Your Excellencies, Heads of Delegations
Distinguished Delegates and Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am most honored and pleased to address the opening of the 10th ASEAN Transport Ministerial Meeting, the 3rd ASEAN-China Transport Ministerial Meeting and the 2nd ASEAN-Japan Transport Ministerial Meeting.
On behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) and Cambodian People, I would like to extend our warmest welcome to you all, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, the heads and members of delegations, and all the distinguished guests for coming to Phnom Penh to participate in these 10th ASEAN Transport Ministerial Meeting, 3rd ASEAN-China Transport Ministerial Meeting and 2nd ASEAN-Japan Transport Ministerial Meeting.
Cambodia is honored and very proud to host these meetings while our country has just enthroned its new monarch, Samdech Preah Boromneath Norodom Sihamony, – the most respectful, wise and healthy King who will bring a new hope and represent a symbol of national unity for the whole Khmer nation. Moreover, these meetings have been organized while Cambodian people all over the country are preparing to celebrate the “Water Festivals”. These events represent the biggest festivals in the Kingdom of Cambodia that we celebrate every year since the old days. During the festivals, many people from all over the county will gather in front of the Royal Palace to celebrate the events.
Over the last year, although Cambodia has undergone many changes and difficulties, the people and RGC were generally able to overcome all the challenges, let it be small or big. With the wise guidance of His Royal Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk, the Greatest Hero King of Cambodia and Her Royal Majesty Queen Norodom Monineath Sihanouk, the Greatest Mother of Khmer Nation, the RGC of third legislation was formed and is now performing its mandate actively.
Over the last 30 years, ASEAN has made significant progress in regional integration and cooperation. However, ASEAN is now operating in a new, dynamic and rapidly changing environment. Therefore, we must forcefully and effectively respond to both the challenges and opportunities facing our peoples.
The Leaders of the ASEAN have responded to these changes by adopting the vision and long-term program and have acted to ensure that ASEAN remains attractive to foreign investment, to deepen intra-ASEAN trade and investment and to bridge development gaps by further strengthening the commitments for achieving a coherent and clear path of ASEAN cooperation, articulated in the ASEAN Vision 2020 and its succeeding Plans of Action, the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI), and the Roadmap for the Integration of ASEAN (RIA) and the Bali Concord II.
We have committed and acted to deepening the three pillars of political and security cooperation, economic cooperation, and socio-cultural cooperation, that are closely intertwined and mutually reinforcing for the purpose of creating the ASEAN Community by the year 2020. In particular, the establishment of an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) will make ASEAN a single market and production base with free flow of goods, services, investment, skilled labor and freer flow of capital by 2020. Thereby it would enhance ASEAN competitiveness and narrow the development gap amongst ASEAN members.
In this sense, the 10th ASEAN Transport Ministerial Meeting is very crucial for the progress and prosperity of ASEAN nations, since the integration and efficiency of transportation networks in ASEAN are the key factors to translate a full potential of ASEAN into ASEAN Free Trade Areas (AFTA), and to provide incentives for the attraction of ASEAN region to transform it into a shared destination of production and investment towards a successful realization of the “ASEAN Economic Community” as one market zone and one production base for free flow of trade, goods, services, investments, skilled labors, capital and so on and so forth.
Furthermore, connecting ASEAN with other countries in other region such as North East Asia or East Asia and South Asia, is even more important. As I used to mention at the 8th ASEAN Summit in 2002 in Phnom Penh that, for ASEAN to take off, it requires two necessary wings: one is connecting to North-East Asia including China, Japan and Korea (East Asia Free Trade Zone), and another one is linking to South Asia region including India (ASEAN-India Free Trade Zone). Thus, in order to achieve this goal, “ASEAN Framework Agreement on Priority Sector for ASEAN Integration” which covers 11 priority sectors including air transportation, and the implementation of the agenda of Vientiane transportation action plan 2005-2010 expected to adopt by the ASEAN Leaders in Vientiane in the coming week, are of great significance for ASEAN in identifying concrete measures of implementation towards the realization of ASEAN Vision 2020.
I would like to emphasize that the RGC gives its special priority to Cambodia’s integration into the region and the world. The integration policy has been clearly defined in the economic policy agenda of the RGC’s Political Platform for the Third Legislation of the National Assembly”, which is called “Rectangular Strategy For Growth, Employment, Equity and Efficiency in Cambodia“.
In particular, priorities were given to further promote regional and sub-regional cooperation in the ASEAN, ASEAN+3 and Greater Mekong Sub-region frameworks and in other sub-regional initiatives such as Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam Triangle Development Cooperation; Emerald Triangle between Cambodia, Laos and Thailand; and Economic Cooperation Strategy of five countries Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, called “ACMECS“. Within these cooperation frameworks, the building of physical infrastructure, in particular roads, bridges and railroads to connect those sub-regions, are vitally important to achieve ASEAN integration vision.
The continued rehabilitation and development of physical infrastructure represents an important angle of the RGC’s Rectangular Strategy, and the rehabilitation of road infrastructure is a key strategy for economic development in linking cities and urban areas to local areas, linking production areas to market place, linking tourist sites and destinations to major border check points. At present, Cambodia has 2,400 km length of road infrastructure, which represents the main roads connecting to neighboring countries and have been rehabilitating. This includes the bridge crossing Mekong River, built under a Japanese grant and another bridge named “Neak Leoung Bridge” which is under the feasibility study and the process of requesting Japanese assistance.
Thus, roads and bridges will definitely link Cambodia to regional and world markets. I believe that such a favorable geographic location will transform Cambodia into a center of regional transportation that will facilitate transportation of goods, trade, tourism and better cross border connections.
Since the roads are being improved and the transportation is on increase, traffic accidents are unfortunately also seriously increasing. Therefore, it is time to set alarm and declare emergency for traffic accidents in ASEAN region where its numbers are increasing every year, leading to the lost of human lives, properties, social mentality and the lost to the economies of member countries.
I think that traffic accidents is our shared concern of ASEAN countries as well as of the RGC, as it is comparable to the second secrete murderer followed HIV/AIDS. In this regard, I would like to appeal to all ASEAN transport Ministers to accelerate their efforts to prepare and implement action plans for traffic safety in ASEAN region, so that we can effectively and timely reduce accidents, and keep a safe environment of ASEAN road networks in the ASEAN member countries.
As for railway transportation, the RGC is focusing on implementing ASEAN Singapore-Kunming Rail Link Project. In order to successfully achieve the project, Cambodia is of the view that the primary priority should be given to reconstruct the missing link of 48 km from Cambodia to Thai border. The Asian Development Bank (ADB), Malaysia and other aid agencies pay high attention and promise to provide support for rail rehabilitation in Cambodia including the reconstruction of 48 km missing link connecting to Thai border, and the feasibility study to build railway from Phnom Penh to Louk Ninh, Vietnam.
Air transportation is one of the 11 priority sectors that ASEAN leaders agreed at 9th ASEAN Summit in Bali. The ASEAN open sky policy has also been promoted and speeded up. The RGC is preparing a new framework for civil aviation development focusing on establishment legal framework according to international rules and regulations for safe operation and security, air traffic services, telecommunication, meteorology and satellite based control, development of local airport, strengthening institutional and management capacity and etc. Phnom Penh International Airport has been improving under the BOT agreement. Siem Reap Airport has begun to restore and improve according to international regulations to respond to the traffic increase between Siem Reap/Angkor and capital cities or other major tourism destinations in ASEAN.
The RGC has also improved the capacity of Sihanoukville International Seaport thus transforming it into an “entry and exit gate” for goods, and be competitive in relation to other seaports in ASEAN. Seaport Safety Action Plan has been formulated according with the International Sea and Port Security Code (ISPS) for Sihanoukville Seaport, Phnom Penh Port and other ports to prevent against piracy and international terrorism.
Finally, I wish the 10th ASEAN Transport Ministerial Meeting and other related meetings to be successful and wish you all, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, the five gems of Buddhist Blessing. I hope you all will have a pleasant stay in Phnom Penh and especially enjoy the occasion of Cambodian Water Festival Celebration.