At the above mentioned inauguration ceremony, Samdech Hun Sen has addressed the people in Kompong Bay District on local development and the incident that happened in Phnom Penh on Wednesday 29, 2003.
… Today I have a great pleasure for returning to Kompot again to celebrate with all of you here the inauguration of the Buddhist temple as well as other achievements in the pagoda of Troey Koh. I could remember well that since late 2001 to the present, this is my eighth visit to the province and there will be more in the future. Just now the venerable monk from Chum Kriel pagoda said to me he would like my presence and I will jot that down. I wish to thank all those involved in and contributed to the construction of the temple, which cost US$ 250,000 and Riel 234 million. It is a big amount of money, and I have contributed only two school buildings of ten classrooms and they all are inaugurated today together. Though what we are doing today is the achievements in the Buddhist world, but in Cambodia I noted there is a unity of various religions – Buddhism, Islam and Christianity. They all greet one another’s achievements and it is worth mentioning that they all were reborn in Cambodia after the fall of the Khmer Rouge on January 7, 1979, before which no religions were allowed to be practiced. That is why I would like to take this opportunity to express to everyone my sincere thanks and appreciation for such a unity and I also appreciate this effort as a movement that is stemming out of each person, family, commune, district and province and they mobilize into a national level efforts in realizing these achievements.
… Four years of complete peace throughout the country has brought about an opportunity in which everyone could do whatever s/he wants to in relation to one’s life and take for instance this pagoda is striving to make known to all again after the destruction it encountered in the war period between 1970 and 1975, and the worst destruction of all in between 1975 and 1979 – the Khmer Rouge era. I wish to thank the local authority of all levels for their efforts in overcoming various difficulties in time of floods as well as of droughts. Kompot the sole salt making area of Cambodia and in the year 2000 we could not produce sufficient salt for the country’s consumption because there were too much rains. But in 2001 and 2002 we have produced salt more than planned. But I wish to take this opportunity to appeal to salt producers to add iodine into the products for the sake of our people’s health so we have to make our salt in Kompot a standard iodized salt. We have gathered here today for this event but it is coinciding with the Chinese New Year time and we also have some of our people celebrating the event. I wish them a happy new year and best wishes.
… May I asked the permission from the venerable monks of Troey Koh and our people to take this forum to present some of my opinions with regard to the recent event that was taking place in Phnom Penh so that our people could understand. You may all know about this incident in Phnom Penh, where there was violence ignited by a group of extremists with an aim to create a rift in the Thai-Cambodian relations while stirring up internal instability. The violence did not stem from the national culture issue but from the spread of lies of death of our Cambodian citizens in the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok. There have been comments that the incident was ignited by my comments in Kompong Cham in relation to a Thai actress. But one should take notice that the problem with this (Thai actress) had occurred months ago, and the efforts to create havoc from the situation had been planned no less than a year. Rumors of comments made by the Thai actress had been for months but it started to grow serious in the last few weeks.
… In Koh Kong, during the inauguration of a zoo, I had made an address that focused on the importance of the need for good relations between Cambodia and Thailand. But the comments did not help assuage the public’s restlessness so an intervention is necessary aimed at firstly to limit the problem to comments of an individual and not the sentiment of the whole nation, and secondly to delineate those who support the Royal Government from the extremist group. That was the intention of making comments on the matter in Kompong Cham. The result was that we had succeeded in reducing the number of people who participated in the violence and only a small group of extremists were involved. So what I said was a step in preventing a widespread situation. Unfortunately at 14:30 on February 29, there was this circulation of an e-mail message that the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok was invaded and 20 diplomatic officials had been killed by decapitation, etc. This instigated violence against Thai embassy and other Thai business sites. There were questions that why the Royal Government reacted incompetently. There were two reasons. First, we did not have knowledge of provocative news about the attack and killing of the Cambodian citizen in Thailand. Second, when the lack of information brought about widespread violence, we could not take the measure of killing demonstrators as that would shed the Cambodian blood once again. If we were to do so perhaps up to the moment we might still have to have tanks and armored vehicles standby in the streets and I would not have time to come to Troey Koh for the inauguration as well. Because of this decision none of the Thais or Cambodians was killed except that over 50 Cambodian police were injured by stone thrown by the demonstrators.
… Having said so we may ask who stands to lose from the incident. It was not the Thais alone but the one who bear greater loss is Cambodians. While we have to compensate for the loss and damage, we also lost employment for our people as factories, companies and hotels closed down. All hotels pay money on a daily basis to the Government, take for instance the Government enjoys VAT, the visa tax, landing fees at the airport, etc… Bilateral trading has come to a damaging state. Friendship that we have built over years and has reached a top level has been ruined. I wish to explain our people why we have to pay the compensation to the embassy. Some of our people do not know this. Any embassy in our country, or the consulate in any provinces of ours, could not be violated. It is the sovereign territory. Without permission from the owner, no one has to right to step in at all. We also have our sovereign territory in the center of Bangkok, Hanoi, Washington, New York, etc. We have to compensate according to the 1961 Geneva Convention. That is why the Royal Government declared to pay compensation without condition. So we have set up a special commission waiting to hear from Thai side and compensate over whatever they request. So I wish to appeal to all our people that from now on not only the Thai embassy but embassy or consulate of whatever country has to be respected.
… On the other front, we also have to evaluate and compensate over the loss and damage for not only the Thai companies but also any foreign investment that suffered damages. We have to set up a commission for the evaluation and comparison of the damages so that the loss figures and the demanded-compensation figures are not exaggerated. So it is seen that those foreign companies are in ruins but as a matter of fact it is we who bear all the costs and losses. We have to cut our national budget for the compensation and it is our people who bear the burden. The extremists ignited the problems, but the whole Cambodian people are burdened with compensation. So I wish to inform you that the budget generated from taxes and other incomes that are planned to be used in building roads and bridges, schools, and hospitals will be used instead to compensate. This is no difference to 2000 and 2001 when we had severe flooding and we had to divert our resources to save our people.
… Normally the demonstration should be less tense by night but it was on the contrary growing bigger because there was a radio station in Phnom Penh that fuels the tension by its broadcast that there was this killing of Cambodians in Bangkok. Our culture of peace has devaluated. The fact that Thaksin Shinawatra and Hun Sen are good partners as proven in the cooperation to organize with success the ASEAN Summit, the Greater Mekong Sub-region(GMS) Summit. No success could be realized without the contribution of HE Thaksin. During the incident in Phnom Penh I was on call with him three times to find ways how the situation could be resolved. I wish to mention here that maybe some people do not think that we know where they were in their car and at which point they coordinated (the riots). It is worth noting that they should not find someone else as a culprit to their action. I would not say it out who might they be, but named them the extremists. Some of them have been detained and would be brought to trial.
… The Cambodia people have the rights to gather to express their opinions but they have to refrain from going into violent acts. The Royal Government respects the expression of one’s rights only when they are not in the form of violence. Violence is outlawed. It is wrong not only in terms of secular but also Buddhist world. No religion instructs its followers to inflict upon other persons. Let me recall that our regime is pluralistic and democratic and our people have the right to express themselves. Taking this opportunity I would like to make the following remarks:
First, I wish to express my sincere thanks to the contribution made by our people in assuaging the incident that took place. Some people were blamed by the rioters for preventing them from putting fires on some buildings. Because they could not attract our people’s participation, the number of rioter was small. This contribution has successfully prevented the incident from expanding into conflict between nations. It also effectively delineates those who support the Government and Hun Sen from those extremists. Of course we could not foresee the agitating forces but we at least could keep our people from joining them and this was a positive contribution. Thanks to this, stability could quickly be recovered in all fields. There have not been negative impacts on tourist activities in Siemreap.
Second, I wish to thank all of our institutions and the local authorities of all levels, especially the police, the armed forces of all sorts for their efforts to prevent the situation from getting worse, and some of them have been wounded for the sake of rescuing lives of the Thais and protecting them to safety. So the event did not cause any life casualty to the Thais. They all could leave safely, though of course in fear. But we also noted that some companies specialized in road building or hotel construction, who decided to stay, they did stay in safety. One other factor they have diverted death casualty among the demonstrators in face of the extremist attacks. So I would request HE Ke Kim Yan and the Police and Military Police Heads to visit those wounded for the sake of protection of national dignity and political stability, while keeping the size of destruction to a level that is controllable. This helps increase confidence for the return of normalcy.
Third, I wish to thank HM the King and Samdech Preah Reach Akkemohesei for the positive advice they gave to allay the situation and restore the two countries’ relations thanks to the good relations between HM the King of Cambodia and HM the King of Thailand. I am grateful to these actions in favor of the betterment of the situation.
As for the Thai side, I would like to take this forum to:
First, thank the Thai investors, both those who left and those who stay, for their business operation in Cambodia, for their understanding to the difficult situation that was faced by the Royal Government of Cambodia. The difficulty had been unbearable inside but you have taken a good manner by not expressing your anger on the Government and people of Cambodia. The Royal Government thanks them for the action they have taken so far and is waiting to cooperate to process the request for compensation.
Second, thank the Thai people for not invading the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok in retaliation to what had happened in Phnom Penh. There was in fact a demonstration in Bangkok against the Cambodian embassy but the demonstrators did not retaliate by putting fire on the embassy of Cambodia. I am thankful to the Thai people in this regard and for the fact that they do not consider the riot in Phnom Penh as inflicted by the Government or the people of Cambodia, but a small group of extremists.
Third, express my sincere thanks to all the Thai authorities for the effective measures they have taken in protection of the Cambodian embassy and the people of Cambodia in Thailand.
Fourth, thank HE Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and the Royal Government of Thailand for the understanding and patience given to what happened in Phnom Penh. We have processed and sent to HE Prime Minister of Thailand an AIDE MEMOIRE that clearly reflects the three points. Tomorrow I will dispatch HE Foreign Minister Hor Namhong to Bangkok in his name as Foreign Minister and my special envoy to meet with his Thai counterpart, Prime Minister and HM the King. We have a common objective that is to live in peace and to make no enemy with anyone, and these should be the point from which our two countries’ relations could be quickly restored. A country could develop only when it possesses internal stability and good international relations.
Together with our people, I have striven with efforts to put out and implement the triangle strategy with one angle to attain peace inside the country, one angle to integrate Cambodia into regional and world communities and the last angle to usher in socio-economic development and poverty reduction efforts. Now we have suffered a setback in our relations with Thailand so we have to redress the situation while satisfying the investor’s confidence so that they return to business in Cambodia. We should refrain from inflicting damages to investors coming from outside. But the extremists could do anything for their short-term interest, and neglecting the long-term one.
Fifth, finally express my sincere thank to HM the King of Thailand for the direct intervention to ease tension despite the fact that his portrait was were torn and thrown to the ground. I wish to thank for his message sent with senior officials to the incident place and broadcast on TV and Radio with an aim to bring the situation under control. I also hope the international community, who have followed the situation so far would understand the situation.
Samdech Hun Sen contributed Riels 20 million to the fund-raising ceremony to build a public shed, Riel 33 millions for the finishing of the temple, offered to build school building with five classrooms for use as maternity school, renovate three rural roads by 32,700 tons of food for work, one school building with six classrooms in the Primary School of Sovansakor, Riel 10 million each to three pagodas and a trip to Siemreap by 254 pedagogical students.