… Today I have a great pleasure to join with HE Gotaro Ogawa, Ambassador of Japan to Cambodia and Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, our national compatriots in the groundbreaking ceremony to rebuild the National Road 7 (NR7) between Spien (bridge) Kizuna and Thnol Totoeng by using grant of Japan. The total length of the project is 10.204 kilometers. It is another new achievement among many that are assisted by the Government of Japan as well as the Japanese people and non-governmental organizations to the people of Cambodia. In the week to come I will participate in the inauguration of a bridge on NR 6A and preside over the groundbreaking of more bridges construction there. On February 7, 2002 we will inaugurate one more Japanese built road in Siemreap. So we seem to be busy in building and inaugurating achievements that are offered by the people and Government of Japan to Cambodia.
… HE Khi Tainglim (Minister of Transports and Public Works) has made a report already about the road condition. HE Ambassador of Japan also recalled about his trip by helicopter with me to inspect the road condition before the construction began. What impressed me most is that Spien (bridge) Moatkhmung is to increase its length by the new project from 168.0 meters to 210.0 meters, and its width from 6.0 meters to 11.0 meters. Increment by this length and width would contribute to the prevention of flooding of the area by relieving quicker the water pressure, especially the part from Moatkhmung to Tonlebet (Kompong Cham town.) It is in fact a technology that is calculated to relieve the water pressure.
… The groundbreaking ceremony of the NR 7 construction happens about one month after the inauguration of the Spien Kizuna which I deemed it a great wealth of our nation. What remained a question was how we could leave such a nice bridge connected by a damaged road on its eastern side. Now the problem has been resolved as the achievement of this part of NR 7 is going to appear. Just now from a bird’s-eye view, the main body of the road looks quite large. One may ask why in just ten kilometers, the total cost is US$ 16 millions. Because it is the part that contains two bridges built as wide as a road and as a large water outlet to relieve constant water pressure in flood time. From Thnol Totoeng to Memot, the part is under construction as the company has finished bidding already and sent in their construction equipment. HE Khi Tainlim has requested for my presence in the groundbreaking ceremony and I accept it already. If the ceremony is to take place in the village of Kdol, it would even be better for me as it was where my son got born. HE Khi Tainglim mentioned that the part from Kratie to the border between Cambodia and Laos, a group of Chinese (engineering) team is conducting a study. Putting into a vision we would have a highway network. National roads could be compared to blood veins. First it has to have main veins and then there are various smaller connected to them. So it is important to get the main one done otherwise no matter how many smaller ones are constructed, they would not be corresponding to the needs or last long.
… Taking this opportunity I wish to place an appeal to the Ministries of Agriculture, Water Resources, Environment, the Mekong Committee, Public Works to cooperatively conduct a study on how we could preserve the (bamboo) forest on either side as they would serve as best protection against flood pressure. I know this place as well as my palm. Previously from Boeng Kombao to Tuol Keo, to Boeng Kansom, to NR 7, it was full of bamboo. The Lon Nol army chose either end/side of the bridge as their barracks from 1970 to 1974. But from 1974-75 the bamboo was cleared giving the flood to flow down in full sway through the weak road and bridge. Anyway we have to make this area a protected zone with replanting of bamboo. The fact that this road was built under the French time, they could have planted the bamboo in protection of water pressure. So please take a serious study on this matter. If some parts were cleared for the purpose of farming, we may leave it at that. But if the area is not yet cleared, please refrain it from further encroachment and deforesting the bamboo.
… There was a meeting yesterday (Government-Donor Monitoring Meeting) in which HE Ambassador of Japan spoke on good things about Cambodia. I have to let out a secret today otherwise the press will make comments based on no facts. Last January 08, 2002, I had had a chance to receive HE Minister of Finance of Japan in Phnom Penh as he was here bringing a letter of HE Prime Minister Koizumi to me. As a partner with Cambodia, Japan sent an envoy to consult on a number of issues before giving his final speech in Singapore after touring five ASEAN countries. It was about the issue of contribution in developing the Greater Mekong Basin, which is a priority in the Japanese policy to promote integration between old ASEAN countries and new ASEAN states that are mostly situating along the Mekong river. Through our discussion, I have received reply from the Japanese side that despite Japan is cutting down 10% of its overseas assistance but its assistance to Cambodia is going to be maintained. Japan will continue to provide assistance without any reduction. But Japan is asking Cambodia one thing and that is to maintain peace and political stability. I have affirmed that if Cambodia could not sustain its peace and stability it would not be of any use to ask for the Japanese assistance. So we have to do all we can to maintain peace and security that we already have in hands. If the Japanese Government would retain its assistance to Cambodia at a level about US$ 100 million a year that would be very contributive to the Cambodian development efforts.
… I have my second suggestion as follows. In every three years, Japan offers Cambodia a US$ 40 million loan. The most recent loan has been used in the construction of the Sihanoukville seaport. My suggestion is that Japan offers Cambodia this loan every year instead. In fact Cambodia used to owe Japan the loan, its interest and the fine for being late to pay back the debt. Now Cambodia has already cleared the debt. Through our efforts Japan should consider Cambodia’s request of taking loan every year. Japan has not responded yet as this matter has to go through a long process and Cambodia from its part has to make best efforts with the Japanese grants and loans.
… The third suggestion that I have here is asking Japan for a bridge crossing the Mekong at Neakloeung that links Kandal and Prey Veng. We would suggest three options to our Japanese friend. If we were to have this bridge built, Cambodia’s economy would be in an optimistic direction of growth. The first option is Japan builds the bridge for Cambodia as a grant aid like Spien Kizuna. The second possibility is a split into two — one part is grant and one part is loan. The money is still given by Japan but one part we will pay back. The third possibility would be that Japan pays 80% for the total costs and Cambodia covers the rest 20%. We dare take this position because as owner of the country we have to have initiatives. We know Japan is facing many difficulties and on January 21, 2002 Japan will organize a conference on the reconstruction of Afghanistan, to where the Japanese assistance will be diverted. So for us, the first option is the best one and if the third option is proposed we would accept it anyway even we have to make the 20% share. We have to spend 20% in order to get another 80%.
… I wish to take this time to place an appeal to our people to take patience, to forgive, to be understanding, to refrain from violence act, and to make all we can to have a free, fair and transparent commune election. If we love peace, democracy and development, we should refrain from acting against the law and all forms of violence. There is a murder case in the village of Sanlob, Khum Sanlob. May General Choeun Sovantha search the two suspects as HE You Hockry already passed the case (down the system) here. I gave my instruction days ago to arrest and bring these criminals to justice. Anyone committed acts of violence must be arrested no matter what political party they belong to or ranks they may have. Democracy is in action when people exercising their individual rights. Vote for whoever you may like and feel no fear of any threats. Power gained at gunpoint or from threats is not a steady one. The real power is the one that people offer and it will be steady. Pol Pot was cruel but he could lead the country only in three years eight months and twenty days. So I advise not to take silly method of intimidation, threats or hypocrisy.