During the opening of the International Association of Francophone Mayors (IAFM) Conference in Phnom Penh, Samdech Hun Sen made the following selected ad-lib comments on the real situation of Cambodia and special relations between Cambodia and French leaders.
… In regard of the topic “Decentralization and Development,” I think it would be nice if I could provide you some knowledge of Cambodia. The situation (of Cambodia) in 1979 was different from today. Everyone who came to visit Cambodia would have two different feelings in their minds. First, once they arrived at Cambodia they would feel immediately that what they see to their own eyes is not similar to what they have seen in press reports. I used to say that we have two different Cambodias. One Cambodia exists in peace and development and another Cambodia reported one by the press is a frightful, mined and war place. Second, once they arrived at the Phnom Penh International Airport or other entrances to Cambodia, they would immediately observe the livelihood of the Cambodian people that is similar to those of other people on earth.
… Despite the fact that the present Cambodia has got everything as a lively city, may I have your attention that on January 07, 1979, when we liberated the city from the Pol Pot’s genocide, this city at that time was empty and we had counted to have less than a hundred people. It was a frightful moment. The city park that you have seen was before a field of coconut trees and I would not hesitate to argue that it is unprecedented in the late 20th century. After the liberation (on January 7, 1979) we continued to face with unfair embargo from outside, while the genocide regime was making great efforts to return to power.
… I travelled to many countries and many times in my capacity as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs. If we exclude Europe, Asia and Latin America, we should at least mention Africa, where French is spoken, like Congo, Mali, Guinea, etc. None of them suffered the same ill fate as Cambodia did. Every city in Cambodia became ghost cities. Cambodia became country without city, market, school and cash. We have started building our country from scratch. Talking about this I do not forget to thank HE Mayor of Paris and colleagues for selecting Cambodia as a meeting place for its conference. It is an honour and a great experiment to see how we rebuild our city.
… I wish to express my sincere thanks to former Mayor Jacque Chirac, the present President of France, for the decision he made despite our two countries were in absence of diplomatic relations in contributing gradually some materials for the benefit of keeping the city clean. We have accepted even the second-hand waste trucks. As of present the city has evolved from under 100 city dwellers to over one million. When there were not many dwellers it was difficult, but when there are too many we also have so many problems to deal with. That is the agenda about which we will have to discuss. As of today we have assistance from France, Japan and other big donors. But before those assistance came, we had had so much problems. How we went about the drainage system that was not in proper use and care between 1975 and 1979 were serious questions. Everyone in those days had to fetch water from the Mekong for household consumption. That is why I would say we have both good and bad examples for your knowledge and I would expect many questions to be asked in relation to this. As you are going to go to Siemreap the day after tomorrow, you would have a chance to appreciate our cultural heritage
… As you might have the feeling that Cambodia does not seem to have a misfortune past, I would inform all of you that today the UN delegation would arrive at Phnom Penh for a negotiation with the Royal Government in the preparation of an agreement on the trial of the genocide. I have waited 24 years already for such a trial. Sometimes it has been too long, but we have to wait for justice to be done. When we liberated ourselves from Pol Pot, no one would jump in to help us, but there was support for the Polpotists to remain in the UN and punishment on us. But the UN is here today to negotiate with us to try the Polpotists. I have to be patient and waited from when I was 27 to over 50 to see justice is in the making. I hope that the negotiation between the United Nations and the Royal Government would be a success in search of justice for our people. There are many genocide sites and if you could find time, there are some in Phnom Penh, and going to see them would give you a long imagination how the Cambodians overcome their past and reenergize their survivals…