In addition to the prepared text for the 16th Royal Government of Cambodia and Private Sector Forum (RGC-PS Forum), Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen gives extempore comments on arranging for healthcare benefits for workers employed in garment and shoe factories, the opposition’s attempts to withhold the National Assembly session to adopt the Law on Finance for 2012 Management, and issues relating to effort to promote rice exports . As for integral text of the address, please visit www.cnv.org.kh.
Now it is good that all eight working groups have reported to the RGC-PS Forum their concerns and suggestions. As is said by HE Keat Chhon, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Economy and Finance, it is certainly impossible to deal with all concerns and suggestions in one shot right now. All concerns and suggestions have in fact been compiled and I have had the time to look and address some of them. The RGC-PS working groups will need to go through other matters. In case of unresolved matters, they could be brought to the attention of HE Keat Chhon. If outcome could not be reached still, they could be brought to my attention.
As we have not got a solution for any particular issue today, in reality we have made a decision on healthcare benefits for workers in garment and shoe factories. It is known to all that related RGC-PS working groups conducted numerous meetings to figure out how to provide our workers with the healthcare benefits. They have come to an agreement that from the part of employers, every worker in the said industries would be paid five USD extra as healthcare benefits per month, while the Royal Government has been requested to delay taking the profit tax of one per cent per month, which has been approved previously to last till late 2013, to go on until 2015. Generally, I have agreed with the request as this will go into benefit of our workers.
Technically, as of 2012, or in more than a month from now, our workers will start receiving five US dollar per month as healthcare benefits, which is around 60 billion Riel per annum that is to be paid by the Royal Government. I hope HE Keat Chhon would today notify all concerned enterprises about the delay of the one-percent profit tax payment on a monthly basis to be carried out at end of the year. This would allow factories and enterprises to have cash in hand to pay for our workers’ healthcare benefits. This should bring minimum monthly income of our workers to 61 USD. This is a realistic solution and the Royal Government will issue a statement on this decision, whereas the private sector will also have to notify its responsibility in providing the said healthcare benefits to our workers as well starting from January 2012.
It has been a good thing that we have worked out this forum so far. As we all have in our account that from 1999 to the present, this is the 16th RGC-PS Forum that we organize, though there was a time that we could not organize it for the political deadlock in 2003/4. It was owing to the two-third majority system’s inflexibility though the Cambodian People’s Party had then recorded a 64% of the votes it could not form the Government. The system brought about a fact that the (elected) majority was pressured by the minority to answer to their calls. It did result in one-year long stalemate.
As of present, once again, the minority seems to have intended for a pressure to be placed on the elected majority. They have even issued an ultimatum on me (threatening that there would be four or five members of the National Assembly from the opposition parties to leave their seats so as to disqualify the National Assembly’s session to adopt the Law of Finance for 2012 Management). I told them in return that “if they were to be crazy, let them be alone.” In fact I even urge all the 26 to abandon their seats (so that the National Election Committee could re-divide the elected seats among other parties).
I have made it clear for them already that they would not have a chance to have a negotiation as that will not happen. They have raised condition that if I were to hold no negotiation with them, they would boycott the National Assembly’s session. I would have their attention that we are no longer in the two-third majority parliamentary system. While in the two-third majority system the National Assembly’s session would require a quorum of up to 85/87 out of 123 seats, the absolute majority system would require a quorum of only 62 members. That presents us no problem at all as the Cambodian People’s Party is holding up to 90 seats in the National Assembly. Let’s make thing simple, as long as the National Assembly attains the required quorum, its session will go on smoothly. If they abandon their seats, they have to provide replacements. Although there were no replacements, nothing is different.
Let them be crazy as I won’t be with them. It is not a general practice at all that the minority is putting a pressure on the elected majority. In Cambodia, the opposition party has not got a right to veto. In the whole world, it seems, only the President of the United States of America holds the right to veto, but not in France even. French President does not have the right to veto the parliament. Technically, in a parliamentary system, no one – either the Head of State or the King – possesses the right to veto. It has been defined and confined by law concerning that matter. This is for all to know as they would go to our foreign friends to preach about a disqualifying National Assembly and its session.
I have listened to the suggestions concerning our efforts to promote rice exports. I have always made known to foreign diplomats about Cambodia’s effort for exporting milled rice to foreign countries. I also pinpoint the fact that it is a great chance to turn crisis into opportunity. It is, however, in our thought not to go after profit as OPEC would do. It is known to everyone that OPEC’s practice is to reduce their production when the price of oil is going low so as to secure a high price. As for rice production and export, it is the world’s knowledge that Thailand and Vietnam stand at the respective top places, followed by Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, etc. in South East Asia.
It is our thought and aim that we would not seek to jeopardize the food prices in the world in time of food crisis at all. However, I would take up an issue that I wish to mention in relation to rice production, processing and marketing before going into my speech. There was this situation that I would call it “a fish trap with two ways in.” This kind of fishing equipment would trap fish from two opposite directions. Literally I mean that one person could do two opposite things for his/her own sake. Though there are two opposite ways in a trap, the question would remain whether the equipment could hold fish in for long.
One person, according to our recording, went to see consumers and complain on prices of rice and or salt – “People are dying that the prices are this high.” The same person, on leaving the consumers to talk to producers and said to farmers – “People are dying that the price of rice is low. How could people live on what they produce when the price is this bad? It is too bad that the Government is incompetent in formulating a policy for rice.” Off to the salt farm, the same person articulates similarly opposite view – “People are dying. People work hard to produce salt but they have to sell it a cheap price. They could not survive.”
This is what I call the man of two opposite ways or a man with the trap to catch fish in two opposite ways. In other words, it is a trick to get benefit from cheating both sides. However, in real life, the equipment designed to catch fish in opposite ways could result in fish coming though a trapped way and get out through the other. As about 80% of the population in our country working in agricultural production, and only the rest 20% are consumers, I am sure the trapped fish will be less. That is how those in opposition would do to advance their greed for power.
For us in power, we give it a different dimension of vision and thought. We are looking at a wider and more complimentary benefit. The two – consumers and producers – must give and share each other’s benefit. While appropriate price should be given for efforts made in production, similar reason should also serve as the basis in setting the price for consumers too. On this ground it should be clear to all that we in power are not making empty promises. It was one of their promises to give or to help a family to have some one hundred cows. According to our experience to deal with the recent flood situation where some 360,000 families were stranded, we learnt that it would not be an easy job to deal if each family has 100 cows.
Truly, it was easy to help human than to rescue animal. We have rice in stock to provide for human but it was hard to find food for ruminant animals as grass were inundated. People used tents we provided to protect themselves from rain or wind to do make cover for their animals instead. Let’s imagine how difficult it would be for the rescue efforts when every family has one hundreds cows. In the previous campaign, these people lied to elderly people that they would give them forty thousand Riel per month (about 10 USD). For this electoral campaign (for communal and the Senate elections) they promise to give golden tooth to every broken or pulled one for elderly people. How could they tell these lies to our people?