Extempore Comments during the Graduation and Diploma Presentation Ceremony of the Vanda Institute of Accounting

Better Educational Infrastructure, More Chance for Youth

I am so glad to be able to join with all of you to present diplomas for 3,174 graduates of the Vanda Institute of Accounting. I am grateful for the recent report presented by Dr. Vanda Heng, Head of the Vanda Institute of Accounting. Starting from 2005, this is my seventh presence to present diploma for graduates of the Institute. Normally we have only one graduation and diploma presentation to officiate except in 2011 that we had two of them to organize. We have today more than 3,000 of you to be here together. In fact the National Institute for Education could hold up to 6 or 7,000 in its full capacity.

As far as infrastructural development is concerned, day after day, we have noted the availability of more facilities and halls for holding such meeting. Take for instance we have been able to hold the ASEAN Summit and its related summits in Phnom Penh and in Siem Reap province. While conducting the ASEAN Summit in 2002, all were held in only one hotel, the Intercontinental, which involved a lot of arranging works to serve different purpose of meetings. Aside from that as you can see the national progress, we have more tertiary education institutions, state and private.

Take the Vanda Institute for example. According to the report of Dr. Vanda Heng, there have been 11,603 students who have graduated from the Institute, among whom 77.95% are women. In this academic year, the Institute has 11,475 students, among whom 84.82% are women. With eight school buildings or 322 classrooms, the Institute administers 944 lecturers. I am so glad to see that the ability of the Institute has grown to absorb more students.

I would like to take this opportune moment to express my sincere appreciation to the Vanda Institute (of Accounting) for making its contribution with the Royal Government for the human resource development goal. As I used to say time and again in relation to the political framework of the Royal Government we have to provide opportunity for participation from the private sector on issue relating to investment in education. That has yielded us great result today. If we were to leave the education burden to rest solely on the state shoulder, we may doubt where these young people would go when they could not compete for placement in the State University.

The Royal Government’s policy to involve private sector in the field of human resource development has been positively responsive to the need and wish of our youth as well as their families. They could benefit from tertiary education either from the state institution or as fee-paying students.

From Quantity Finds Quality

It is true that there is this suggestion that the quality of education for the Cambodian students is not yet up the standard. It is a problem that we have to seek to find a solution in order to promote training and consolidate quality. As is well said by HE Vanda Heng, in the context of globalization, the effort to strengthen education service quality is the most urgent measure for each education foundation. How do we go about searching and attaining higher quality? Where do we start? In our case, we have to start with quantity. Without quantity, it would be hard for us to talk about quality now. The two – quantity and quality – have a dialectical relation.

It seems that critics have put all of our students into one basket. In fact we have those who are best, average and not good. I agree that we have quality problem but I would not agree with the move to put them all in one package. We cannot agree with a few people who tend to speak out all the time as the only ones who know best and all. Acknowledging the problem of educational quality, we have established the Accreditation Committee of Cambodia. Our problem here is to come up with certain quantity and the searching for quality will follow. The same is true in the case of Royal Government officials and/or political leaders. Out of thousands, there may be only five or so who prove to be the best in leadership.

A leader from one country that I do not reveal here once said to me “it is not easy to find a few people who have more or less great quality to be leaders.” I think that is true. Even among our kids and grandkids, we may notice that they have different quality – some may do well in their study, while some may not. That is why I wish to see that critics should not place them all in one basket. I do not wish to protect myself or anything but urge people not to undervalue their nationals. We all should try and work harder to improve our educational quality.

Bigger Share of Graduates Absorbed by the Private Sector

It is calling therefore for our people to demand more efforts by all tertiary educational institutions, the Vanda Institute included, in responding to the growing market need and lack of human resources. It should be noted that recruiting new workforce into both state and private workplaces, not only diploma that is the requirement. They would look into other criteria like knowledge in relation to virtue, morality, etc. take for instance according to Dr. Vanda Heng, 2,752 out of 3,174 graduates have found their jobs. This figure makes 86.70%. There are 422 who have not got a job to do yet. This figure answers to 13.3%. What is remarkable here is the fact that 90.15% or 4,281 students have found their jobs in the private sector. Only 208 graduates or 7.5% have found jobs in the state sector. Sixty three graduates or 2.3% are self-employed.

As you can see the level of absorption by the private sector has grown to 90%. It is an overwhelming part of the bunch. There is no country in this world that absorbs all graduates into the state institutions. There is no such thing as learning only to become the Royal Government officials. The situation is now completely different from the decades 1980s and the consequence of which we had to keep resolving through 1990, 1996 and 1997. In 1980s, once they finished their senior secondary education, students had to sign a contract confirming that they will come to work for the state institution after they finished their studies as a precondition to get admittance for tertiary education. We did it that way because we lacked human resources as Pol Pot regime had killed former well-educated people and officials already.

Attracting More Foreign Investments, Creating More Jobs

We had sent students for further training in foreign countries and only the socialist countries in those days that they recognized (the State of) Cambodia. As Foreign Minister, I toured those countries and begged for their scholarships so that we were able to send our students there. Unlike these days people can go wherever they want to, people in those days had to go to the former Soviet Union and countries in Eastern Europe, Vietnam, Laos and India, the only free country that recognized us then. The fact we took measure that students had to sign contracts to return to state institutions after leaving their tertiary education had been a consequence, as I said, for us to deal with till 1996/97.

Each year now the Royal Government will decide how many civil servants will retire and how many new ones will be recruited. As for the armed forces, we also have the number of soldier or police staff to retire and the number of new ones to be recruited. After recruitment, they all will get training too. This should give you an idea that in the future, more graduates will have to be absorbed by the private sector as there would be more investments. Without investments we would not have more works to do. While taking stern position against the investors, some people have made contradicting promise to find jobs for youth. What a contradiction! I do not mean to blame anyone. I just give you a fact in the society.

It is on this note that we will continue to further attract foreign direct investment while promoting private sector in the country to secure the growth of GDP and jobs for our people. It should be noted that the field of agriculture is providing job opportunities for many people. As in the case of our country it has absorbed up to 75% of the national labor force. It is along with this trend of globally national development that the Royal Government is actively solving the issue of land title for the people in addition to building more infrastructures – hydraulic works, roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, etc. most of which serve development in area of agriculture.

Thanks for the Scholarships and More Female Students to Continue Their Studies

I am so grateful for the efforts of the Institute and professors as well as its leaders for providing me with the scholarships so that I can offer on my behalf to resource lacking students. Today, 38 of them who have received my scholarships have also come to get their diplomas as well. So far the Institute has offered me 314 scholarships. From 2002/2003 and through to 2011/12, 11,603 students graduated from the Vanda Institute, in which 9,045 are women or 77.95%. According to the figure I have here, the number of female students among those who are in their academic years has shrunk to 54.92%. I would urge consideration taken into this issue as we have tried to improve student hostel service for female students already.

Naturally, in Cambodia, achieving bachelor degree, female students are at their marrying age. Once they got married, they are busy with their kid or husband obligations. They have less time for study. This could result in the falling figure of female students above too. However, it is important still to provide support for women to achieve opportunity for furthering their studies to tertiary education. They seem to have come as far as bachelor or master levels but not through to Ph. Dr We must make efforts to try and find way to provide women with more chances for training and at work.

I like reading the figures and compare it with social facts. However, I would urge nieces and nephews, who have graduated today as new human resources for the families and country, to make positive use of your knowledge and skill. I am also urging you to continue your studies as we are in the fast changing world and highly competing technology.

Contrary to the move to place them all in one basket (as incapable or lack of quality education) the Cambodian youths have taken part in various sectors. We have sent our experts in the armed forces to Sudan, Central African Republic, Chad and Lebanon. In Sudan, aside from de-mining and public order forces, we also have our hospital there, where, according to those worked in Sudan, treatments are provided not only for people in Sudan but also diplomats and foreigners there too. This has clarified that in fact foreigners are not blaming Cambodians to be weak but a small number of Cambodians are. Saying that does not mean that we do not recognize our weaknesses. It is a good thing that the Institute has sent their students for a study tour to various institutions and this time to the Cambodian stock exchange.

Chances for Youth in Techo Time

I hope that our youth will make efforts to advance. Everyone should do so as the country has now provided chances for everyone. I have said it on various occasions that the youth of this generation is benefiting from a great chance than those of the former generation that went through war and the genocide. In those days Cambodian youth did not have chances or rights, including the right to choose his/her spouse. While their properties were confiscated, people under the genocide were also deprived of their sentiments as well as forced to marry in group.

In the time of war between 1975 through to 1979, what option had there been? There were only two alternative options – either staying with the regime of Lon Nol or with the National Front. Under the genocide, there was no alternative at all. While later fighting took place in certain locations, we also had no choice but holding arms to fight each other. It was after we put into practice the win-win policy to reunite the country and to achieve national unity that our youths are exposed to various chances. The question now is whether they make use of the chance or not. I argue that only a small number of them did not know how to use it and/or even use it wrongly to get on with drug or to become rebellious ones.

However, most of our youths have been using their chances well for good cause. They have chances to choose university to study and which career to orientate themselves for. This has proven that you have chances and choices to make. This was not there in the former generations. Even in this Institute, you have many subjects and careers to choose from – auditing, taxation, accounting, etc. You may want to compare the previous generation under Pol Pot’s genocide, where else could you go and what else could you do? Under Pol Pot, the country was a huge prison without walls. Pol Pot’s teenage guerrilla walked people in groups – most of them were men of labor and intellectuals, to work in the fields. Why did those people allow Pol Pot’s teenage guerrilla to do that on them? They did not have a choice.

Not many people would trade their lives for a different one. I have traded my life for it. There were rebellions in the eastern region of the country. The rebellions also brought us choices, though they were choices made with life. We had to fight a deaf and life struggle against Pol Pot. If rebels were to be caught by Pol Pot, there would be only one choice – execution. So there was no other option but to overthrow Pol Pot to save lives and to build the country until now.

January 7 Victory – Enemy to No One

I thank Dr. Vanda Heng for mentioning about the January 7 victory. I am regretful though that some people who had gone through Pol Pot time but have tried to be ignorant and going against the January 7. In fact January 7 never consider anyone as its enemy. Its only enemy is the political and military organization of Pol Pot. On the contrary, some people have made themselves enemy of the January 7 victory. That is their rights. I just want to stress that thanks to the January 7 (liberation) these people also have their lives saved till these days. It was like what one of my sons said, once you were about to get killed, you could not choose who to rescue you from death. You would not wait or ask if the country to rescue you was a free or communist country. You could not decide to be rescued only by a free country or to be executed if your rescuer was a communist country.

Did you even have the right to wait, to ask or to choose? A man in drowning distress would hold on to anything, whether it is a piece of bamboo or life jacket or even a floating corpse to save his/her life. January 7 considers no one as its enemy except the political and military organization of Pol Pot. It is in this concept that only the top leaders of the organization are being tried while those in junior positions are not. That is why everyone celebrates the January 7 victory as they understand that without January 7, they would not be alive too. That is the historical fact.

Better Educate Youth of Virtue, Moralility and Good Behavior

We must therefore make efforts to build up human resources not only in area of knowledge but also virtue, morality and behavior as without them knowledge would be insufficient to make good deed. I am so regretful for a bank robbery (in Stoeng Trang of Kompong Cham province). I am grateful for the efforts made by our armed forces who have taken part in the operation. For what we have done, we were able to (1) make live arrest of those involved and to refrain from strong measures that could lead to killing of people who have disguised themselves as hostages in the robbery and (2) save all proofs that could verify who is who.

It is not our way to teach our youth to insult by using harsh terms. We always want our youth to attain virtue, morality and good behavior. However it seems that some people have trained youths to do on the contrary. The time to insult and to scold has come gradually. I think that both the ruling party and those in the opposition should adhere to a standard that we all are educating people to pursue good deed and to refrain from insulting each other.

Public Service Charges List

As of now the Royal Government, through the Ministry of Economy and Finance and the Anti-Corruption Unit, has issued a proclamation on the lists of certain public services and charges to be provided by a number of institutions. This program has been conducted in order to fight against irregularities and corruptions involved in the provision of public services for the people, foreign and local investments included. As auditing is one expertise taught in the Institute, I think the Institute could play a role to provide help to the Anti-Corruption Unit too. We will soon have lists from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Interior, while service charges of the local service providers are also underway.

For instance, in order to register in trade, what must be done? How much to pay? If ever they are required to pay more, extra payment is illegal. Concerning the transport and public function, how much to issue a number plate, where to go to, etc. The one who pays more and the one who receive the extra payments are both punishable by law. I urge everyone to join in this process so as to build our society and to attain more progress. As we overcame tremendous and numerous obstacles already, I am sure we will get this done altogether.

 “Pumpkin Seed Official #1” – Model to Avoid

The other day HE Kol Pheng raised a case involved a King in former China. I forgot to talk about another story that was similar to what HE Kol Pheng mentioned. I think I should bring it up here but I would focus more on experiments for a better man. My story is about what they called “Pumpkin Seed Officials.” What can we do to find out the best man? We cannot say whether it is a true or fabricated story. As you know China has got so many Kings like in the dynasties of Tang, Song, Ming and Qing, so it is true that there have been many stories from those dynasties.

The story goes that a King called on his courtiers to take the seed of pumpkins he provided to grow. As it was time for the pumpkins to give fruits, the King then convened the latter to come see him. There was an official who came before everyone else and gave his report to the King that he had brought in many well-grown pumpkins but those officials stood guarding the palace did not allow him to bring them through. Another official came and told the King that they did grow the pumpkin but did not bring the fruits along. Another official reported he brought the seeds home but the rats had them eaten so he did not have the chance to grow them.

Then came the last official, who had not been talkative, said that he had brought the seed back for HM and only three seeds had been tested. The King asked him why it was so. He said “All the seeds are already cooked. I tested and ate three seeds out. I found out the seeds cannot grow. Now I return them to Your Majesty.” The King then came to his thought and decided that the first official has to be executed by five horses as he not only lied to him but also put blame and mistake on someone else. He was the most dangerous official. As for the second official who said he grew but did not bring the fruits along ad to change his mentality. He ordered the guard to check at his house to find out if he really grew or lied to the King.

The third official could be a good man. He could have (1) known that the pumpkin seeds were cooked already or (2) been lazy to grow and place all the blames on rats. He did not go against the King’s order. He was judged to be correctable. As for the fourth official, he had to be promoted to high-ranking official because he was faithful. He brought back the seed to prove they would not grow because they were cooked seeds.

As for our officials too, we could not depend solely on competency but also faithfulness. I saw on TV the other day a good example of a policeman who found a bag of a foreigner and announced for owner. We should be able to identify the type of the first official as he could be dangerous. I would urge you all to act like the fourth official but to do nothing like the first one. There are many officials that his/her reports could lead to other people’s deaths. I must stress that judging the situation would depend majorly on first-hand report provided from junior and local officials. Unclear or biased report would lead to wrong judgment and decision. As leader of politics, economics or military or any other sphere of expertise, misjudgment will bring about wrong measures and defeats.

Getting Ready for the Funeral Procession and Cremation

My last note is that I would like to reaffirm a bit that this evening the funeral ceremony committee will conduct its final meeting and our people in Phnom Penh will countdown four more days to get to February 1, when we will celebrate the final funeral procession, and February 4, when we will organize the cremation. I have the duty to remind everyone who would join the funeral ritual to pay attention to safety and public order so that the funeral will be conducted smoothly. According to HE Sar Kheng, who is in charge of security issue, ten thousands strong force will be deployed for security of the fenural in Phnom Penh. Those people coming from provinces, as is instructed in the circulation, would have to meet somewhere and we will have live pictures on TV too.

I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the different commissions, the Phnom Penh Municipality included, for their efforts and involvement in improving all related conditions so that the work could well proceed according to plan. I think that I will come to join the meeting at the Meru (crematorium site) for a final inspection as we will have top and high ranking leaders from foreign countries to pay their last respects to Samdech Preah Borom Ratanak Kaod./.

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