Venerable Buddhist Monks,
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our Compatriots and Dear Students,
Today it is my distinct honor and pleasure to join all of you in this joyful “Fishery Day”. Today’s large gathering to witness this ceremony testifies that this is a significant new milestone in the development of Cambodia’s fishery sector. This is historic in our country of rich and diverse natural resources.
On behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia, I express deep appreciation to the management and staff of the MAFF as well as of the Department of Fisheries for organizing this very important event, the “Fishery Day”. This is an important movement to raise awareness among citizens from all walks of life about the protection, conservation and sustainable development of Cambodia’s fishery resources.
We all are aware that fish is important to the daily subsistence of each and every Cambodian. Cambodia is a fish-eating society. Fish is an easily accessible food, obtainable everywhere, in the rivers, lakes, ponds, irrigation systems and even in the rice fields. We are proud of our Beung Tonle Sap Lake with its rich stock of fish that can feed millions of people and support many whose livelihoods depend on fishing – all without relying on imported fishes. As the Khmer saying notes: “Where there is water, there the fish are.“
The Royal Government has exerted its best efforts to protecting our fishery resource to be ever-lasting through the implementation of key sector policies and measures. These include the granting of fishing rights and expanding the coverage for local communities instead of providing large concessions the big private companies that have threatened to destroy and endanger fish habitats. Indeed, the lower reaches of Beung Tonle Sap has been acutely threatened and fish habitats have decreased due to erosion and siltation caused by the clearance of flooded forests in the area.
Therefore I call on the MAFF and concerned institutions to exert your best, “your strength and spirit of love for our national natural resources”, to develop appropriate strategies and specific measures to tackle those threats and ensure the sustainability of our fishery resources.
Cambodia’s fisheries are vitally important, supporting millions of people in terms of food, income and livelihood. Together with rice, fisheries form the backbone of Cambodia’s food security accounting for 3/4 of animal protein consumption and provide invaluable revenue and employment to around 2 million people, especially among rural households that still comprise almost 90% of the country’s poor.
In fact, the contribution of ‘freshwater capture fisheries’ to the Cambodian economy and national food security is tremendous. Yet the Tonle Sap Lake communities have remained one of the poorest in the country that around 38% of the population lives below the poverty line.
Thus we must recognize the fact that Cambodia remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Pervasive poverty among the rural people has forced them to exploit the natural resources to fulfill their basic needs in unsustainable ways that have caused the degradation of natural resources and the environment.
Moreover, limited access to information and weak information technology, coupled with the lack of understanding by the public on the importance of natural resources and the environment and the concepts of sustainable development, contribute to the degradation of natural resources and constrain the formulation and implementation of a program of rational development.
To solve those problems, we must exert our best efforts to provide the right and power to rural communities so that our farmers and fishers can effectively participate in planning and programming their own activities for sustainable management of their own natural resources.
Specifically, we have embarked on reform of fisheries by reducing the coverage of concessions and enhancing access by the poor to the use of this very important resource. This is another important effort by the Royal Government in reducing poverty and promoting equitable distribution of the economic gains. Thus, we are currently implementing and expanding communal management of fishery sector via the establishment of fishery communities across the Kingdom of Cambodia.
The establishment of fishery communities has shown much promise. While some are not as satisfactory as we have instructed, it has displayed much progress in many communities, reducing conflicts to a minimum level. The management of the fishery resources has been improved, presenting a good starting point for the participatory management of the resource by local communities. Again these are among the fruits of the “win-win” policy implemented by the Royal Government in its second term.
You are all aware of the recent history of our Khmer nation, surviving from the genocide thanks to liberation of 7 January 1979. We have all worked to overcome difficulties for the cause of peace, national reconciliation, democracy and the rehabilitation and development of our country. Our survival and great patriotism have established a strong synergy and hope for Cambodia’s resurgence and revitalization.
All these great achievements are worthy of intense pride by the entire Cambodian nation in the new millennium, creating its great historical record out of the tragedy of war, isolation and uncertainty, moving forward as a free nation with solidarity to reclaim its destiny in building a nation of progress, prosperity and harmony.
Today, the strategic policies of the Royal Government are focused on the development of agriculture, moving from traditional practices to modern production, to ensure the food security for people, increased exports of farm products, promotion of agro-industries development and rural employment that will reduce poverty among our farmers. Thus, we must work even harder to increase our productivity and the quality, competitiveness and economic efficiency of the agriculture and fishery sector.
A top priority is to promote the implementation of water policy to quickly strengthen irrigation capacity, expand harvest coverage, ensure safety of ownership and use of the agricultural lands, increase research and extension activities and expand the access to both domestic and international market.
Moreover, we mush focus on enhancing education about the environment, sustainable management and use of natural resources, strengthening the management of protected areas, improving the management of ecological system of Beung Tonle Sap and the wetlands and seashore areas. These activities can be realized based on the needs and understanding of the development of natural resources and the maintenance of ecological balance and biodiversity.
At the same time, we should strengthen capacity in the management, preservation, and exploitation of forest and fishery resources, consistent with law and ensuring economic effectiveness and sustainability. We should expand dissemination of law and effectively enforce the laws on forestry and fishery to prevent and penalizing all activities meant to destroy our fishery, wildlife and forest resources.
All Cambodians should consider that the effective and sustainable management of natural resources, by linking exploitation to conservation of fishery and forestry, re-forestation, water management and environmental protection is the most important support for life itself. All natural resources are vital for daily consumption and livelihood, which is also an important front in our fight to reduce poverty among our people.
Therefore, taking this great opportunity, I call on all citizens in all areas to help preserve and protect our fishery resources in order to sustain all local communities. We must all avoid the use of destructive fishing equipment and practices such as tight nets, mosquito nets, electric tools, poison and the taking of fish eggs. These instruments and practices destroy the root of fishery resources, and eventually make fish harvests scarce. Eventually, we will lack of fish for food. Indeed, we must exert efforts to prevent abuse of fishery in the restricted season, the season of fishery reproduction.
Moreover, flooded forest areas are the necessary housing for all kinds of fish to reproduce. Therefore, we must help to preserve them. To enrich fish along rice fields and small ponds, all local areas have to develop fish shelter ponds or set aside places for conservation of reproductive fish. After giving birth, the fish will proliferate everywhere in rice fields as the fishery department has implemented in Svay Rieng and Takeo provinces.
Thus, the Department of Fisheries has to encourage the development of fishing communities and conservation areas. To ensure the sustainability of fishery resources for next generation, we must also provide training in fishery management at the national, provincial and district levels. This will require the active participation of all concerned individuals in the community.
Furthermore, all laws must be disseminated and effectively implemented as quickly as possible to ensure and protect legal rights and responsibilities of fishing communities, all aimed at ensuring the sustainable management and use of the environment and natural resources.
Moreover, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries as well as the Department of fisheries must promote alternative fish production techniques, including family fish raising in ponds and in rice fields and irrigation system in order to help reduce the over exploitation of the natural fishing areas and contribute to the enhancement of livelihoods of the poor in rural areas.
This national fishery day, and release of baby fish takes place within the period of the nationwide election campaign to choose members of parliament for the third term.
Over the last few days, the Royal Government has noticed with satisfaction the situation of peace that we all enjoy, although there were some abuses committed by politicians of some political parties. On behalf of the Royal Government, I deeply thank all Cambodian people for accepting the appeals made by the Government and the National Election Committee. Thanks to this, we have maintained a peace and order like today.
I appeal to all Cambodian people to continue the spirit of patience and understanding for the high interest of our beloved nation. I fully understand that many of our people are not happy with some politicians who swear at the Government and myself. Nevertheless, I again appeal to you to remain patient even with such scolding, and avoid any violence.
If you think it is necessary to express your opinion, comment and explanation, please do it with dignity in accordance with real democracy. Gratitude, morale, patience are the jewelry of intellectuals which represent the true and effective character of the Cambodian people. Indeed, do vote for the party which you love, without any pressure and threat.
May I also take this opportunity to appeal once again to the authorities at all levels and all the armed forces to provide good security and peace for all political parties and all candidates and people. In this way we will ensure that the elections will be free, fair and transparent without violence and threat or intimidation. I also call for all political parties to compete with dignity, legality and morality.
On behalf of the Royal Government, I would like to underline the needs of the nation and people. These are peace, democracy and development in unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity, so that our works will not be ended or destroyed by this one month long election campaign. We have much more work to do in the long-run to pursue development and poverty reduction among our people. Indeed, we really need peace and national reconciliation, so that we can continue to move forward on our long journey.
Finally, I would like to thank our friendly countries and all other international institutions which have actively participated and supported Cambodia’s agricultural development projects, especially in fisheries. Your help has been important this important fishery in the cause of development and poverty reduction of Cambodian people. May I wish all of you, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, the five Gems of Buddhist blessings.