Venerable Buddhist Monks,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today I have a great honor and pleasure to join all of you, – Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen and the residents of the Kandal province, in the Ceremony witnessing the delivery of packages to 15,000 soldiers discharged into civilian life.
On behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia and my own self, I sincerely congratulate and highly appreciate the Council for the Demobilization of Armed Forces (CDAF), the Demobilization Committee of the Ministry of Defense and the RCAF’s General Staff for their good cooperation that translated the government’s policy on demobilization of armed forces into a reality. Specifically, it is reflected in the results achieved so far, including the outcomes on integration, – that is added to the improvement in the living condition of our demobilized soldiers and their families, as well as to the setting of workplan for 2003, as H.E. Svay Sitha, the COM Under-Secretary of State and the Secretary General of the CDAF reported early to the audience.
On behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia and my own self, I wish to take this opportunity to express our deep gratitude to the donor community and international organizations especially the World Bank and Japan for their assistance and grants supporting the implementation of the demobilization program.
I wish to reaffirm all of you that the investments made by the donor community on this project are of great importance for the development of Cambodia. Because, through the implementation the demobilization program, the RGC will have the ability to realistically implement the poverty reduction strategy, further strengthen peace and democracy and the respect for human rights in Cambodia. The results, especially, would be the strengthened foundation that makes the Kingdom of Cambodia become a “rule of law” state and increases Cambodia’s ability to effectively contribute to the strengthening peace and security in the region and the world.
The delivery of packages today is very crucial. On one hand, because it testifies to the commitment of the Royal Government of Cambodia pledged to the 15,000 officers and soldiers before the discharge. On the other hand, we finish the 16 months-long wait for the packages by our discharged soldiers that they have basic inputs for improving a living while integrating into the civil society. Indeed, actual assistance provided to our demobilized soldiers helping reduce their difficulties and poverty is an evident of the respect for human rights, especially the right to live a proper and dignified life for our people.
I appreciate all the demobilized soldiers in the first phrase of the project for their discipline and patience in waiting for the packages. May I ask your understanding that the packages delivered now have gone through procedures and arrangements for international competitive bidding. On behalf of the CDAF, the Ministry of Defense and the RCAF’s General Staff and myself as a former soldier, I assure you all that the RGC has never and ever forget your contribution, sacrifices and difficulties, especially when living without salary and foods used to receive from the state before, and after the discharge have had to wait for 16 months for the packages.
I wish to take this opportunity to share with all of you some ideas and comments clarifying the government’s visions in military reforms and the demobilization. As you may aware, so far the RGC has determined principles in the defense and security and set out strategies in the reform of RCAF. The objective of this reform process is to reduce and maintain the number of the army in the range of 70,000-80,000 men. This amount is appropriate for RCAF to effectively perform its tasks as stated in the constitution and appropriate to the changing regional and world situation in this 21st century. Moreover, we will transform those demobilized soldiers to the production forces that contribute to a sustainable development and poverty reduction in Cambodia.
The quick reduction in number of armed forces is important, allowing the government save some of the budget and use it in physical infrastructure and in other priority social and economic sectors, such as education, health, agriculture and rural development. Thus demobilization program generates favorable conditions for the government to implement the public expenditure reform focusing on reorienting funds from unproductive sectors into priority ones that directly support the production.
Importantly, the demobilization of armed forces reflects the efforts exerted by RGC in its 2nd term of office to deepen the culture of peace deeply rooted into the Cambodian society. As Head of the Royal Government, I am very proud of those achievements achieved so far. Though, on 30 November 1998, I declared before the National Assembly of the policy agenda of the RGC that I myself call it the “Economic Government”. However, the results we achieve so far reflected that the 2nd Term Government is more than that, it is:
- The “Government of Peace”, – we ensure 100% of peace for our people everywhere in the Kingdom of Cambodia. This is invaluable achievement that the next generation of Cambodians will enjoy the fruits the peace dividends;
- The “Health Government”, – we have drastically increased the budget for health with purpose to support the well being of our people;
- The “Education Government”, – as the RGC have been very much concerned about the living condition of our teachers, we have, in 2001, increased salary of civil servants and the educational personnel by 10%, while in 2002, the average salary increased by 38%;
- The “Road Government”, – we have, in this term, been rehabilitating and newly constructing dozens of thousands kilometers of national and provincial and tertiary roads and bridges. Thus if the people trust me again as prime minister in the 3rd term of government, I promise to have all the previously paved roads during the Sangkum Reas Nyum repaved;
- The “Government of Poverty Reduction”, – all our activities aim at creating opportunities for our people to improve their living standard and benefit from natural resources such as forest and fisheries, that for the cause of poverty reduction of our people.
The specific results of the demobilization program have reflected in the positive changes in our national budget. There, the spending on military wages as well as the overall spending for defense has decreased since the start of the full-scale project. According to the MEF report, within the past one year period the number of men and their dependents on the payroll has declined by 18,336 thus reducing the spending by more than one billion Riels each month. The savings from demobilization will be used for road construction, increasing salary for teachers and building hospitals etc.
Based on realistic vision, the RGC is resolved to further enforce the implementation of reforms and structural adjustment within RCAF, and especially the demobilization, even in the case that we are forced to implement it through any form or by any approach.
Therefore, I would like to recall some of the main tasks of RCAF reform, which need to implement and realize as the following:
- Implementing the government policies including the demobilization and the Five Year Plan of RCAF, for it to be fully competent and effective in defending the nation with good quality and appropriate number of men;
- Promoting trainings as planned both domestically and abroad, aimed at strengthening and improving skills and expertise, ensuring sustained HRD and the continuity within the army up to the task of defending the motherland. This should focus on improving the living condition of the army such as providing better shelters, health care and motivating them rely on cultivation for self sustenance etc.;
- Implementing policies for demobilized, retired and invalid soldiers and the families of deceased and disables;
- Cooperating with competent authorities at all levels and the local people in preventing and cracking-down on any violations and crimes ensuring the stability, security and social order. They should, especially, cooperate in preventing the transboundary crimes. Do prepare to cooperate with competent authority in providing security and safety for the 2003 national elections;
- Further participating in rehabilitation and construction of infrastructure such as roads, bridges, canals and mine clearance that helps saving people life and contributing to socio-economic development and poverty reduction, especially during the coming dry season. Do help neighboring local people with cultivation within your stationed location.
As for demobilization and for its effectiveness improvement in next phases, I would share some of my recommendations on two points as follows:
- Integration into the national folk: Here, the RGC has clearly stated that the planning and implementation of the demobilization program should be implemented in a participatory involvement of government, donors community, national and international organizations and some NGOs, helping train and facilitate those discharged so that they can contribute more to the cause of building our nation;
- Monitoring and evaluation: I request the CDAF to arrange for or coordinate a full and broad study and evaluation of the socio-economic impacts after implementing this demobilization project. This will be a contribution or input into future national planning and programming that would be anticipating and solving the implications that may or are expected to arise. Thus the experiences can be successfully used for the next programs.
Dear the demobilized soldiers, I urge you to take care of the package delivered now that is the basis for strengthening and improving the living of your family. I belief with the packages provided by the program you will also continue to use your knowledge and know-how as well as your patience and hard work in your new life in the civilian community, – building your family’s economy by earning a better living.
To further help facilitate our demobilized soldiers, I take this floor, on behalf of the RGC, to call on the CDAF’s Secretariat General, the Provincial/Municipalities Veteran Committee, Authorities at all levels as well as the local people where the demobilized soldiers will settle to help and facilitate them with sincerity and sympathy, especially in providing land for residence and cultivation uses. The assistance would be as the gratitude extended to what those soldiers have had contribute and sacrificed for our country and our people.
In this rare occasion, may I once again thank all our compatriots for the sacrificing of their loved ones, – their children, husbands, relatives and parents to serve in the army for the cause of the nation. I wish also to send the message to soldiers and their families staying in hospitals, wishing them a quick recovery.
I call on all Cambodia’s international partners and the government institutions in charge of or involved with the demobilization program to continue their cooperation and support the implementation, monitoring and controlling of this program effectively. In closing, I wish the demobilization program success and wish all of you the five gems of Buddhist blessings.