I am so happy today to join with all of you to put into official use the new office building of the Phnom Penh Municipality. We had actually planned to inaugurate the buildings on April 4, but we had to move it to one day later owing to the National Assembly’s decision to meet on April 4.
I am so glad with this event to put into official use the new office buildings. I remember that the former office of the council of ministers was the first office of the Phnom Penh Municipality. It was not like what was written for me here. First of all the city was run by a military committee. I think HE Khim Pon remembers this well. It was wrong to write that Van San was the head of the people’s committee of Phnom Penh. In fact, he was secretary and for a short time. When we first came to Phnom Penh, the military committee headed by HE Khan Sarin, you may want to write it down.
I am the only one that goes with the 37 years existence of the Royal Government, from Foreign Minister to Deputy Prime Minister and then Prime Minister. As I said, there are some points that one needs to remember and compile as a history of our city after the liberation from the Pol Pot’s regime on 7 January 1979.
The 1970 Coup
The inauguration of the new office buildings of the Phnom Penh Municipality is corresponding to progress scored by the city. I never have imagined that our city grows this fast. When I first came to Phnom Penh during the liberation, there were only about 70 people, whom I met near the current Bank of Canadia, and mostly were women and children. Before 1979, in time before the Khmer New Year, we had some 10,000 people, or less. It was a tragedy indeed for a city used to be active after gaining independence in 1953, under the leadership of Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk. However, an illegal coup and foreign aggression led Cambodia to all-out war, where Phnom Penh became shelter of refugees, putting a great pressure to receive so many fleeing from war to Phnom Penh.
Today, 5 April, and only 12 more days, we will come to 17 April 1975, when Pol Pot came to Phnom Penh. The Phnom Penh dwellers welcome the liberation army for ending war and liberating the whole country (from the Lon Nol group). However, the reciprocation was being chased out of their homes in Phnom Penh and killings. People in Phnom Penh should remember that on 17 March 1970, people shout “long live Samdech Ov,” and a day later on 18 March 1970, they had to shout “Damn You Sihanouk,” because of the coup conducted by Lon Nol, Sirikmatak and Cheng Heng. What did people in Phnom Penh receive then? It was a tragedy for the fact that they accidentally support an illegal coup.
They later wanted very much to liberate themselves from war. People in Phnom Penh and other places would hope altogether for an end to war. As you could remember that when Pol Pot first arrived in Phnom Penh, it was the Phnom Penh people who became victims before anyone else. By presenting them with flower wreaths, the Khmer Rouge soldiers chased them all out from Phnom Penh. In the Calmette Hospital, which is not far from this place, how many sick and immovable patients had died in those circumstances? We did the best we could to liberate the country from the regime of Pol Pot and had to rebuild the city of Phnom Penh from empty hands … The city was unrecognizable for being left unmanaged and there were no residents. In that circumstance, the United Nations and some countries not only provided us with no assistance but also punished us.
… I always reminded foreign guests and visitors that I have met that when they are in today’s Phnom Penh, it seems that the city has not had its bitter past. It seemed like there was nothing wrong in its past. Phnom Penh these days is so similar to other cities. We have trade and cultural activities, etc. I think it is important to replay some of the past so that people understand what had happened to it. We have documentary evidence dubbed with this beautiful song “Oh, My Phnom Penh.” It was so sad. It could revive past memory […]
Work Efficiency Matters
… Well, the new office building here correspond to the progress made so far in Phnom Penh. Many people came to me to advise my decision to build a new office of the Council of Ministers since 1980’s and 1990’s. I always replied that we were still poor and we had to work with what we had. The biggest problem then was not to have fancy office, but to ensure work efficiency. Some even went a great length to say that I was not up to date to continue to work in an old building, in addition to one side of it had eroded a bit. Well, in those days, it was not time to be elegant for Prime Minister, ministers and other officials. It was time to do everything we could to gather capital and to feed people, while preventing the return of the Khmer Rouge genocide. When time comes, we now have Peace Palace and Friendship buildings … So it is important to feel the rhythm and know what to do, at what time.
… I do not have to go into detail about the architectural plan that HE Pa Socheatvong already did. I welcome the idea of having an underground parking lot. How many percent of our officials still ride bicycles to work? I am sure most of them have cars or at least motorcycles. It is important to envision for them to have a good parking space underground and leave the space up here for other purpose. I am still calling, despite very good working offices, for work efficiency. It seemed that in 1980s, when we were in the most difficult situation and bad-shape working place, work efficiency was higher. Well, if we were not that competent, the Pol Pot clique could have overthrown us […]
Ministers Must Act According to Defined Duty
Not only the Phnom Penh Municipality, many other ministries have also wither built a new office building or rebuilt them. Every province also has their new buildings. I am calling on every institution and sub-national administration to implement strictly works defined by law and norms. As for ministry, there is sub-decree on organization and functioning of their institutions. Some people said change or does not change is not important because finally power concentrates in one person. They meant “in me.” I could say to everyone that I never interfere work of any one minister at all. All I am asking for is for s/he act according to defined duty. You may ask any minister if I ever interfere in their duty. It was them on the contrary who violated my rights. Why do I say so?
According to law, political position from undersecretary position up is the Prime Minister’s monopole right (to assign someone to). However, some ministers did propose appointments of so and so. I approved and signed their proposals because I reckon that they are the ones who know people from department heads, general directors, etc. […] It was because of so many problems difficult to tackle that I have had to reshuffle the Cabinet. In two and a half years, some works had been done. We still have another two and half year to carry out substantial changes in works remained to be done.
Building but Not Repairing Roads
… Well, reshuffle does not affect the Phnom Penh Municipality. However, there has a number of issues to tackle in Phnom Penh. I used to talk about three congestions – traffic, drainage and wastes. Phnom Penh Municipality did try to fulfil its task, but I have one issue that I need to bring up here in public. I have a doubt why the Phnom Penh Municipality Public Works seems to be good at building roads and not repairing them. They should see roads that need repair. Sometimes I had to call up Phnom Penh Mayor why at this or that place, the roads left unrepaired.
Frankly speaking, initially I thought of removing Sam Piseth, head of Phnom Penh Municipality Public Works. You should go out more often and not hang in the building with tie. I must say roads are in bad shape when you became head of public works. The fact that you build more roads is good and I am happy for it but what do you expect when you do not repair old ones? You should do a better job or you may not be able to remain in this position […]
(You) only think of building flyover and underpass and fail to think about roads on land. I am urging Mayor of Phnom Penh, Pa Socheatvong to remedy this. In addition to that, I urge you to listen to what people had to say. Some wrote to my Facebook account and their questions are correct. They said “Samdech, why in one place, there has been so repetitive works done. Take for instance, a road. They dug up for drainage, and a few months later dig again for cable, and again for … Why there has not been a master plan or proper study before work is carried out?” They asked the right questions. I thank them for making this problem heard. We must dare to accept the truthful comments.
There is one other issue relating to Municipality and national level institutions. I did advise many times. There does not seem to be action. Take for instance land behind the commander-in-chief headquarters, I told since 2005/6 to trim out some land for people, but they continue to keep mentioning they are registered state land. People sold those changed ownerships many times already. They also settle on those lands for a long time. I am commissioning a group led by HE Pa Socheatvong to work out which land to give to people from the state property. All I am asking is for people not to infiltrate further or we will have to bring the case to court. People must keep their status quo […]
Service to Resolve People’s Need
… We have the presence of local officials here today. People complain about public service. I talked about it at the Ministry of Interior. Once again, I am calling on relevant officials to make effort to resolve people’s need. In some cases, one or two incompetent and disrepute staff could also dishonor the rest thousands. According to our record, some of the disrepute were members of other political parties and they carried out dishonored actions to discredit us. Public service does not belong to any political parties but some have used their people within the public administration to discredit it. I suggest that good officials will make civil arrest of the disrepute to prove our cleanliness.
What are the service to serve people’s need? They include birth certificate, marriage certificate, etc. HE Pa Socheatvong already mentioned that the service will be done, in a timely manner, and people will not be required to pay extra. I also talked for a long time with Senior Minister Sun Chanthol about public works and transports. These are services to serve people’s needs. As for ownership transference, which requires approval from sellers, in many cases there have been changes of hands many times already, it was impossible to find the original owner. That is why we have worked out a solution and Samdech Kralahaom Sar Kheng issue a decision about the fact that the procedure will accept actual holding. The Ministry of Economy and Finance, and the Ministry of Interior decided to cancel stamping tax too. They would charge it when s/he sell it again. I hope our people understand about these efforts of the state […]
People benefit a lot from peace made and infrastructure provided by the state. Poverty has gone down from 100% in 1979. People enjoy the benefit of leadership of the Royal Government led by Hun Sen. However, they may not be happy with those junior officials who did not perform good job. Some had even us for their wrongdoings. Let us face the truth and resolve the problem together. I urge you to work efficiently in the new office and check out roads and wastes […]
Ok to Public Bus Service, No to Express Road to PPIA
… We must continue to promote public bus service to reduce traffic jam and offer a cheaper means for students, elderly and disable people. We will put into operation more lines of bus services. I also declare today to people living along the rail from Phnom Penh to Phnom Penh International Airport that I do not approve highway express there … There have been a few companies conducting feasibility studies to build the highway express along the rail and there have been threats to organize demonstrations or public forum. Now that I have canceled the plan, I think there is nothing about that to talk in public forum.
We also do not have rail operation to Kilometer 6 anymore. We may build on the rail segment a new big road to relieve traffic into Phnom Penh. It is a nine kilometers long road and once it is built, the road would be able to reduce heavy traffic from the northern part of the city to Phnom Penh at Wat Phnom and the Royal Palace, but through Boeng Kak. Though I have come here to talk about something at sub-national level, Phnom Penh, on the other hand, is the heart of all national institutions […]/.