Private Health Investment Opportunity
I am so glad today to have come and joined with all of you in putting this Royal Phnom Penh Hospital, investment made by the Bangkok Dusit Medical Service PCL, into official use. I am so glad that this new project has taken shape under the initiative of Dr. Prasert Prasarttong-Osoth, who is regularly in contact with me for consultation and support on this investment project. On behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia, allow me to express my profound thanks for investment in the health sector. The Royal Government has done everything possible to allow private investment not only in economy but also in health and education. Thanks to this effort and policy, it is now a common scene to everyone that Cambodia has got various hospitals, private clinic, university and schools.
Bangkok Airway – A Contributing Factor to Paris Peace Agreement
I would take this opportune moment to express my sincere appreciation to the Municipal of Phnom Penh as well as the Ministry of Health for providing assistance so that the hospital can get to where it is today. I would like to thank Dr. Prasert Prasarttong-Osoth, who has maintained close relation with Cambodia. He has done a great deal for this country and today we have seen before us a huge hospital complex. It has been, if I am not mistaken, nearly 24 years now that Dr. Prasert works with Cambodia.
All started with the air company Bangkok Airway between Thailand and Cambodia. It was at the time when Cambodia was isolated politically and on an economic embargo. The Bangkok Airway was a major part to the steps taken towards the implementation of the Paris Peace Agreement. Asides from socio-economic and investment benefits, as far as Bangkok Airway is concerned I think I should bring one very important issue up.
Bangkok Airway in Cambodia’s Open Sky Policy
In July 1997, there was an armed clash in Phnom Penh and this area where we have this hospital inaugurating today was a hot spot of the armed conflict. Since the country was liberated in 1979, there had never been an armed clash like that in Phnom Penh. We had it on July 5/6 and every airlines left us. It was one thing to remember. I took my phone and called Dr. Prasert to start his airline’s flight from Bangkok to Phnom Penh once again as at the time the company met a serious competition on another front.
Making profit or loss, Dr. Prasert then responded positively and the flight between Bangkok and Phnom Penh resumed. It is one very important moment for me. As a leader in that difficult circumstance, facing with campaign to isolate the country, I am so grateful to Dr. Prasert for offering to help and Cambodia, thanks to his help, was not isolated. In those days, the Royal Air Cambodge has only one plane. In 1997, despite lots of criticism, pursuing my wish to set out a policy to open Cambodian air-link to the world, I requested to Dr. Prasert once again to launch Bangkok Airway’s flight to Siemreap province.
He again responded positively but requesting to have exclusive flight for a certain period. For us, we had no choice. As far as I could remember, initially, Bangkok Airway operated at loss for not less than a year. Maybe more, since no one would be interested to visit Cambodia in those days. There was times when empty plane came from Bangkok to Siemreap and returned to Bangkok with only one passenger. From all that to carry out three or four flights a day, I do not hesitate to name the person whose contribution has made a history – Dr. Prasert.
Royal Phnom Penh Hospital – Advanced and Immediate
I took my time once in 2008 to preside over the inauguration of a hospital investment (Royal Ratanak) in Tuol Kork and I have this opportunity to do it again here today for this huge Royal Phnom Penh Hospital (RPPH). I am so grateful for the decision to name it this way. The fact that we now have this health establishment of RPPH right in Phnom Penh, it has created a favorable condition for our people to have access to better health service. Those who used to travel to Bangkok for medical reason would instead do so here at RPPH for less expense. The point is RPPH is equipped with necessary medical equipments and served by specialized physicians as in other hospitals in Bangkok. It is not only medically advanced but also immediate.
In 2013, according to some records, only 22,000 Thai tourists visited Cambodia. But from Cambodia, not to include those went to Thailand for works, 460,000 Cambodian tourists, health tourist included, visited Thailand. I told Prime Minister Prayuth Chan O-cha on his visit to Cambodia “Cambodia is small but its purchasing power is big.” Look at the trade relation between the two countries, of the 4,600 million USD, Cambodia exported only 300 million USD to Thailand, while it bought from Thailand over 4,000 million USD.
As for tourism, Cambodia has got smaller population than Thailand but some 460,000 Cambodians visited Thailand, a part of this figure were of course for medical reason. Since we have this hospital right here, it is a great thing for us Cambodians and I would be one of them too. Sickness does not choose who to have it. Everyone is subjected to being sick at one point or another. Therefore, having a hospital for immediate need is augmenting trust for healthcare service.
RPPH – Benefit for Health and Employment
I wish to make my point here that when we have such advanced hospital, aside from offering service for the Cambodian people who seek specialized treatment, it would not be wrong to say the investment also increases confidence among tourists and investors who travel or work in the Kingdom of Cambodia. As of now, there have been 4.2 million tourists to Cambodia. Among them, some old age and/or poor health tourists would very much like to know whether Cambodia has special treatment service for them or not, if they were to decide to visit Cambodia.
I think that Dr. Prasert will, aside from putting this hospital into operation, need to raise awareness among tourists of/from his airline to bring those tourists to Cambodia. I would urge a new publication to also advertise RPPH for tourists to increase their trust and make their decision to come to Cambodia. I also hope that through this advanced RPPH, experiences will be shared among Cambodian physicians, which includes the some 400 medical students who are present here. Any health investment as such, state or private, is an opportunity for our medical students. What good would it does if we were to have Faculty of Medicine but there were no hospital to practice in?
Operating Device Better Than Aircrafts
Early last October I accompanied HM the King to inaugurate the first Cambodian National Neurology Centre, we all have observed the most up to date and advanced technology. They have introduced completely different way of operation. For instance, they clear blood clot in the brain with help of a device not with eyes alone as before. It is more expensive though. However, I told HM the King that no matter how expensive it is, the cost would be less than purchasing an aircraft that is used to kill human life. The device is expensive but it will help save human life. It is in this philosophy that the Royal Government set aside a large portion of its budget on education and health sectors.
In the world, there has exhibition of various kinds of fighter jet. They are so expensive. The price for one would allow us to purchase two or three scanners. They cost dozens of millions for one and its benefit is to send bombs to a destination to kill human life. It may cost high and more for us but it will be for saving human life. I hope we all subscribe to this philosophy and physicians and hospitals would work together to save human life. Lately, health issue has been one of the major topics in every meeting – natural disasters, climate change and contagious diseases, of which the African-born Ebola has put the world in tough battle. We had a few years ago SARS, Swine Flu and now Ebola. What else could we anticipate?
Rice Field Turns To Hospital and Condominium
Many would ask why for this event the authority lets traffic to go on as usual. It is a big event and the Prime Minister is also here, were they not worried of terrorist act of some kind? It is indeed a major concern. In every meeting, they have paid much attention to terrorist act as they check for everything, even the car tires. As you know that this place is on the former borderline between Phnom Penh and Kandal province. When Phnom Penh was liberated, this place was a rice field. I helped people transplanting rice over there. In those days people settled along the road and behind their houses were rice fields.
As you can see now, the rice field has turned now into hospital and condominium. It all happens from when Cambodian had about 100 or 200 cars to start with. Phnom Penh today is not one it used to be. We have over 300,000 cars and over one million motorcycles. If we were to close traffic down today, we would have to divert traffic to alternative route and would cost us economic loss. That is why we do not close down this area for this event. I hope you all understand.
Ongoing Cambodia-Thailand Trade
I do not think I should go on as I am not a physician myself. I am here to witness the event and to provide greeting to the hospital establishment. I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the efforts made by BBMS under the leadership of Dr. Prasert in this hospital investment which will provide chance for Cambodian seeking treatments. I also wish to express my sincere appreciation for the participation extended by diplomatic representatives on this occasion.
I am sure there will be more investments like this between Cambodia and Thailand. Our trade relation will not stop at this hospital investment. Every Thai government has always promoted investment to Cambodia. I met with Prime Minister Prayuth Chan Ocha at Naypidaw of Myanmar on the sideline of the ASEAN Summit and related meetings and we will be meeting again on December 10 through to 12 in South Korea on the sideline of the ASEAN – Republic of Korea (Commemorative Summit) anniversary. I am sure investment will not stop here./.