barrels/Day – Does Not Affect the Economy Yet
In estimation, we will receive between 7,000 to 7,500 barrels per day, which is very small. It has not yet affected the economy. Nevertheless, it was a good start for the oil and gas industry in Cambodia. We will continue with other investment groups, including the French company TOTAL. When I was negotiating with Nicolas Sarkozy … we made an oil block concession to the French company TOTAL, but it was in the overlap area between Cambodia and Thailand. In the overlapping areas between Cambodia and Thailand, we are making concessions to foreign companies. Thailand also makes concessions to foreign companies. Therefore, Cambodia needs to negotiate with Thailand, plus the concessionaire. We will push for negotiations with the Thai side to do business.
I agree with analysis of an article “Can Oil in Cambodia Affect the Cambodian economy?” Not yet. According to His Excellency Suy Sem’s estimate at US$ 55 per barrel, our annual revenue is less than US$ 30 million. It is not equal to the non-tax revenue of one million tourist visas. The country cannot depend on oil. Countries that produce a lot of oil do not depend on oil alone. Some countries produced oil, but they also do other businesses. The United States is the largest producer of oil, but the United States is the largest producer of agricultural products.
Oil Pumped, No Oil-Refining Yet
It is a good thing that we now have oil, though. Some people may mistakenly think that from now on Cambodia is “comfortable to have its own oil.” No. Oil-producing countries also sell oil to their own people. Some countries produce oil, but people protest against rising oil prices, such as in Indonesia, where people often protested against rising oil prices. The same is true in Iran. Iran is an oil-producing country, but Iranians are protesting against rising oil prices. Extraction of oil required big investment because they needed to drill the seabed … We do not yet have our own refinery. There are investment plans, but the project is not moving forward. Those who asked for it, we have approved to do it, but they do not go ahead. Even if they are going forward, our crude oil capacity is not enough to refine. If we have local oil production, we will get benefits. Part of it is oil, and the other part is stuff, it turns into fertilizer, into asphalts, and so on. We strive to make such investments, even if we needed to bring in crude oil to refine in our country. We have not been successful yet for what we tried so far.
Revenue of Oil Less Than Those from Taxes and Duties
Let our people know that the first well has been in operation for 33 days, the second well is in progress and will reach the third, fourth and fifth wells, where we estimate 7,000-7,500 barrels of oil per day. The revenue was only about US$ 30 million, while our revenues yesterday (from taxes and duties) at the end of the month was over US$ 400 million, of which 218 million USD from taxes and about 201 million from duties. We collected more than 400 million USD. The revenue is down, but it is in the range of over 400 million. That is why our economy continues to function normally.
Our earlier estimate for 2020 is that economic growth would fall within 1.9%, but our final estimate now is 3.1%. This decline is not limited to Cambodia. The only positive economies in our region are those of Vietnam and China, and the rest of the region is equally negative, just more or less. Cambodia initially estimated negative 6%, but we strive to remain at minus 3.1%. We expect the return to 4% growth in 2021. We have to work together to do everything. The next step is to prevent COVID-19. Together, we can solve this problem.
I seem to talk a little too much, but it is a political message for our people, in terms of water, in terms of COVID-19 and in terms of the oil that people are curious to know about. In terms of oil, we do not just have Block A. We still have many more blocks in our waters. Our mainland is also under researches. From areas overlapping with Thailand, we will be able to reap the benefits to be a part of economic growth. However, the size we are having does not yet have the effect of pushing the Cambodian economy to grow strongly. It is still very small compared to the size of the economy we have obtained so far. In the past 2020, we had an income of about 5.5 billion USD. Compared to 30 million USD (from oil), the oil revenue is still very small. Compared to this month’s taxes and duties, as of yesterday, there was more than 400 million. In this case, the oil revenue of 30 million USD would be very small.
No Cancellation of Tourist Visa Fees
In terms of non-tax revenue, considering the visa fee, we used to have 6.6 million tourists. We lost them (because of COVID-19). One million tourists is equal to 30 million USD, because one VISA (fee is) US$ 30. Well, I do not agree with any requests for Cambodia to stop taking visas to attract tourists. Cambodia has no alternative yet … you have to charge US$ 30 per person for the visa. France (charges a visa fee for) over US$ 100. We charged only US$ 30, why can they not come. The Ministry of Tourism and some countries always asks me to cancel visa fees. We will keep it until the number of tourists that Cambodia received (can provide income allowing us to) deduct the visas fees. Otherwise, for 6 million (tourists) multiplied by 3 (equal to) 180 million USD will be lost. It is a non-fiscal revenue that is now lost. The world economy hit hard.
COVID-19 Variants Confused Europe, Cambodia Strict Quarantines and Testing
Now there are more COVID-19 variants. Europe is in turmoil. The COVID-19 is not yet resolved and there are more variants. This is a problem. It is not just an issue for Cambodia. Fortunately, Cambodia has not had people died of COVID-19 and the number of infections is somewhat low. However, we must not underestimated the disease. Therefore, it is necessary to strengthen the quarantine efforts along the Cambodian-Thai border for workers returning from Thailand. If they are sick, treat them. Strengthen the quarantine and testing at international gates and at airports thoroughly. If we can control it, our people will lose their fear. It is better to think that we are under threat (of COVID-19) than to think there is none.
No Emergency Placement in Cambodia
I am thinking that the COVID-19 is not over in 2021 as there are so many deaths a day. Most of the deaths are in rich countries. The United States is the country with the many deaths, followed by Europe, among which Holland, which is a member of the European Union, has had the highest death number. People demonstrated and set fire to shops. They say that is when democracy has reached the top. After democracy, they died. For our people, I declare once again that I do not place the country in a state of emergency (either) in the whole country or in parts. There is a law, but I do not use it. I guarantee in front of the people, I do not apply the law to the country in times of emergency, in whole or in part of the country. What I am asking from the people is the respect and participation, which is a good deed that does not need to apply the law for the country in an emergency. Once we put that law into effect, the economy will crash. All services will crash. Countries with better means state of emergency may be good for them, but for countries lacking means are difficult […]
No Plans to Suspend the New Year Holidays
Thank you for coming together today. I have touched on many topics, but it is for sharing with our people about the situation in the country during the COVID-19 phase and how do we process the vaccine search. I urge our people to remain calm, but continue to call for self-protection. This year, it is clear that I have no plans to cancel the Khmer New Year like last year (which we suspended due to) in uncertain circumstances. Last year, the reason for suspending the holiday, while still celebrating the entering of new year and reimbursing (the leave for 5 days later) was because there 120,000 people from Thailand … We do not know who had or who did not have among them. We have people from Phnom Penh who would also travel places. That is why the team has been asking me since March to suspend the New Year holiday. I refused until it was six days before the holiday that I announced the suspension. This year we managed to control the situation. Brothers and sisters returning from Thailand will have to stay in quarantines. If there is an explosion in the community, it is clear that there would be other measures, but I ensure that the emergency law is not in promulgation. We must always be careful […]./.