On this occasion, in addition to his prepared text, Samdech Hun Sen informed the Cambodian people of the generous assistance provided by Japan to Cambodia and the offer recently made by the Government of Japan through HE Foreign Minister of Japan, during her stay in Cambodia for the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Partners Meeting and the ASEAN Regional Forum, to conduct a feasibility study of another bridge over the Mekong River at Neak Loueng, along the national road one. Samdech cordially thanks those involved, especially HE Japanese Ambassador Gotaro Ogawa, in making the Cambodian people’s dream of bridging east and west sides of the river comes true.
Venerable Buddhist Monks;
Your Excellency Gotaro Ogawa, the Ambassador of Japan to Cambodia;
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen;
Today I am very pleased and honored to be present at this handover of demining equipments donated by the Government of Japan, through the good offices of H.E. Ambassador Gotaro Ogawa. I am also very happy to meet once again our beloved compatriots here in Kompong Chhnang.
The donation is valued at US$6 million, and includes mine detectors, power brush cutters, vehicles, water pumps, power engines and tools. Indeed, all this equipment are important for the continuing operations of the Cambodia Mine Action Center, at a time when we urgently need to sustain mine clearance operations in the countryside.
This valuable assistance again clearly indicates the strong commitment and support by the Government and people of Japan to the task of ending the danger posed by mines. There are millions of mines left undetected across Cambodian territory due to decades of protracted war. The clearing of mines is one of the most important tasks that the Royal Government and its development partners must continue to face in order to realize for the nation and people, full physical security, now that Cambodia has already won peace and territorial unity.
Indeed, although Cambodia has enjoyed 100% peace in the last decade, the considerable number of mines that have remained hidden in the forests and the fields continue to harm our people. Each day we experience casualties to innocent people, particularly in the rural areas. These victims become disabled while others die tragic and painful deaths. Moreover these poor and vulnerable people do not have any choice but to risk their lives working in those lands where there may still be unexploded mines.
Therefore, the Royal Government has always considered demining as a top priority in the rehabilitation and development of the country, especially in the implementation of the strategy to reduce the poverty among our people. The task of demining is not just an issue of security, but it affects economic and social development as well, especially the provision of lands and safety for the poor farming families in the rural and remote areas.
H.E. the Director-General has already provided a report on demining operations. May I express my high appreciation, and congratulate the management and all the personnel of CMAC for their good performance in demining and land clearing. Indeed, these services open up land for people for their farming and other occupations, enabling them to earn their living.
Please also allow me to express, on behalf of the Royal Government and People of Cambodia, and through HE Ambassador Ogawa, our deep gratitude to the Government and People of Japan for sharing their sympathy and continuing to support mine clearance operations in Cambodia.
The efforts of the CMAC in detecting and destroying mines, combined with the efforts of the Engineering Corps of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, the HALO Trust and the Mine Action Group have achieved the reduction of the casualty rate from mines. This was discussed at the national workshop on demining programs, held in Battambang on 12 June 2003. All demining operators from across the Kingdom of Cambodia, and at all levels, participated in the workshop. I have been informed that the participants were very proud to join hands with the government to seek strategic approaches to bring the mine casualty rate down to zero.
The partnership shown by the demining agencies in Cambodia shows the strong commitment of Cambodia to the implementation of the Ottawa Convention that has now reached its fifth year. Japan has been an international leader in this regard, and has provided substantial support to Cambodia in meeting the goal of the Ottawa Convention on the “ban on use, stock and transfer of anti-human mines and the destruction of all kind of mines“.
We have been briefed by the Cambodian mission to Geneva that in May 2003, the Cambodian mission discussed with H.E. the Japanese Ambassador in Geneva the information that the Government of Japan has decided to provide an additional US$120 million to support a special program on social security that links economic and humanitarian issues. Indeed, Japan has been one of the closest development partners of Cambodia. Cooperation between Japan and Cambodia has covered almost all sectors and have been very productive. In addition to the considerable funding for mine clearance operations provided since October 1998, the Government of Japan has supported the CMAC in organizing international workshops on mine issues. In March 2003 Japan also contributed to the hosting by CMAC of a Regional Workshop.
The cooperation between Cambodia and Japan in mine clearance began since 1994. Japan has since emerged as a most important leader in the implementation of the Ottawa Convention. Today, we should all be proud to note that the Royal Government of Cambodia, represented by myself as the Chairman of the Cambodia Mine Authority, will share with Japan the honor of co-chairing the Standing Committee on Mine Clearance Operations, Awareness Program on Mines and the Technology for Mines Action. This we have been informed by the Chairperson of the
Fifth Congress of the Ottawa Signatories to be held in September 2003.
May I also take this opportunity to congratulate the Cambodian Mine Authority for its efforts in performing its function as the regulatory institution for mine action in Cambodia. It this way it ensures coordination and cooperation among all operators and monitors all mine action in the Kingdom of Cambodia.
It is expected that the Mine Authority must successfully perform the following activities: (i) formulation of national strategic plan and standards for mines action; (ii) prioritization of use of cleared lands; (iii) ensure compliance with international laws, conventions and accords on the ban on mines, (iv) reporting and documentation standards for all operators to ensure accuracy and timeliness of statistics; and (v) monitoring and inspection on operators and lands cleared from mines. Moreover, the strengthening of the Mine Action Database Center based on international standards of information management will improve the overall management and planning of demining operators.
These key activities led by the Mine Authority attest to the strong commitment of the Royal Government of Cambodia in ensuring the appropriate, accountable and transparent use of assistance from development partners.
Given these specific achievements resulting from the hard work of the Mine Authority, and to enable all operations to move forward, I urge all donors to transform their pledges into timely flows of assistance to the CMAC and mine action in Cambodia. As you all aware, the Royal Government has made a strong commitment to strengthen the CMAC to become the national operator on demining. At the same time we will strengthen the regulatory system headed by the Mine Authority. The goal of the Royal Government is to effectively implement Cambodia’s obligations under the Ottawa Convention.
Indeed, the strengthening of the Mine Authority is an appropriate response to international recognition under the UN umbrella, of the necessity for any country affected by mines to organize a national mechanism charged with mine action. Such will improve the capacity of national operators for the ultimate purpose to meet the objectives of the sector with safety, transparency and effectivity, ultimately to save lives and contribute to poverty reduction and national development.
On this special and happy occasion, please allow me once again to express our gratitude to development partners who have contributed to mine action in Cambodia, including: Australia, Belgium, Canada, the European Union, Finland, France, Germany, Holland, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the USA, the UNDP and UNICEF, and many others, to whom I apologize if I have failed to mention.
Once again, on behalf of the Royal Government and people of Cambodia, I call on the international community to continue to provide assistance for mines clearance. This is an important international humanitarian mission that truly responds to the needs of the people. Finally, I wish you all the five gems of Buddhist Blessings.