… Today I have a great pleasure for being able to participate in the inauguration of the Sunrise Children Village, which shows that though they have no parents, children have not been left unattended. The village management and the villagers nearby have provided them with care. Participation of the Buddhist monks and people from nearby areas proves that they really care for our children.
… Let me recall the historic development of the current Sunrise Children Village. Ms Geraldine Cook has already mentioned a number of points already in her address in Khmer. She first came to Cambodia in 1970 and was very impressed of the country. Followed by internal rifts and wars, she had set up a children center in Site B (refugee) camp along the Thai-Cambodian border. From then she had had to relocate her center eight times already before she came to this stabilized place. Ms Geraldine Cook has taken the Cambodian nationality on 15 of December 1999. It is right for her to have addressed the ceremony in Khmer because one of the criteria to become the Cambodian citizen is to speak Khmer.
… I could recall that Ms Geraldine Cook, as an Australian citizen, had come to meet me in 1998 requesting for an immediate intervention in protection of center management and orphans after the armed conflict in the area. We took care of her proposal and she came to see me again in 1999. At that time she came with the children in her center. I was pleased to have seen that despite enjoying foreign assistance and instruction, the Cambodian children could dance beautiful Khmer traditional dances beyond my expectation. I offered my appreciation without any reserve to her for the consideration she placed in this matter. Secondly she impressed me when she said that “you are a strongman and I am a strong lady.” Five minutes after our exchanges her eyes were full with tear and I could feel that she had been excited and overjoyed.
… In face of her difficulty in finding a site for the center, I had then three options in mind. First I would offer her a piece of land here, second I would find a piece of land some where else and third I would cut a part of about two hectares from the land that belong to my bodyguard unit for her together with a few buildings. But she was very happy and overjoyed with the first option without having to listen to my other two … I then instructed my colleagues to take her to see the location. It is a ten-hectare size land. I had confidence in making this decision because if in the most difficult situation she could raise fund to help the center, she would be more capable in doing so in a normal situation.
… Ten hectares is quite an appropriate size as in the near future there may be more children her center extends service to and more donors may want to offer assistance. If vocational training center of some kind could be set up here, it would be beneficial not only for the children in the center but also those in the villages nearby. As far as land is concerned I wish to give my resolute decision. She has now become a Cambodian national at my initiative and His Majesty the King approved the proposal and based on this development we have leased out the land to her for fifty year for free. As this has complicated a number of our laws, I think that we now should offer the provisional ownership to a permanent title for the center. This should be helpful when Ms Geraldine has to go to donors and could clear out donors’ concerns in terms of land ownership. This could be said that the Government provides 10 hectares of land as its counterpart fund to her project. May the Ministry of Land Management, Construction and Urbanization and the concerned local authorities transfer the ownership from the current contract to her.
… As now the center is in a secure place and has become an appropriate place for our orphans, we would not let them be desperate anymore. We have done something similar to this center in a number of places in Kandal province like in the districts of Angsnuol and Kandalstoeung… The fact that I have recommended this location is because I have a vision that it would become an urban area before long. We may argue about small road passing by here, but with the Asian Development Bank financial loan, the construction of the road is starting while the engineering team and the provincial public service are asphalting it from the Vietnam-Cambodian border end. Once the road is finished we may fulfil our wish of purchasing electricity from Vietnam. So this area would then become an urban area.
… I wish to take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks to Ms Geraldine Cook as well as Madame Ambassador of Australia and other generous fellows in making this center shaping up and I hope you all will continue to provide assistance to the center. I also wish to express my thanks to the territorial authorities at all levels and the people in the center’s vicinity for their supports and encouragement in our efforts to provide care to these orphans. This is a gesture of respect for dignity of human being and human rights. I also have to thank my bodyguard unit for the efforts they made in providing help in the center’s relocation and protection since the incident in 1997.
… I tend to agree with HE Ith Sam Heng, Minister of Social Affairs, that getting the center established is indeed difficult but what is more demanding is the sustainable management of the center. I hope that those of you representing the donor community here today would not let these kids starving. As HE Ith Sam Heng had mentioned, I also have provided personal assistance on a monthly basis to a number of orphanages in rice as well as in money in addition to the assistance provided by the Government. As I addressed to the second national conference on HIV/AIDS, by 2010 we may have to be prepared for the loss of 23,000 persons of labor forces from HIV/AIDS. This figure is frightening because it is equal to the labor forces of four provinces – Ratanakiri, Stoeungtreng, Mundulkiri and Sihanoukville – combined. How many orphan children would be left for us to take care of? In addition to this, we also have people died of traffic accidents, diseases and mines.
… In our country we have problem of orphans to take care of as in other countries they have problem of lonely elders to tackle. The children always take care of their elders as a tradition. As we are in the period of Pchum Ben (Donation for the Ancestors) I wish to recall a Buddhist teaching that goes “donation should be first made to the living Buddhas at home.” Who are they? They are our mothers and fathers. Once the good food is prepared, the living Buddhas at home have to be fed first… In addition to that we have to be clear between sin and merit. Some people committed harm outside the Buddhist temple and tried to be blessed by offering the best food and services to the Buddhist monk in the pagoda. Committed sin outside pagoda could not be repaid by behaving well in pagoda. As for the offering, the Buddhist monks have to accept offerings by all no matter what quantity or quality they may be.
… Let me express my impression about the live music program. In some of our TV live music programs, it is unbearable to see accompanying dancers jumping up and down in a in a peculiar way. This is not to mention the way they dressed. May all of us make efforts in preserving our culture and tradition… Another concern is the lack of rain. Normally by the 7th day of the Pchum Ben, we have lots of rain and as of today we are still waiting for rain in many places. HE Minister of Agriculture Chan Sarun reported that we have cultivated rice in only 1.5 million hectares out of the projected 2 million hectares. It has been three years consecutively, and this year we have drought as well. 43 communes have yet to have rain so our cultivation is slow and the yield would also be less. The Royal Government, the Non-Governmental Organization and the local authorities of all levels have to combine efforts to help our people in drought affected areas…