Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today, I am very pleased to join you all in celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the National Center of Disabled Persons of Cambodia (NCDP). On behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia and my own self, I would like to congratulate the center for its success over the past 10 years.
I still remember that, 10 years ago on 5 May 1997, I came to preside over the opening of this center. And now, ten years have passed and the center continues its existence and activities with many achievements that have contributed to the development of disabled people, both spiritually and materially. It is interesting to note that most of the center’s management and staff are handicapped. However, they have shown their strong ability in managing this National Center of Disabled Persons of Cambodia with transparency and success. This indeed has gained confidence from the donors who are supporting them. Also, I noted, with satisfaction, that the management who has mobilized self support with contributions from the disabled people themselves, such as from Mr. Y Veasna and the members of the Board of Directors.
Taking this opportunity, I would like also to commend the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation for organizing this event, allowing me to get in touch and talk to our disabled compatriots.
Indeed, these successes reflect the strong determination and struggle by our disables who try hard to improve the living condition of their own and their families, as some of them work in factories, private enterprises and others work for themselves or collectively. The success also reflects the participation by the center in implementing the Rectangular Strategy of the RGC in promoting growth, employment, equity and efficiency in the public sector. Thus, I would like also to take this opportunity to thank donors, development partners and all NGOs for the supports rendered to the center so far. The RGC considers our NGOs an effective partner in the development of the country. This motivates the RGC to provide all incentives to them in serving people across the country. The RGC welcomes and encourages all NGOs to actively participate in the socio-economic development and support the enhancement of democracy and respect for human rights.
The RGC has always paid much attention on the integration of disabled people into the society so that they are entitled to all the basic human needs, especially the protection of rights such as the rights to life, education, employment and access to public places. This provides them with opportunity to fully and equitably participate in the society without any constraints and discrimination as a human right-based society accorded in the BIWAKO Millennium Employment Framework: Actions towards Integrating Disabled into the society with equal right and without restraints 2003-2012. Moreover, Cambodia will sign the agreement on the declaration on decade for disables in Asia and the Pacific Region so that to help the disables to live in the society equally with all.
Moreover, I wish to bring best regards to all disables. Once again, I acknowledge your hard work and commitment in displaying your will and determination to contribute to all aspects of life, economically, socially, politically and culturally, though with daunting challenges. On behalf of the RGC, I would declare our commitment to further eliminate the obstacles and help the disables and their families to participate and to use their potential and capability in the development of their families, their community and their nation.
Clearly, we cannot afford to marginalize the disables, because, on one hand, they are disabled for the cause of nation and motherhood, and on the other hand, they are the victims of war either of mines, diseases, accidences or birth defects. Moreover, they are vulnerable because of poverty and less opportunities for employment and earning the living. It is indeed people who are most affected by injustice are the disables. Free markets never forgive or accommodate the disables, because the real market economy requires fair competition but undermines the importance of equity in the society.
As H.E. Ith Sam Heng, MOSAVY’s Minister, has reported, so far there have been many disables who have contributed to the production or performing the works much better than normal people. The Cambodian disables are talent in arts, culture and crafts. All these skills are hardly found in normal people as the products displayed here witness. Cambodian disable athletes have competed internationally bringing medals and honor beyond our anticipation. I think any person mentally disable, physically disable or not, they could not perform as well as handicaps who have freed themselves from mental disability. Thus, I wish to emphasize that first and foremost you have to free the disables from mental disability, and the most important and initial thing that you need to give them is hope and love.
I would appeal to all of you to consider helping Cambodian handicaps to graduate themselves from disability. The society must see their ability rather than their disability and prevent disability from happening. Indeed, I mean that encouragement from the whole society to disables can make them no feeling far way from the society or feel that they have no benefits to the society and family. Indeed, to achieve this, the society has to show to each disable to understand that society and them are together and undivided. Base on this, the Royal Government, all ministries and institutions, non-governmental organizations, should consider on how the society can provide more opportunities to disables.
To realize the ability of disable person is a general idea for everybody. However, this meaning has rather special characteristic for disables than normal people. If we can provide skill to disables, it does not mean that it should be the end. In reality, in the market economy, providing skill and certificates to disables is indifferent from helping disables to have certificates hanging at their houses. This means that even they have certificates, they still cannot earn the living for their lives. As I noted above, the market economy never understand or favor for disables, but we are not able to go against the market economy by forcing the market to act as our order. Therefore, we should do a careful study that after providing vocational training to disables, we need to ponder on how can we get them into the market economy as normal people? This means that trained disables must be equal to other people and compete competitively to earn the living from this market economy. I would like to propose to the National Center of Disabled Persons of Cambodia and other training centers, including state and NGOs, to consider together on how to provide opportunities to disables.
According to the statistics of 1997 Socio-Economic Survey, Cambodia has about 200,000 disable persons, of whom 33 percent of disables is caused by diseases, 25 percent of disables is caused by birth-defect, 20 percent of disables is from war and landmines and 13 percent of disables is from accidents and other incidents. To prevent more disability, I would like to request to the Ministry of Health to strengthen the disability preventive program to every citizen through providing health care services during pregnancy, monitoring and early diagnosis on the factors leading to disability, providing preventive medicine, treating by using modern medical methods, providing physical rehabilitation on time, especially incorporating the physiotherapy and mental treatment in every Technical School of Health Care and hospital to treat patients before becoming disables.
We have been at peace all over the country. This is an important factor to drastically reduce the disability from war. However, there are still a lot of landmines that CMAC needs to continue in order to reduce the disability factor and to liberate land for the people at local area for farming to raise their living standards. In this sense, ministries/institutions and all levels of authorities must fully cooperate with each other to guarantee security, safety, social order and traffic to prevent disability from happening again.
In the present time, the government considers to change the disability concept from depending on aid to the disability concept basing on human rights because the dependence on humanitarian aid cannot be sustained in providing services, while disables do not want to depend or live on aid forever. They want to live independently by basing on their rights. Standing on this concept, the Royal Government continues to implement reforms through good governance principle by providing priority on public administrative sector; combating corruption; and reforming arm force, including demobilization; public financial reforms, land management, and natural resources; in order to save government budget and to increase spending on socio-economic sector. The government recognizes that the economic growth is still limited; therefore, humanitarian aid is still the necessary need.
At the same time, the Royal Government will continue to provide priority to expand land ownership to people that need land to build houses and family farming in the framework of socio-economic land concession by basing on the principles to help the poor families and vulnerable groups, in which the disable group has the highest priority. Indeed, the Royal Government has provided hundred of hectares of concession land at Veal Thom village, Treng Trayeung commune, Phnom Srouch village, Kompong Speu province, to about 300 families for constructing houses and farming and at the present time, the living standards of those people have been greatly improved.
On behalf of the Royal Government, I would like to express admiration to the National Center of Disabled Persons of Cambodia, which has spent all of their efforts and resources to help disables through providing jobs to hundred of disables, especially helping to find markets to sell products made by disables both domestically and internationally, which resulted in greatly improving the living standards of disables, and hope that the National Center of Disabled Persons of Cambodia will continue this track for another 10 years and hundreds of other disables will get benefits from this center, which effectively contributes to the implementation of the national reduction strategy of the Royal Government.
On behalf of the Royal Government, I would like to take this auspicious occasion to appeal as follows:
1- All disables must be brave, self-confident and industrious in learning the vocational skills and using the remaining physical ability to overcome all obstacles by basing on basic right to fully and equally participating in every activity in the society.
2- National and international organizations should continue to implement the existing programs and to expand additional programs to respond to the need of disables.
3- Every sector, especially factories, private enterprises and educational institutions must support the integration of disables by incorporating disability problem into their own activities and provide favorable condition to disables to receive training and work to the maximum.
4- NGOs and development partners must continue to help in the disability sector and issue the policy the disability sector by focusing on providing every kind of service to disables.
5- Ministries and government institutions, especially the Ministry Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation must prepare plans, policy and legal document to ensure basic rights in providing opportunities and participation of the disables in national development. In this sense, we have to quicken the adoption of Law on the Rights of Disables and preparing other legal documents and procedures to promote the effective implementation of law related to disables.
Before ending, I would like to take this opportunity to express my profound thank and admiration to all levels of staffs of theNational Center of Disabled Persons of Cambodia, staff of the national and international organizations, donors, generous people that have committed and spent all of their efforts, resources and time for the disability cause in Cambodia. Indeed, the proud achievement that the disable sector has received so far is from the joint efforts of all related stakeholders under the facilitation of the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation by strictly holding to the slogan “one society for all, one society without obstacles, one society bases on basic human rights”.
At the end, on the occasion of the coming National Khmer New Year, the Year of Dog, Buddhist calendar 2550, I am happy to wish you all, Excellencies, Ladies, Gentlemen, national and international guests, compatriots, lecturers and students with the five gems of Buddhist blessing.