… I have a great pleasure for having a chance to be with all of you to inaugurate the hall of common in the Preah Chi Thom pagoda. May I seek your apology for the postponement of my presence to this ceremony from last week because it felt on the Chinese New Year, which is commonly practiced by the Chinese-Cambodians, especially those reside along the Mekong River, like the district of Srey Santhor. It has become a common practice that our country celebrates New Year at three different times – the International New Year, the Chinese New Year and Cambodian New Year according to the lunar calendar.
… We meet today to put into use a hall of common which I could say is relatively large at 46 meters by 26 meters and costs up to US$ 170,000 and Riels 16.6 million. Taking a glance from the helicopter I see that the hall is a beautiful one. As long as I see that there is a building shaping up I admire and congratulate no matter if I have made a contribution to it or not. Some people do not know a thing of how to do it but are good at advising and finding faults. The same is true in politics in which there are people who just speak and point their fingers at things. We all should be of conviction that whether making a contribution or not to the process, one may enjoy and congratulate the achievements.
… Taking this opportunity I wish to thank HE Suon Sitthi and Madame, Mr. Ut Soklai and Madame and all Buddhist parishioners present here today for their contribution in making the pagoda a sacred place. Taking the history of the pagoda into consideration, according to the Great Khmer Heroes Documentation (Eksa Moha Boros Khmer), the place used to be a prosperously developed area since the Srey Sokunbath era (1504). At that time, there was a monk who became Samdech Somethea Thibadei resided in a pagoda called Sdey Thom, where Sdech Kan was brought up as a follower. It is also worth saying that the pagoda must have been developed greatly under the Samgkum Reastr Niyum period. If there was not the political event of March 18, 1970, when a coup was launched against the then Head of State Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk, we probably have no need to rebuild this hall of common. If the leadership of Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk were to continue from 1970 through to 2004, we could predict how much progress we could have. In between the crusade for independence to November 9, 1953, and there after the formation of the Sangkum Reastr Niyum, scores of achievement had been realized. If the Long Nol group did not overthrow Samdech Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk, about 34 years already, our country might have been fast developed as the neighbouring countries.
… In this regard one might say if it were not because of the March 18, 1970, there were not to be April 17, 1975, there were not to be January 07, 1979 and that is a chain of history. The consequence left by the Pol Pot regime has been two great effects – the war aftermath and the killings. Though numerous achievements had been scored and left by Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk in 1970, they were mostly destroyed in the rural areas – take for instance the paper factory in Chhlong of Kratie. If the factory were to operate until the present day, Cambodia would not have to import paper for local consumption but also to export to foreign countries as well. The rubber plants in Chub and Mehmot of Kompong Cham were demolished completely, and on top of this we had most of our rice fields under mines and unexploded ordnances. Take for instance we finished de-mining a segment of mined area for the construction of a road to Anlong Veng. But General Pol Saroeun told me after his visit to the area that there are more mines lying deep underneath the paved segment. This means we will have to increase spending in this field as the Thai authority is providing a road from the (Thai-Cambodian) border to Banteay Srey temple via the said area.
… Worse still, the killing of millions of people made the country have a difficult start in 1979. We had no monks in the pagodas. Gradually we have come to the current existence by making tremendous efforts. I wish to see, and I am sure the Cambodian people also do, no more wrong decision that would jeopardize safe and peaceful living condition of our people. Negative consequences arising from war-monger decision makers would take even less than five minutes to get a war on track, but to resolve the consequences caused by the war would take years – the political conflict may have finished but war-related poverty and tragedy may take a long time to solve. Take for instance, every family lost some members under the Pol Pot’s regime and those families’ hardships would need a long time to relieve, aside from that we also have burden of women-headed households and orphans. We have yet to say about damages inflicted on infrastructure, etc.
… Having overlooked these issues, some people blame the Government of making the country poorer but have not they thought and seen that what they said is contradictory to the reality? A small number of families may get poor but the reasons of being poor have to be examined. Numerous families have liberated themselves from poverty starting from having spoon without plate or oxen without cart. But we have seen that 64% of the whole population have risen above the poverty line (living with one US$ or more a day) and we have a plan to improve the living condition of the remaining 36% at 1.2% a year. It is a pragmatic planning organized by the Royal Government of Cambodia in co-operation with the donor community with an objective to slash 50% of the remaining figure over ten years ahead.
… It is true that some people have lost their assets lately and because they sold their lands, drought animals, homes so as to contribute to the party’s budget and I do not mean the Cambodian People’s Party. Now the cheating is going on that so and so would be given this or that job and rank, and I wish to clarify that to take up whatever position or job, one has to go through examination. I wish to recall them that the 1991-Paris Peace Agreement had been implemented and the integration stage had completed in 1993 already. From now on, no mater what position it may be, exam will be conducted. If some people have already been cheated, they should follow up for refund and I think you have ample reason for taking legal action with the help of the Court.
… As far as the blame of making the country poorer, I would accept the blame if I were the one who took over from HM the King in 1970 and destroyed the achievements that HM the King had then realized. But I have proven to have done differently since 1979. We have started with just two monks – venerable Long Sim and Tep Vong, until we now have 56,000 monks throughout the country.
… I did not want to talk politics but maybe I should clarify some issues as some people made unrealistic comments that (the political situation) is in deadlock. It is true that it is a deadlock situation but only for them (the opposition). For us all, the situation is quite favourable – take for instance the Chinese New Year proceeded smoothly. There was only one problem that the ceremony went without chicken because of the bird flu outbreak. The short-term rice is being either transplanted or harvested and water pumps are helping people with the irrigation. HE Governor of Kompong Cham Cheang Am reported just now that about 5,000 hectares long-term rice and 10,500 hectares of short-term rice have been rescued.
… Some politicians took whatever chance they may have to fool the people that “a solution is soon coming”. I am one of the persons involved in the solution and I want to make known to you all that “no solution is yet reached”. A General Secretary of a political party has approached my advisor and requested for a meeting between myself and two other political parties’ leaders and the place could either be inside or outside the country. I told them there is no need for such a meeting because it is a waste of time. They said they would not repeat their conditions but make some proposals. But they are all the same.
… Having failed to convince the public of their plan, they again proclaimed that if the Government should be formed of two political parties, their two parties with 40% or 50 seats in the parliament would be the one to form the Government and leave CPP with 73 seats or 60% of the vote to be opposition party outside the Government. The Cambodian Constitution does not allow this option. There is a matter that was never mentioned by anyone since November 5th, after HM the King brought up a scenario of a Government of three parties, one of them proposed to HM to have three parties in the Royal Palace. I was shocked when they want the neutral institution to be divided in three. I found it unbelievable that they dare propose such a formula to HM the King.
… I am fed up with their tricky moves and I am now setting aside my time to visit our people like what was done by HM the King in 1940s, 1950s and 1960s and CPP has always followed that model. I used to mention that we have a great university, that is HM the King and Samdech Preah Reach Akkeamohesei who have always firmly associated themselves with our people and Buddhist parishioners through activities for development. Recently, the opposition sent someone to see an advisor of HE Deputy Prime Minister and said that a solution must be reached by January 28. When asked what should be done, he said exactly the same thing. Yesterday they claimed I seek to take lives of their men. I told HE Khiev Kannharith that I provide them each with one unarmed armoured vehicle to protect themselves.
… To summarize, if all were tricks for demeaning one another, creating hostility or ousting one another, no more should be done. They continue to demand no Hun Sen (in the new Government) and how could it be implemented by law if CPP and its candidate have been elected with 73 seats in the parliament. If the new Government could not be created, the current one will continue and if they wish the current Government to end its mandate, they have to join us in creating a new Government on the basis of the terms specified in the November 5 Agreement. But they never follow the Agreement. So I now declare that I am ready to set up a Government of two parties, and any one of the two could join us or we will go on. So the option is open – a Government of two or of three is all right with me.
… (If the current Government is to go on) will there be a budget problem? We have arranged to get one of twelve parts of the 2003 budget for the operation of the current Government. Some argued that the members of parliament have not got salary and I wish to state that it is true that the members of parliament have not got the salary. It is not because the Government has not got money for them but because the Institution has not got its authorised person to approve the payroll. As for the CPP members of parliament, the Party will pay them provisionally from its own pocket.
… Let me now take a break from politics to talk a bit about the pagoda and the works to be done in this area. I wish to express my sincere thanks to the engineering team of the Ministry of Defence for the efforts made in assembling Bailey bridges and improving road conditions in this area. Thanks also go to Dr. Saat Sami for the installation of solar-energized lightings on most of the newly built bridges. I am feeling great now that wherever there is drought, the CPP work teams assigned to the area are taking actions. I am grateful to the efforts. Now the region is facing with the bird flu situation, while Cambodia has a reported case in the commune of Puong Peay, in the district of Russeikeo of Phnom Penh city. We have been taking active measures to prevent the disease from breaking out by sealing it from other places. On November 28, there is a regional meeting of Ministers of Agriculture and Health in Bangkok, Thailand, coordinated by HE Thaksin Shinawatra, Prime Minister of Thailand and I have dispatched HE Senior Minister Hong Sun Huot of Health and HE Minister Chansarun of Agriculture to the said meeting. The disease could be more serious than SARS in 2003 and it was then caused destructive impacts on the regional economies – ASEAN and China.
… Because we have taken quick and well-timed measures we have limited to the minimum the effects of this bird flu situation. As for any place found to be infected, the area must be sealed and exports of products from the area must be prevented. It is a delicate matter that one should not be too anxious to eat chicken at all or dare to eat under-cooked ones.
Facing with unpredicted predicaments as such, I wish to reiterate the four tasks to be fulfilled at the time of political impasse… First, we have to maintain political stability, security, public and social order which are all the most important factors for the survival and livelihood of the people on the day-to-day basis. The people must have access to safety and security parameter without having to pay extra cost at all and the armed forces have the obligation to hunt out criminals and bring them to justice.
… Second, we have to maintain the macro-economic stability, prevent inflation and promote economic growth. I have a great impression in noting with pride that in the year 2003, at a rolling period of twelve months, we had 1.2% inflation while for the same period in 2002, the inflation was reaching a ceiling of 3.3% — we had a serious flood and drought situation. We have increased the size of export from US$ 1,400,000,000 to US$ 1,600,000,000 etc. We had a decline in tourism for a period of time but it has taken an upturn after the elimination of SARS. As far as agriculture is concerned, despite shortage of rain in a small number of places we are still expecting the best crops this year. We have to improve our spending pattern in addition to the aforementioned achievement. All financial institutions have made their predictions again on our growth from 4.8% to between 5% and 5.5%.
… Third, we must continue to maintain the sustainability of the Royal Government of Cambodia at all levels. All reform fronts initiated and implemented so far on issues of land, forest, fishing lots,… and public procurement included, have to continue… As we have sufficient cash, public procurement is now applicable on the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of National Defence, except the Ministry of the Royal Palace.
… Fourth, we have to maintain good relations with countries in the region, and all international development partners. Yesterday the newly elected Prime Minister of Malaysia Datro Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi made a routine visit to Cambodia. I have a plan to visit China in April, which is rescheduled from February when a Deputy Prime Minister of China will come to visit Cambodia. In China I will proceed to participate in a summit conference in Hai Nan and also to other events – because as an elected Prime Minister – for the current and new Government, I have to represent Cambodia. Yesterday the US embassy has sent a letter to me to seek for an extradition of a US citizen who had been arrested on charge of raping an underage in Cambodia. I have instructed my advisor to fully cooperate in this matter. These are the four tasks that the Government, old or new, has to fulfil as they are keys to the national development.
On that occasion, Samdech Hun Sen offered Riel 20 million and five solar energized lightings to the Preah Chi Thom; Riel 20 million to the Khya Boeung Veng pagoda; solar energized lightings and a dirt road to the commune of Prek Damboak; a building for sewing class with fifty sewing machines, two computers and a printer, a photocopy and a 7-KVA generator with 08 solar energized lightings to the Secondary School of Heng Samrin-Russei Sros; two school buildings of 14 rooms to the Secondary School of Prek Por; a school building of six classrooms to the Secondary School of Vong Toeuk, and approved the establishment of alliance between the Srey Santhor district with the Sihanoukville Port.