… First of all my wife and I would like to express our profound pleasures for being together with our compatriots in this area, which I considered the most saddening in our lives but the proudest in our history to liberate the country. I wish to offer my special thanks to HE Khi Tainlim, Minister of Transports and Public Works, for the selection of the village of Kdol of Tunloung commune to celebrate the groundbreaking ceremony today giving me a chance to meet with those whom I could recognized. Though it is impossible to find time to have tete-a-tete talking with each one of you, it is still a rare opportunity for my wife and I to be able to return to the area from which we have so many memories. This area could also said to have been isolated after the war in 1970s.
… According to the report by HE Minister Khi Tainglim, the part of the national road 7, between Memot of Kompong Cham to Snuol of Kratie, with the length of 45 kilometers is segregated into three parts for the sake of quickening the reconstruction procedures. The first 15 Kilometers from Memot to this place is given by bidding to Muhhiba that has started its work since December 2001. The company would finish its work by December 2003. The total length of project implementation is 24 months. The second part is the part on which we celebrate the groundbreaking ceremony today for another 15 Kilometers. The China Geo Company has been given by bidding the task to rebuild this part of the road length. The project duration is also set to be 24 months. As far the third part of the length is concerned, and it is connected to Snuol of Kratie province, another company has been given by bidding the task to reconstruct within the same 24 months period.
… Taking this opportunity I would like to express my appreciation to the efforts made by the Ministry of Transports and Public Works as well as related authorities, for the successful bidding and the starting of a number of construction sites. This effort contributes to the linking and integrating of the central land to the country’s northeastern part… Before we celebrated the groundbreaking of the construction of the part between Thnol Totoeung and Memot district, for which Muhhiba Comapny is given the task to implement the construction. We also had inaugurated the Kizuna Bridge across the Tonle Bet from the city of Kompong Cham to its eastern side of the river. We then conducted the groundbreaking ceremony from Tonle Bet to Thnol Totoeung – all by the Japanese assistance. Simultaneously we have celebrated the groundbreaking ceremony to rebuild the part of the national road 7 between the town of Kratie and Snuol of the same province. We then had to find assistance to finish up the gap between Memot and Snuol. I wish to take this time to express my regret that this length of 45 Kilometers has taken a great deal of time.
… I wish to clarify that the financing of the construction project here provided by OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for whom the bidding procedures take quite some time. It is no different to the Khmer saying that goes – coming late is better than not coming at all, or late to build is still better than not to build at all. This area is benefiting from the fruit of development later than anywhere else since the area like Anlong Veng, the last stronghold of the Khmer Rouge, has already had road links to Siemreap, Banteay Srei, etc. as they were built by the engineering team of the Cambodian armed forces.
… We now have road link between Tonle Bet (of the Mekong River at Kompong Cham) to the town of Kratie. HE Minister Khi Tainglim has just mentioned a strong belief that the Government of the People’s Republic of China would offer grant or non-interest loan of long grace period, for the construction of the length from Kratie to Stoeung Treng and on to the border of Cambodia and Laos. Another road linking Stoeung Treng and Ratanakiri and from Ratanakiri province to the border with Vietnam is under negotiation with Vietnam. After we built all these roads, we would achieve a status of a powerful dragon. When I compare Cambodia to a powerful dragon, I mean that we have Preah Sihanoukville, the deep seaport of Cambodia, as the head of dragon. The head of dragon is linked by the national road 4 to Phnom Penh, by the national roads 6 and 7, the whole of which should be considered as the dragon’s body, on to its tail at the border of Cambodia and Laos. This metaphor would see this setup as an economic potential for the Kingdom of Cambodia and it should be seen as a marvelous belt of defense of its border for the people of Cambodia as it would help in developing areas along the border.
… Needless to say that this area has a great land potential but it is difficult still to lure our people to set up their settlements here. Talking about other infrastructures, I have offered this area in all 42 school-buildings of 224 classrooms. But I learned that in one of my five-classroom school building, in Beng Kaong about five Kilometers from here, only three classrooms are in use. Why is it so? It is just the bad road condition that is to blame. We have too many people settled in the plain area along the Mekong River and they overpopulated beyond our land availability. But in highland areas we have land but insufficient number of people. So if we were to put in more schools or hospitals, we would not be able to cope up with local need as if we were to provide them with better road access.
… Just now HE Khi Tainglim transliterated from Pali that Phlov Thnol (road) is Phlov Dal (arrive by road) then he whispered to me “national reunion.” In fact the national reunion has been our efforts in the last four years after this country was brought to many fractions. Let me take this opportunity to explain why I asked for an apology. A number of people and foreigners alike would not be aware of a history of misfortune of our people in the districts of Snuol, Memot and Ponhea Krek. They could be rated as the most severely destructed districts by the wars in Cambodia. Let me recall some of the facts from the past in relation to the evolvement of this area.
… March 18, 1970, our people in the Kdol village could have recall that we had an Ayai (dialogue in poem by two singers) performance (by the Smien Yong singing team) in the pagoda. As the Ayai was going on, I heard on the radio with three or four other young men that the assembly in Phnom Penh decided to strip Samdech Sihanouk off his duty as head of state. It was a coup but they worded their action that way. I felt sad and many of my friends came to me and asked why did I looked so sad… All I responded at that time was that our country would be heading into war as they took Samdech Ov (Samdech father) out of his duty. What I heard on the radio was a starting point. I remember that we youngsters went to discuss our plan in front of a shed for public access. Our group of more than ten people were divided into three smaller groups. I could recall that it was March 24. On the night of March 23 I listened to the Beijing radio and followed the appeal of Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk for the Cambodian people to flee into the maquis to join the national liberation movement. After a long discussion, one group decided to go to town, while another decided to stay home. Another group decided to enter the maquis. And the latter group has more in numbers. As far as I could recall finally the first two groups also joined us in the maquis…
… I left this area on April 14 (the Khmer New Year) after we had a nice popular dance over the night in the pagoda of Kdol. There were in all about 300 people who took to the maquis around an area called O Sampauch. It was another turning point in my life. I remember that this area was inhabited by the Stieng minority, who, because I like to teach the Khmer scripts, called me teacher. After training in the forest, we were sent to fight and take a barrack in Snuol. On May 1, 1970, foreign troops had entered in great number into the three districts. Take for instance, as I could remember, in a place called Kbal Trach of Snuol district, there were hundreds of tanks and helicopters placed along the road. Also were in action were B52 and various sorts of aircraft. There were hundreds of tanks in just dozens of kilometers of road. They all used this road. Nothing could endure them. At that time the road was 4.2 meters wide and asphalted. Now we are enlarging it to 11 meters…
… By August of the same year I was sent from Snuol back to Kompong Cham. When I was in Snuol I was head of a platoon with 36 soldiers under my supervision. I was then 18 years. After a number of fighting there left only 16 in my platoon. I was then degraded from the platoon head to the team leader. After recruitment was made to fill in the number required for the platoon, I was ordered to come to Memot again to stay at the house of Mr. Him, a forest controller. At that time there was a conflict between the district head and the district military commander. Seeing the situation was getting worse I moved my platoon in escape to Kratie but was stopped at Kdol. I had to stay in Kdol for a while. That was how I had had involvement with Kdol in the past. It was a starting point of the struggle for the national liberation under the leadership of Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk.
… After April 17, 1975 I was wounded in one of my eyes and was hospitalized. My unit was sent here and was upgraded as a regiment. By end of 1975 I returned to this place and was posted as chief of staff of the regiment. The headquarters was in the village of Chhay or presently called Koh Thmor. I had a sad memory here with my wife. On January 1, 1976, at midnight I was told to marry with somebody. I had to rush to see the family (of Bun Rany.) I remember that my wedding day was January 5, 1976 and it was the day when Pol Pot issued a draft constitution of the Democratic Kampuchea. It was also the day when the then President of the People’s National Congress of China Chu Teuk passed away. Three days after the marriage, I took my wife home but I was not allowed to share bed with her because they did not know that I had married with her. So it was quite a tormented memory. In November 1976, my wife lost a child. Blood came out of my wife’s mouth and the child was dead. I had asked the commander to get my child buried but was refused. Though I was a regiment head, I possessed no power to rebuke that brutal commander. What I did in that situation was wise because I did not shoot him out of anger otherwise I would have been an assassin and would have had no possibility to save our country at all.
… One other event was on June 20, 1977 – it was the day when I decided to leave the Khmer Rouge and launch a struggle openly against Pol Pot. My second child, who has finished his study in the Military Academy at West Point and is currently continuing his study abroad, took birth in the village of Koh Thmar. When I appeared to join the national salvation front it was on the territory of Snuol bordering with Memot. The history of the struggle to liberate the country has recorded this area to be the first but unfortunately the construction of roads in this area comes late. Just now the venerable head monk of the Kdol pagoda blessed me to be Prime Minister after the elections in 2003. This will depend completely on voters. If they would like me to be Prime Minister, they may vote for me or they do it otherwise. This would make democracy work in Cambodia. The first-term Government also had a wish to rebuild the road in this area but there was issue of insecurities as there were activities of the Khmer Rouge and some bandits. On top of being the difficult access area, it also is plagued by high rate of malaria.
… When I made progress in forming up armed forces at the border and sent them inside the country, Ung Samkhan was the one who led them along this corridor, which is the easiest access. Upon my return, I moved closer to Kdol and Koh Thmei to set up contacts. Some of our forces had been sent through to launch activity in Kompong Cham setting up links with our contacts in Chhlong district and Kratie. When the 203 regional forces rose up against the Khmer Rouge under the leadership of Samdech Heng Samrin and Samdech Chea Sim, these forces had connected through to Memot. In other words we could say that this area was a liberated zone since 1978. The Khmer Rouge forces had no ability to operate in this area and not far from here was the place where the national front was openly declared.
… We have left the road in bad condition for a bit too long but I am sure that after the construction is finished different areas in this region will be well connected. HE Khi Tainglim just mentioned that starting from Chroy Changva, we have the Cambodia-Japan Friendship Bridge, the national road 6A, the national road to Kompong Cham, the Kizuna Bridge, and part of national road 7 between the Kizuna Bridge and Thnol Toteoung were all built with the Japanese assistance. From Thnol Totoeung to Memot was built with the ADB assistance, from Memot to Snuol with the funding by OPEC and from Snuol to Kratie by ADB. As for the part between Kratie and the Cambodian-Lao border, we are expecting the assistance from the People’s Republic of China. I wish that Madame Charge d’Affairs will help facilitate the decision making by HE Prime Minister Zhu Rongji when he come to conduct official visit and participate in regional meeting in Cambodia.