Today I have a great pleasure to be with all of our people in the province of Ratanakiri to officiate the groundbreaking ceremony to build a segment of the National Road (NR) 78 from Baan Lung to O Yadao on the border with Vietnam. I am pleased that we have with us today HE Truong Vinh Trong, Deputy Prime Minister of Vietnam and diplomatic corps and national and international guests. Construction of the segment is a major contribution and means for the area’s integration within the national as well as the golden triangular framework – which consists of Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.
HE Minister Sun Chan Thol mentioned the technicality of the road construction, the cost as well as the amount of time required for the project. So did our guest HE Truong Vinh Trong. I wish to take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks and appreciations to efforts made by the Ministry of Transports and Public Works, the provincial authority of Ratanakiri as well as those of the people living along the projected road between Baan Lung and O Yadao, without those contributions this project could have been difficult to get to this stage.
I wish to take this opportune moment to express my sincere appreciation through HE Truong Vinh Trong to the people and Government of Vietnam for working out favorably for this segment of the road for Cambodia. Indeed Vietnam is in need of loans and grants from foreign countries as well. However, as a token of friendship and understanding of our people’s hardships from lacking of the road, Vietnam sets aside a sum of fund for the construction of this segment of NR 78. I would take this time to request to Japan, whose Ambassador Fumiaki Takahashi is also present here, to cut no assistance to Vietnam on this ground.
I am saying so because I used to go beg for loans from countries in the region and I was told by those countries that because they also are loan-taking countries. Giving loan to Cambodia at a low interest rate would result in reduction of financial assistance from Japan or ADB. Some of those countries would give Cambodia its high interest loans or commercial loans and not low or concessional interest ones. I have indeed requested HE Pham Van Khai former Prime Minister of Vietnam for a long time if I may recall it was since 2002 during his visit to Phnom Penh for an ASEAN summit. Studies have been conducted and we signed an agreement in Hanoi during my visit there on October 10, 2005.
It took us from 2005, 2006 to 2007 to get the project started. The project has entailed decisions by two Prime Ministers of Vietnam – Phan Van Khai to Nguyen Tan Dung. As is said by HE Deputy Prime Minister of Vietnam, I have urged the project to get started when I attended the summit in Dalat, Vietnam with the argument that it is an important part of the development plan for the golden triangular border countries – Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. I wish therefore once again to take this time to thank the Socialist Republic of Vietnam for sharing of their resources at the time when they are also in difficult situation.
I first came to Ratanakiri in 1982 with HE Soey Keo and I noticed that all roads in the city were dirt roads big enough for just oxen carts. The Province was established in 1959 by Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk and in the year 2009 we will be able to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its establishment. The provincial town was at that time located at Lum Phat and now we have it in Baan Lung. With help of HE Bu Thang, HE Soey Keo and HE Kham Len, a master plan for the province has been prepared and as you can see their plans cover roads of a width of up to 30 meters, larger even for those in Phnom Penh.
Once again I came in 1990 at the time we put into use the electric power plant at O Chum and the trip covered at that time three provinces – Mundulkiri, Ratanakiri and Stoeung Treng. The road – though was small and in bad condition – has been the main supply of goods and food from Vietnam to Ratanakiri and Stoeung Treng and other areas. Now we all have seen that the situation has changed and the fact is that we have achieved peace and national reconciliation. Cambodia evolves from being under many factions’ control to one country one administration.
Our win-win policy brought about Cambodia’s national reconciliation. This is achievement that we have to safeguard, as we all know full well about our leaders – who knows how to split but do not know how to unite. Uniting is a tremendous job. I am now over 50 and when I first started my struggle I was 25. So we have to be clear that the Coalition Government’s partners – CPP and Funcinpec has to raise high the banner of national unity.
Secondly, uniting a country only in terms of administration and politics is far from sufficient. That is why I have put out a policy for domestic integration while making efforts for external one as well. It is in that instance that I started the policy of renovating communication which is primary condition for development. In this respect, now we go along the distance between Phnom Penh and Ratanakiri on the road of 600 km – instead of formerly traveling first to Vietnam and from Vietnam side entering Cambodia.
I used to say that when we have road we have hope. Take for instance trade volume between Cambodia and Vietnam may have to reach 2 billion US dollars from the current volume of over 1 billion US dollars. But we need to have road connection so that goods transport faces no obstacle. We have to have a vision that any products from this area would take a long time to get down to Sihanoukville’s seaport but it would be easier to get to Gia Lai in Vietnam side. This would cost us less. I used to compare Cambodia to a dragon, where the part of roads that we are building today is in one of the dragon’s leg. Its head lies at Sihanoukville, while its tail placed at the border with Cambodia and Laos at Tropeang Kreal, and its chest is to be lying over Phnom Penh.
We now have money to build the segment between Baan Lung and O Yadao at the border. We need further assistance so as to build another segment of 129 km between Baan Lung back and O Pong Moan. I proposed it to HE Wen Jiabao, the Prime Minister of China and he said that let’s wait till we finish the NR 7. On February 14 we will set the ground for building NR 76 from Snuol to Sen Monorom of Mondulkiri and we will have another 100 million dollars for the road from Sen Monorom to Dak Dam.
The connection will allow the three provinces – Ratanakiri, Mondulkiri and Stoeung Treng to be competent partner provinces with three provinces from Vietnam and three more so from Laos in the Triangular Development of the region. I have a vision that by 2015 or 2020 the northeast areas will become a new economic pole in addition to Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville and Siemreap. This area is potentially rich with natural and mineral resources and agro-industrial crops.
In this instance I would appeal to CIENCO I and concerned partner companies to be strict with the road standard to guarantee a long lasting road quality. I would also take this auspicious time to express my sincere appreciation to the military engineering groups for making efforts to clear off mines from the areas so as to provide safety for the project implementation.
Also, as we have the presence of HE Truong Vinh Trong here, I would seek Vietnam’s consideration inproviding Cambodia with electricity and it should invest in transmission line from Vietnam. When Cambodia has the potential of producing power in the area, we could negotiate selling power back to Vietnam. Secondly I would propose through HE Trong three more proposals to HE Prime Minister of Vietnam – 1) a road from Hoa Lu of Vietnam to Snuol district 2) from Dong Thap through to Banteay Chakrei to NR 1 and 3) a road connection between Long An and Svay Rieng. I may recall that I also mentioned about the possibility of building a bridge at Chrey Thom of Kandal province as well.
As far as I know in Ratanakiri, investment has yet to be made in providing access to clean water as of now we have only water from the wells. I would urge companies to mull investing in this project as I think that it does not cost much to do so. This could be a good investment for the fact that we have an increase in the number of tourists to the province in 2006 and those hotels and/or guesthouse would see this as their immediate needs. Just now I have news that HE Kep Chu Tema, Mayor of Phnom Penh and formerly was Governor of Ratanakiri agreed to build a new theatre hall for the province.
I would on this occasion say to HE the Japanese Ambassador that the Triangle Development Plan is lucky to have an established a mechanism at the top level of the three countries with Prime Minister of Japan and which has been working from 2004 in Vientian, 2005 in Kuala Lumpar. Together with the top-level mechanism, we have been able to get the job moving by establishing another level of discussion at the Foreign Minister level. Cambodia has indeed more roads to build and about ten of them I could mention here that we have no money to build yet.
On that occasion Samdech Hun Sen offered 1) a school building of six classrooms and a director office plus computers and accessories, sewing machines to the Junior College of Hun Sen – Phum Thmei, 2) a school building of six classrooms to the Primary School of Borei Kamakor in the district of Baan Lung; 3) a school building of six classrooms to the Primary School of Sai Yang in the district of Lum Phat; 4) a school building of six classrooms to the Primary School of Bak Kei in the district of Veun Sai, 5) a school building of six classrooms to the Primary School of Hat Boh 6) a school building of six classrooms to the Primary School of Kanaat in the district Andaung Meas.