Water Supply Systems for Battambang and Kompong Cham Provinces
Today, I have a great pleasure to be able to join with Excellencies, Ambassador (Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary) of Japan to the Kingdom of Cambodia, Buddhist monks, Samdech, Lok Chumteavs, as well as our people for the inauguration of water supply system in the province of Battambang and that in the province of Kompong Cham. To save time, we celebrate this inauguration ceremony here for the water system in Battambang, and for the one in Kompong Cham as well. As you can see, development is taking shape in both east and west of the country.
I am so happy to have witnessed the operation of the water supply system – a new achievement under the assistance of people and government of Japan – serving Cambodian people’s interests. I would like to take this opportune moment to express, through HE Ambassador as well as JICA, Cambodia’s gratefulness for the generous assistance of water supply system in Battambang as well as in Kompong Cham provinces, after those offered in Phnom Penh, Siam Reab and some other places.
I listened very carefully to the report of HE Cham Prasidh, Minister of Industry and Handicrafts portraying overall progresses and the report of HE Kumamaru, Ambassador of Japan, relating to various issues in this area, especially those concerned clean water supply system for the projected period until 2025. We have been able to realize numerous indications already.
As is touched by HE Cham Prasidh and HE Kumamaru, the project of water supply in Battambang has a capacity to produce an amount of 22,000 cubic meters per day and to run up to 64 Kilometres in distance. The system in Kompong Cham bears the capacity to produce 11,500 cubic metres per day and to run on a distance of 57 Kilometres. Overall, the two systems run water over 120 Kilometres in radius to provide clean water for our people. Though it is safe to drink water from the system, I highly recommend that our people boil it before drinking. Our need for clean water has grown bigger and higher.
I wish to express my sincere thank to every assistance involved, including those of the construction and consultancy companies, for the said project. We have seen here a photo of HE Cham Prasidh and HE Kumamaru presiding over together the groundbreaking ceremony of the project here in Battambang. This is “a new achievement takes place on old land.” I hope that our people in Battambang and Kompong Cham will have a better access to clean water. We will proceed further to attract grant and investments in provision of clean water to our people in other provinces as well.
The 2016 Drought – A Lesson
It was like a lesson for us all that in these last months, for the first time in the country history, that we suffered problem of water shortages almost everywhere. Drought dragged on for five or six months and people’s water sources dried out. In the 60-day campaign to address water shortage issue among our people, we noticed active role of the water supply headquarters in producing and disseminating water to our people. I hope that with this lesson, we will take precautionary measures to deal with it no matter how disastrous the climate change condition may come.
This years, thousands of well dried out. Wells of ten or eleven meters deep are no longer bearing water as the water table levelled down to below previous levels of eight or nine meters. The water table has gone down lower. With this knowledge, we have addressed the issue of restoring reservoirs, digging new wells and making old ones deeper in the whole country. We continue with this procedure. We will not stall until we achieve our objective. While taking into account our efforts to provide clean water in cities, towns, we also need to address water shortage issue for people in rural areas. We will put in more hand-pumped wells, ring wells, and dig more reservoirs and ponds to meet our people’s demand for water.
Making Water Supply General Directorate
I am so proud with the progress we made so far and the better condition of our water supply service provided a number of clean water companies. We have so many companies that produce clean water for consumption. There have been so many brands. However, people will have to pay for water. People in certain cities or towns will have access to clean water through investments by the Royal Government, grant aid and financial assistance from a number of countries.
I wish to assert that days ago I signed a sub-decree to make water supply department of the Ministry of Industry and Handicrafts a general directorate so that I will oversee this issue. It is a reform to promote clean water accessibility among our people while it requires technological and human resources to address the overall demand for development of our country. Once again, through HE Kumamaru, I would express my sincere thanks of the Royal Government and people of Cambodia to the Government and people of Japan for such meaningful assistance.
I would deliver from here to people in Kompong Cham province, despite the presence of Governor of Kompong Cham here, that they have received more or less similar achievements compared to that of people in Battambang province. The only difference is about the source of water. In Battambang, water supply will take from the river of Sangke and in Kompong Cham, the water system will take water from the river of Mekong. Talking about this, it reminds me of a song by Mr. Kong Bun Chhoeurn, who just passed away, “A Memory of Stoeung Sangke.”
A Meeting with Premier Shinzo Abe in Mongolia
Last Saturday, about six days now, I had a great discussion with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which we dubbed it as a meeting on pastureland. Last week I went for the Asia-European Summit in Mongolia with 51 countries, Cambodia included, and two organizations – ASEAN and European Union. Japan was also present. We had made it our appointment from Phnom Penh that we will have a meeting with Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe in Ulaanbaatar of Mongolia. While finishing with his speech to the Summit, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and I went for a meeting.
It was a good meeting. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is a leader that I have worked with for a long time. We have conducted various meetings on the course of the latter’s visits to Phnom Penh and my visit to Japan. HE Shinzo Abe (elected) twice as Prime Minister and I visited Japan in his both premierships. We discussed many issues about economics and cooperation. In September, there will be a direct flight from Japan to Cambodia. Currently, Japanese tourists, investors, diplomats, have to take trips via Bangkok or Singapore or other flight itinerary to Cambodia. Cambodians also had to travel first to South Korea to get a connecting flight to Japan’s Tokyo. According the agreement that we have worked on together, in the coming September, there will be direct flight between Japan and Cambodia. I am hopeful that it will help with the facilitation of bilateral relations between our two countries.
At the same time, we are working to promote and attract Japanese investments. We would like Japan to expand its market to Cambodia because the trade volume between our two countries has reached some 1,000 million USD. However, we still see that it has not yet suited to potentials that the two countries have. We will expand further the market to have Cambodian products under the Japanese investments to the Kingdom of Cambodia.
We also had a good talk on many other issues that we have understood each other’s stances already. Cambodia proposes to Japan to help strengthen our peacekeeping troop capability under the UN banner. Since there is in South Sudan Cambodian peacekeeping troops and medical teams along with Japanese operating forces, we are asking Japan to look after our troops.
The Cambodia Daily’s “Japanese Premier Rebukes …”
It is regretful that a newspaper in Phnom Penh, in Khmer and English, and I am sure HE Kumamaru must have read the text, wrote: “Japanese Prime appeared to rebukes …” In this world, no one leader would rebuke me Hun Sen. President Barack Obama also came to Cambodia and he did not come to rebuke Cambodian Prime Minister. I would not go into war of words here. I would let the Japanese officials to deal with it. Phay Siphan (of the Council of Ministers) had responded, but I will not. I would leave it to the Japanese officials to respond to such statement, whether it is justifiable or not? I wanted to see that when freedom of expression had it wrong on me, they should have a correction. HE Ambassador may want to check with Prime Minister or note takers of our meetings if Prime Minister Abe really did that.
Prime Minister Abe and I are very friendly and he is the head of school construction association who lead a delegation to build schools in Cambodia. First thing he did when we met was to invite Hun Manet, in his words, a young generation leader, to visit Japan. You can see about this relation, it is not just between state and state but our personal levels too. I think the press should not run something that disrepute Japanese Prime Minister. I would leave it to Ambassador Kumamaru to see what to do with it. I am so sick of slandering by some.
Visiting Provinces to Review Progresses and Determine Problems to Resolve
I would like to take this opportune moment to remind you a bit that yesterday I had a cordial meeting with civil servants and the armed forces of Battambang province. After Battambang, I will go to other provinces to review progresses as well as to identify challenging issues that need further solution. I will stop by Banteay Meanjei, Siem Reap, and Kompong Thom. This will be my first leg of journey in the country. I will conduct a second leg of journey later. We have so many works to do. I will only obtain reports here as decision will be made when I return.
Yesterday, though I have signed a decision here relating to dismissing certain lands from holding of the Ministry of Industry and Handicrafts at the Jute Bag Factory of Daunteav, adjacent to the water supply headquarters, to the people, we still need to get it to Phnom Penh to prepare of notification issuance. People have been living on the land from 1979 through to 1980. People in Battambang are lucky that they have a good governor. Should we have hardworking districts and Khan leaders many works will get done without having to bother Prime Minister. I hope we will have better and hardworking officials who really serve the people. I will command my journey to review progresses and remaining issues to continue to resolve after a more than half term’s conduct.
Win-win Policy Brings Full Peace
Yesterday, I was talking about my memories of Battambang. Up to now, it has been thirty years that my wife, my daughter and I missed a flight and had to stay here. HE Ke Kim Yan was then provincial head and Head of the Party here. We stayed at the Party headquarters. We had entertainment at night not only by owls but also by gunfire from a far. In 1995, I came again and stayed in the same place. There was some explosion in Phnom Penh. I was here to get things ready for the visit of Samdech Preah Borom Ratanak Kaod and Samdech Me, the Queen Mother. While their Majesties visited people in the Lok Mjas House area, I went to Svay Daunkeo. I returned by helicopter. Those who return on land had an ambush on the way near Mong Russei. That was war.
There was a memory I wished to share with people in Battambang. In 1989, I was here. In 1990, in January I came again. At that time, we lost Pailin to the Khmer Rouge. Now we do not have numerous Khmer factions anymore. Thanks to the win-win policy, Cambodians are now living together. I then talked to our soldiers that they should work hard to prevent occupation of Battambang. We moved our army around to defend it. Our frontlines then were at Treng and Bovel. In a cold night I visited some soldiers. I was in my late 30s then.
In Siem Reap as well as in Battambang, along big roads around the cities, you may note that they were dikes built to protect the cities from the intrusion of the Khmer Rouge. I reached a group of soldiers sitting by fire to heat up against cold weather. I talked with them that we had to do whatever we can to protect Battambang and Angkor Wat. A senior soldier then applauded and walked to a bush. He pulled up a bottle and walked back saying “let’s defend Angkor Wat.” Angkor Wat was the best alcohol we had in those days. This is just to remind you how hard it was to search for behold peace.
I stopped by Mong Russei district yesterday. Before that we briefly stopped at Krokor district of Pursat province. I had a bowl of noodle at Krokor market. The soup was marvellous. I bought the Num Kroch (a kind of Khmer bun) but I forget to take them. I had one with me though. Students of Mong Russei Junior Secondary School know from Facebook that I will be passing by. They stand in the street and I had to bring them all in to the schoolyard. They wanted a two-story school building and a football court. We will have to build for them.
Land Ownerships Provided in 1988-89 Ushers In Development in Battambang
I had a sound sleeping last night from a little over 10 pm through to 6 am. I was so tired. It puts me into a deep sleep. I have noticed so many progressed. It reminds me of memories of the old Battambang. In early 1989, people dare not build new or renovate old houses. They were not sure if they will own the houses. With my frequent visit in 1988 and 1989, I gave a lecture in the National Assembly about the need to provide ownerships to people – both land and housing. My argument was if we do not provide ownerships, people are uncertain and houses would continue to crumble for lack of maintenance and care.
It was so fortunate that the late Samdech Chea Sim – as President of the National Assembly, together with Samdech Heng Samrin as President of the State Council and I as the Prime Minister, decided to set up an ad-hoc committee to revise the Constitution allowing people to have ownership to their lands and houses. Since then, Battambang city has made gradual progress and possessed a differently positive look day after day. In the past, we could only build Bailey bridges across the river of Sangke. Now we are replacing them with concrete bridges – in Sangke or Monkul Borei or Prek Tnaot rivers. That our country has so many water tributaries is a good thing for agriculture but its soft side is in transports. We need to build more bridges so that people can travel without having to take a ferry or boats.
Defending Hard-Won Peace, Khmer Died for Colouring Each Other
I wish to remind you all that we must protect our hard-won peace. In the past, Battambang’s frontline was at Treng. Sometimes the Khmer Rouge forces infiltrated through to Sdao (further in to Battambang side) and the Government troops sometimes made it far to Pang Rolim (the Khmer Rouge side). We hade a tough fight at the Bovel’s Sre Antak area. That was war. I was not the one who created war. War broke out when I was not even 18 years old. I was born on 5 August 1952 or 15 days of Srap month, full moon Tuesday – people say anyone born on this date and year would be a strong-head man. I am, but only with bad people.
However, negotiating to end the war fell on me. To weaken and eventually remove Pol Pot is indeed a matter of necessity in order to proceed with political negotiation. Should Pol Pot continue to be strong and exist, would you think Pol Pot negotiated with us? Should war continue, what could we do? We cannot go on or people will die. We must seek for political solution, for peace through the Paris Agreement on 23 October 1991. UNTAC (United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia) left Cambodia in a state of two governments – one is the Royal Government and the other was at Anlong Veng who controlled Samlot, Pailin, Kamrieng, Phnom Proeuk through to Mealay.
Now we do not have Khmer Rouge anymore. Being red Khmer was what Khmer coloured each other. There used to be red, blue, white, black Khmer, as they said it. It is a very dangerous game when people coloured each other and accused so and so to be puppets of so and so. That is the point that could have killed Khmers. UNTAC spent over two billion USD and they could not get into the Khmer Rouge territory. Hun Sen did it. My mother and my grand aunt said to me that I went into the Khmer Rouge’s territory, was I not afraid of being killed? I told them “should that happen, only I and my entourage would die. If it did not, we would have the whole country together.”
As I said, in 1996 there was this secession of the Khmer Rouge forces. Integration started in 1997 and 1998 through to July 1998, Anlong Veng the last stronghold of the former Khmer Rouge returned to fold of our nation. Cambodia from then became a country with one rule under one Constitution, one King, the Royal Government and unified armed forces, in replacement of formerly four factions and four armies.
Peace Brings Cambodia’s Development
That was the reason why we could develop our country and until these days people in Battambang are benefiting from accessibility to running clean water. I urge people to use water with care and do not waste it because we would have to pay for it. People pay for water they use everywhere in the world. Water price in Cambodia is not so expensive compare to other countries’. We may ask though if there were no peace, would Japan come and help us? The answer is certainly “No.” Before the year 2000, Japan allowed its people to go as far as Phnom Penh and Siem Reap province. They did not allow their people to go anywhere than that. Now there are 4,700,000 tourists coming to visit Cambodia and they travel at night anywhere they wish.
Peace prevails. We must continue to address people’s requirements. There is yet a balanced between demand and supply. Take for instance, shortage of water. Today people have access to 22,000 cubic meters more with a total running distance of 64 Kilometres. However, we have more people to serve. I thank the Ministry of Industry and Handicrafts, the Ministry of Economy and Finance, especially the Battambang provincial authority for making efforts together to facilitate the construction to achieve such a remarkable result. Without their concerted efforts, we would not be able to score this achievement. I also thank the construction and consultancy companies for doing such a good job to help our people.
Battambang in the past, we had not many secondary schools. At present, we have many of them at the district level. We have a university that is redeveloped and expanded thanks to the effort of Samdech Sar Kheng, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior. In Banteay Meanjei, Deputy Prime Minister Ke Kim Yan also built a university and we have universities in Siem Reap province too. They have helped our students to continue their studies without having to migrate to cities for education. We have scored these achievements thanks to peace.
Japanese Assistance to Rebuild National Road 5
I should not forget to share with you about the National Road 5. We have improved it already but it would not be sufficient for forthcoming development. Japan will take up reconstruction of National Road 5 segment between Prek Kadam to the border with Thailand in three stages. Stage 1, signed in 2013-14, Japan agrees to reconstruct the National Road 5 segment between Battambang to Sisophon (Banteay Menajei). Another agreement also singed for the reconstruction of National Road 5 from Thlea Ma Am through to Pursat. And the last segment would be from Pursat to Battambang. It is the ASEAN road linking Thailand and Vietnam together through Cambodia. As we are putting the roughly 33 million USD Japanese water supply system assistances to Battambang and Kompong Cham provinces, may I offer all the best wishes to everyone present./.