NR 6 – First Longest AC Road in Cambodia

It is indeed my pleasure to participate with Buddhist monks and people, as well as Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, in this ceremony to launch the construction project of 248 km of the National Road 6 from Thnal Kaeng, Pha Av Commune, Bathiey District, Kompong Cham Province to Angkroang, Siemreap Province. As a leader of the Royal Government, it has been my intention to give priority to transport infrastructure, in which the NR 6 has played a significant role, among others. HE Pan Guangxie, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China, already mentioned that we have launched a number of projects in connection to the NR 6.

They include the construction on 2 November 2011 of the Cambodian-Chinese friendship bridge, enlargement of 40 Km of the former NR 6A into four lane NR 6, the branch NR 61 which connects the NR 6 through to the bridge of Prek Kadam, which already built with the Japanese assistance too. In all, we have used the preferential loans provided by China to build over 300 km of the main national roads. Once they all are completed, it will be a bunch of long and modern roads financed by the Chinese loans in the Kingdom of Cambodia. The road will be seven-centimeter asphalted concrete (AC) in contrast to the ones that we have these days of only about one centimeter to prevent wearing out too quickly.

I have travelled a number of times too on the NR 6 between Phnom Penh and Siemreap province. During the journeys, I always called HE Tram Iv Toek to have his attention on the road condition. At times, there was road repair project but it stopped because of rain. That left the paved road loses easily its durability and bearing capacity because of rainwater causing it to degrade further into road for oxcarts (which is full of holes and muddled paths). I then told HE Tram Iv Toek to send the road construction team back to continue the work to save the roads from such condition. I then instructed HE Tram Iv Toek and HE Sun Chanthol to work quickly on the project proposal.

I traveled to China’s Nanning of Guangxi on 22 October 2011 to attend the 8th ASEAN-China Exhibition. The Chinese friend promised to provide 500 million USD loan for any projects that Cambodia deems necessary. We proposed seven projects and the enlargement of the NR 6 is one of them. In order to ensure their durability and bearing capacity HE Minister Tram Iv Toek already told that we have enlarged the NR 6 segment from the bridge of Jroy Jangva in Phnom Penh through to the NR 61 juncture to Prek Kadam into four lanes, built with the Chinese assistance too, where its width will be between 28 and 30 meters. From the juncture of NR 61 through to Skun of Kompong Cham, we also rebuild the road into four lanes as well. We are doing the same for the NR 5 from Phnom Penh through to Prek Kadam.

There have been miscalculations of population and economic growth of Cambodia. That has led to projected reconstruction of the roads from seven to between nine and eleven only in areas close to the Phnom Penh capital. It turns out now that we have to make it twice the size for two lanes in both directions, where certain parts of the road there is a garden in between to prevent crossing from one side to the other, and for environment too. Today we are launching the construction of 248 Km (248.525 Km) of the NR 6, where 48.52 Km is in Kompong Cham province and 140 Km is in Kompong Thom and 60 Km in Siemreap province.

Building Detours Rather, Yoking Economic Growth

We need to build a detour road of 2.8 Km around the town of Pha Av as going through the existing road we would have to deal with so many houses in the way since road project is widening the width to 25 meters. The best solution is to leave the old road where it is and build a 25-meter width detour with 20.5-meter asphalt concrete carriageway. Within the 140 Km segment in Kompong Thom province, we will have 2.5 Km detour in Skun, 2.4 KM at Trapang Thmar, 3.2 Km at Tain Krasaing and 16.6 Km at the city of Kompong Thom and again 6.01 Km at Storng district. These detours will be for heavy transportations to avert traffic congestion in densely populated areas.

This road carries so important significance. HE Pan Guangxie already told you that it connects between us in Phnom Penh thorugh the provinces of Kandal, Kompong Cham, Kompong Thom, Siemreap through to Banteay Meanjei and on to Thailand at Poi Pet border point. I also need to have your attention that the importance of this road also rests in its connection to the NR 7, which connects the provinces of Kratie, Stuoeng Treng, Ratanakairi, Mondulkirir and other parts of the county in the areas. One other significance is that the road is linking up with the province of Preah Vihear by the NR 62.

Let me remind you that it also links with the NR 9, which is under construction with the loan from the People’s Republic of China and is running between Preah Vihear and Stoeng Treng province. There is also a bridge across the Mekong River at Stoeng Treng. The NR 6 is like a pillar that bolsters the economic development of the country, so to speak. I am so glad that this has made my dream come true as we are launching the construction today. This will be the first time that we will have over 300 Km asphalt concrete road (a segment of NR 5 plus NR 6 and 61) in our history out of Phnom Penh.

Let me inform you that the segment of NR 6 that we are launching the enlargement will be in two parts – (1) from Thnal Kaeng to Skun will be four-lane road of 25 meters and (2) from Skun to Angkroang will be two-lane road of 12 meters. They will replace old road that is eleven meters, nine meters or even six meters in some instances. As you know, traveling between Phnom Penh and Kompong Thom province has been difficult. We hope that before long we will cut the traveling time from six hours by almost half to three or four hours.

Roads Need Reconstruction

HE Tram Iv Toek, Minister of Transports and Public Works gave various reasons as to why the NR 6 needs to be rebuilt. It is true that for whatever reasons we have to rebuild it – whether it is because the road condition is deteriorated, too small and needs to be enlarged, or is a macadam and needs to upgrade it to bitumen, what is decisive here is do we have money or not? We are lucky that we were able to secure preferential buyer’s credit loan of 500 million USD from the government of the People’s Republic of China for seven projects – four projects of hydraulic works and three projects for roads and bridges.

As far as the roads and bridges projects are concerned, in May we will launch the construction of the NR 44 of 139.61 Km that will run through Kompong Speu’s Jbar Mon, Oral, Amlang and Udong districts, and on March 25, we will launch the construction of a bridge across the Bassac river at Koh Thom district of Kandal province. I may recall that the Chinese friend offered this loan in October 2011 but the agreement was signed at the time when HE Hu Jintao conducted his visit to Cambodia in late March and early April. We also signed four more projects in June last year when HE He Guoqiang, member of the Chinese Communist Party’s Standing Committee, conducted his visit to Cambodia.

Vision for More Bridges along the Waterway Areas

For construction of this road, we have secured some 248 million USD from the People’s Republic of China. The project is carried out by the Shanghai Construction Group Co. Ltd., with Guangzhou Wanan Construction Supervision Co. Ltd. as consultant. The Royal Government of Cambodia also provides counterpart fund to the project. According to the report of HE Keat Chhon, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance, Cambodia contributes a sum of 5% or 12 million USD for demining and removal of UXOs. Project impact and included, would be around 12% of the construction agreement or about 29 million USD. As is calculated by HE Keat Chhon, the cost of the project is over 300 million USD.

As you can see now it is very important for us to have and provide counterpart fund to every project. It is good that the Chinese side allows us to pay a smaller amount compared to funding from other financial institutions and countries who condition us to pay between 20% and 30% of the total project cost. It is therefore our responsibility to settle all project impacts such as providing good quality soil needed for the construction, etc. As far as the moment of speaking, some projects have already completed and some are under construction still. However, China builds over 2,000 Km AC roads already for Cambodia and put into operation the bridges of Prek Kadam, Prek Tamak, Sekong. Three more bridges under construction are the second Jroy Janvar Bridge, the Takhmao bridge and the bridge over the Mekong River at Stoeng Treng. We also have another project to build a bridge ar Koh Thom. We will have seven bridges in all.

We also have the need to build one more bridge at the river of Kroch Chmar in Kompong Cham province. I suggest we include it in the next project too. How long would the bridge be? (Samdech Techo asked the Kroach Chmar and Stoeng Trang district heads). Well, 1,200 meters is not short. We already have AC road and we still have to liberate the ferry-crossing situation. Please do not blame me that I do all this for my hometown. I do not believe in nepotism and/or have preferential treatment for my hometown. This is all because there is a real need there. In fact I have noticed long ago the need for bridges at Koh Thom and Takhmao in Kandal province and Kroch Chmar in Kompong Cham province.

I told the Cabinet meeting that I want not only bridges mentioned above. Along various small rivers or main river branches, like the river of Prek Thnaot, I anticipate a bridge for every three or five Kilometer. I want this to happen for the river of Stoeng Sangke, Stoeng Pursat, etc. We need more resources though we are now able to build some small ones – 100 or 200 meters – by ourselves with our own resources. We do not seek funding from abroad from that. The bridges in Kompong Cham and Kompong Thnom of about 770 meters or 800 meters, for example, will be built by the military engineering team.

Thanks all Involved

In this instance, I am requesting HE Pan Guangxie to convey my gratefulness, on behalf of the people of Cambodia, to the government and people of the People’s Republic of China for their supports to the development of the Kingdom of Cambodia. We thank them for grant, non-interest and credit loans, and encouraging investors to come to the Kingdom of Cambodia. I am also satisfied with the work made by the Cambodian stakeholders – Ministry of Public Works and Transports and Ministry of Economy and Finance – for making efforts in their negotiations with the Chinese sides at the political as well as technical levels as well as cost discussions in order to come to this launch of the construction today.

I have my appreciation and thanks for the provincial and local authorities involved who help bring about all facilitations for the process. I also express my wholehearted appreciation and thanks for the people living along the project areas, especially those who have to be impacted by the project, for their generous understanding for the road construction. However, these people are the ones who benefit from the project before anyone else. I am seeking your patience and understanding that the project will be complete in three years and six months.

I hope also that the company will fulfill the project according to the technical standard agreed upon. As for the construction of these road segments, especially the parts that run from Phnom Penh we should pay attention to its seasonal flooding time and condition. As it is true that water is enemy of the road, said by former Minister of Public Works and Transports Khi Tainglim, the contractors should take certain precautionary measures to avert and defend the road from flooding.

Developing Country Leaders Value Equality and Equal Footing

In relation to the National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China, the 12th Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference that are in session in Beijing, there will definitely be election of the new President and Prime Minister of the country and other leaders in various levels. I am quite confident that the Chinese new leaders would not change their policies towards Cambodia. As is stressed in the speech of HE Pan Guangxie, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Cambodia, the people deputies that are participating in the congress will discuss various hot issues relating to the people’s livelihood. They would propose more inspections and promotion of cooperation with the Royal Government aimed at improving internal unity.

In the foreign relations front, the People’s Republic of China is the largest developing country in the world where its new-term government will continue to strengthen cooperation and solidarity, and guarantee wider friendly relations with other developing countries. It will also foster support of political representation and rights in international affairs, while performing its role as friend and partner dependable by other developing countries too. The Chinese new government would continue to collaborate with peace loving people in the world to make tireless efforts in building a harmonious world.

I think not only Cambodia but also other developing countries will be very pleased with the foreign policy of the People’s Republic of China, which highly values opinions raised by developing countries. This is surely what Cambodia and other developing countries want. Among all permanent members of the Security Council of the United Nations, China is the only developing country that gives importance to the voice of the developing countries. As every country in the world would want to be equal and have equal footing among peers, I think that China will gain more friends in the world for its policy.

Infrastructural Development – Fostering Still

I join other developing countries to hail the foreign policy of the PRC. It could have been the case that because we are poor, some of the rich and powerful countries could have ignored our voice. On the contrary, our Chinese friend reserves appreciation and respect with equality and equal footing for the voice of developing countries. Though China is a huge country with the most population, it provides equal treatment to small or big country alike. I am sure leaders of other developing countries have more or less the same feeling because they are also eager to be treated equally and on equal footing. It is in this respect that I would convey my admiration and best wish to the National People’s Congress to achieve great success. I wish those will be appointed President and Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of China good luck and great leadership for the country. I will attend the April-7 Boao Forum for Asia and then on April 8 will continue my visit to Beijing, where I will meet the new leaders.

I wish to reiterate also that the Cambodian policy is to foster infrastructural development. That does not mean we are not paying attention to the living condition and monthly salary of the Royal Government’s officials at all. Yesterday I made it clear already that if we were to focus on luxurious life of the Royal Government officials and the armed forces, while neglecting millions of people in the whole country who need roads, irrigation, hospital, school, electricity and others basic infrastructure, we would not be able to respond to the demand for country’s development. We cannot afford to give priority to luxury while neglecting infrastructural need for development and improvement at all.

“No Action, Talk Only” – Cambodian NATO

There is also a group of “NATO” politicians, in this abbreviation means “no actions, talk only,” who, because of no actions, they just give their one-sided opinion. We look at the whole forest and do not single out any particular tree. Our people could think should they were to receive more in cash but, with high travel expenses because of absence of infrastructure, what good does the money do to them individually. Some of them fooled the people that they could make their water convolvulus cost 15 USD per Kg and eggplants 30 USD per Kg. They criticize the Royal Government for being incompetent in price management and unable to control inflation but they declare they would jack up the prices of water convolvulus and eggplants. Would this not have negative impacts on consumers? I think, however, this will have reversal impacts on growers instead because no one would buy them.

In politics, for a single hair, one has to shred it into thousands. My mother used to say “in order to raise you guys (her children) I have to shred one hair into hundreds.” Long after I told her: “I have to shred one hair into thousands.” If we do not do it, the country would be sinking because we cannot afford to do one and neglect the others at all. Take for instance this road would need at least 42 months to complete. However, because they are not responsible, they just say whatever they wish too. If I am not the Prime Minister, I can make promise to everyone too. I could promise to give 500,000 Riel per month, but I were not the Prime Minister, so I would not have to take the responsibility for what I said. As the Prime Minister, with such promise made, one has to fulfill or has to run away.

Now look at their promise, have they fulfilled it? Did they build kindergarten as they said already? Did they provide whatever they promised in June already? They promised to offer ambulance service, but they did not say if it is free of charge or not. If people have to pay for it anyway, people now can also travel in taxi. I am sure our people can judge all this. You may learn that no country in the world operates policy to give salary to the people at all.

Promise No Money but Actions for Everyone

A road from the town of Pha Av to the commune of Sandek used to be in bad condition. I sent food for labor to rebuild the road. The road has been reinforced with laterite covering already but I would urge including the road into asphalted rural road plan. You may think again, when people was sick in Sandek, how hard it was to get him or her to hospital. You would have one bicycle in front and one behind. A pole tied from one bicycle to another and the patient would be carried in the hammock suspended to the pole. What is the rate of survival for the patient. Worse still, where could the kids go to school? We now have junior high school in Sandek and will in the future build a senior high school. I learn they have house for instructors and there is a clinic nearby too. That is our policy. We do not promise anyone with so much money but with action that we are doing, it is for everyone.

It is now the promise-making season. I called them NATO in Cambodia because all they do was talk and no action. Some of our foreign friends already know what it means but some like Thai and Cuban may not know it yet. There are two NATO. One is North Atlantic Treaty Organization but in Cambodia, our NATO is “no action, talk only.” They can talk about just anything from making bolts and nuts for aircraft to giving one hundred cows per family or exporting rice, eggplant and water convolvulus to foreign markets. We have striven hard in meeting the demand of the Chinese market. China offers us 95% tax free items in tariff but exporters to Chinese market will have to guarantee quality and phytosanitary products.

We have banana but how do we export them? We export them raw or processed. We are looking for investment fund for developing market and processing. We also have tough competition here because countries like Vietnam and Thailand also have these products. For some of the items that we are producing and exporting to Chinese markets, China also produces them. China has so much rice too. The province of Guangxi produced a wide range of products including providing rice to other provinces too. As for agricultural produce, I would encourage organic farming.

Beware of Bird Flu

I would also urge the sub-national authorities as well as our people to work together to prevent the spread of bird flu which has threatened our country in the last two months. Early this year we already had nine cases of bird flu which killed eight people though there was a case that we could save one person. I would therefore announce and urge the people to take active participation to prevent the spread by reporting suspicious case of sick birds to relevant authorities. Refrain from using dead birds from any diseases for food. It is also a precautionary measure to quarantine area of suspicious case of bird flu.

You may remember the case of swine flu in Cambodia when it broke out in the Cabinet’s meeting and firstly on me. HE Yim Chhay Ly and Tao Seng Huor were also infected then. I would also urge large-scale campaign on radio and TV against the spread of bird flu. Having said this people should not refrain from purchasing good chicken and duck in the market. If that happens it would create further crisis. Let me affirm to you that chicken or duck that enters the market has gone through veterinary checking already.

Coincidence of Electoral Campaign and Buddhist Candle Offering Ritual

Not long from now we will celebrate the candle offering during the rainy season for Buddhist monks too. It seems that the candle offering will coincide with the electoral campaign on June 24. Maybe we should inquire from the National Election Committee if we can do the candle offering or not? The fact that I am asking is when we offer the candles and necessary stuff in this season, some may accuse us of buying votes. In that case, should we move the candle-offering season to one month earlier or what?

In general, the Cambodian People’s Party officials are offering candles the most and Funcinpec party follows in second place because the two are ruling parties. Some may also do too but in a much smaller scale. I emphasize again if the ceremony would be contradictory to the elections law we should consider doing it one month before. In fact officials of the two ruling Parties – the Cambodian People’s Party and Funcinpec – are celebrating every seasonal and Buddhist ritual and event according to the Cambodian tradition.

The Extraordinary Congress of the Nationwide Representatives of the Cambodian People’s Party to be held on 16-17 March should also take it into consideration for we may forget to talk about it. If we celebrate the candle offering, the Cambodian NATO would say we infringe upon the electoral law, if we do not do it they would blame us of not following the Buddhist tradition. They would blame us for borrowing money from foreign countries to build the roads and they would still say the same when we do not build roads. When we build roads using the national resources they would say why the Royal Government uses money to build road and not to give higher salary for the staffs.

There is a case that every Buddhist seasonal ritual/event would have less people coming to celebrate. Officials of the Cambodian People’s Party are the ones that appear in all of the Buddhist pagodas – near and far. If they lose the support in their area of representation these people may think that people no longer need them. They would no longer feel being needed and obliged to assist in the conduct of these rituals. This can really happen because after serving the people for over 30 years, they are no longer the people’s choice, so they could be disappointed. They would continue to go to the pagodas as Buddhist parishioners but they cannot assist them in any way they could like before.

In fact, for the Cambodian People’s Party officials at every level, we have in all thousands of projects that we support – Buddhist and secular. Once the people deny them, they would not be able to go on with those projects. They would then become an opposition party only.

In instance that the opposition comes to power, they would argue: “look, the Cambodian People’s Party have done a lot but they lost the battle, why should we (the opposition turned ruling party) do like them?” In this scenario, the end will be empty from both sides. The opposition-turned ruling party would argue that since the Cambodian People’s Party officials made great efforts to help and sponsor thousands of projects but fail to convince the people, why should they follow our trail? It is better that they make the most they can for themselves. This would in the end be a situation in Khmer that says “losing a rabbit and a fish at the same time.”