It is a great pleasure indeed that I have the chance to participate in this very meaningful and joyful celebration of the 30th Anniversary of “growing partnership between the Royal Government of Cambodia and Non-Governmental Organizations.” It has taken us a long and bumpy road before we have come this far. Ms Eva Mysliwiec has just mentioned in her speech starting from when she met me for the first time in 1980. I became Foreign Minister when I was 27 years old in fact, in 1979. I was the youngest Minister indeed in the world. In just two months from now I will be the one who has been the longest person serving in the Government within 31 years.
As is mentioned by Ms Eva Mysliwiec, we first started in 1980 with only 5 NGOs – Oxfam, CIDSE, Church World Service, World Vision and AFSC (American Friend Service Committee). Cambodia had then suffered unjust embargo after it survived the genocide of Pol Pot. It is like we survived from the Pol Pot’s genocide, and they pushed us to another death. Pol Pot’s crimes has been witnessing today and tomorrow through the final decision by the Extra Ordinary Chamber in the Court of Cambodia on the case of Duch or Kaing Gek Iev of the former S21 torture camp of the regime.
For those who supported Pol Pot in the past, and later continued to punish us, what sort of moral and humanitarian responsibility they should have, if not resources that are relating to development of the country. At least they should recognize in their mind their responsibility as a moral obligation. Those who have come to our rescue at the time that we were being punished politically and economically have to be bestowed with our gratitude.
I wish to thank the five organizations plus two international organizations – CICR and UNHCR, and on the Cambodian people’s behalf, deliver our deep respect and appreciation to the late Madame Onesta Carpene, who died three years ago and was one of the pioneers in the Cambodian survival after the liberation, for her tireless efforts. Let’s bow for her contribution and share with her our dream – may she be here with us today to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Government and NGO in partnership.
Having said so don’t take me to an extreme that I do not appreciate those works that are being implemented by those who have come to help Cambodia after the Paris Peace Agreement at all. What I have mentioned is to explore more the meaning of “indeed when in need.” This was the highest value Cambodia provides to initial actions that were taken by the non-governmental organizations as their contributions to the country, people and government at that time.
Without referring to political difficulties, I would just recall two most serious issues we had to challenge together in those days – hunger, which was left from the Pol Pot’s genocide and a constant threat to our people’s lives, and prevention of Pol Pot’s return. Pol Pot was indeed no longer in Phnom Penh but its military and political organizations were intact, with a Government that enjoyed support from foreign countries to continue to occupy the Cambodian seat at the United Nations. This had been a concern that without proper forces to protect the country and people, Pol Pot might eventually return to power.
Secondly, because of property’s ownership elimination under Pol Pot’s, whereas tools needed for production had been disorganized and scarce, we were left with no inheritance from the regime. In this case, let’s us see what former General Lon Nol, President of the Khmer Republic, had had as state inheritance – infrastructure, financial and human resources, etc. from Sangkum Reastr Niyum (Popular Socialist Community) of Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk, who had built the country 16 or 17 years after winning independence from France.
After five years in power of the Lon Nol’s regime, Pol Pot, who took over the Lon Nol’s regime, also had had the state inheritance to a certain extent. If they were not to send people out of the cities, there remained to be factories and other means of productions. But their vision and action were to eradicate private ownership, not only materially but also sentimentally. They left us no freedom, starting from our beliefs. The only thing we had was to be a machine or tool at their commands.
If we were to put then production relation into picture, we could compare them to those between slaves, which were the Cambodian people, and slave master, which was the Pol Pot’s organization. What do we have left from Pol Pot? We had family loss, division and death. Our people did not have the right to choose whom to love and to marry with. This has let me to conclude why was Cambodia able to get out of this mess and to come this far?
There have been many factors involved indeed. However one major reason I would single out here is the fact that we have people’s participation. By saying so I would bring to light the fact that people have joined in eradicating Pol Pot’s mode of production in a very short time. It is factual that Vietnam had come to our rescue, though some may disagree, providing their assistance to the forces of the National United Front for the Salvation of Kampuchea led by Samdech Heng Samrin, Samdech Chea Sim and myself. However, if our people did not participate in overthrowing Pol Pot and his regime, could this task have been done?
What I wanted to pinpoint here is the mode of production that was eradicated with a quick replacement by new one. After Pol Pot’s collapse, our people took their initiatives to redevelop a new mode of production by themselves without waiting for the state intervention in reorganizing it. It just came out. Whether one may or may not agree with it but our people were determined to do away with the Pol Pot’s collective system which obliged practicing of common ownership. That is why I say people’s participation has been a key and without it no success could be guaranteed.
In theory, a mode of production consists of two main elements – productive force and productive relation. Just now I mentioned about the mode of production under the Pol Pot’s regime is to be characterized as slave and slave-master or people and organization relation. More from the theory, it is productive force that determines productive relation. I do not intend to discuss Marxism-Leninism but just to clarify relation from one phase to another in the case of Cambodia. They say the stronger the production force, the more it demands collectivization. Take for instance a handicraft production system has to depend on many other factors in order to become an industrial setup.
However, in the case of Cambodia, after the fall of the Pol Pot’s collective system, we have had a reversal development to this theory. The weaker the productive force prompted the productive means to be collective. A group of 30 households for example had only two pairs of oxen, they had been happy to share their means of production. The means of production were so limited but our people were united and shared them so as to survive the worst. This has proven that it is not always true that collectivization happened only when the productive force grows stronger. It could also happen when it is weaker as well.
There had been no country with higher number of orphans than Cambodia according to the number of its population. Countries ravaged by both world wars in Europe, or in the Korean War in the 1950s or those ethnic cleansing wars in Sera Leone and Rwanda did not seem to have higher orphan figure like Cambodia. How did Cambodia deal with this situation? Families in Cambodia had taken care of orphans who were either their own or not their own bloodline relatives. Then NGOs came in and helped. Local NGOs did not exist yet at the time. No orphan had been left to die. I am so proud of this. We set up what we called “Rose” Centre which was truly orphanage. We called it a different name to make orphans feel that they have a bigger family and they are not left uncared for.
The state capacity was limited and could not do the job all by itself. A bigger and more effective duty and care had in those days been provided by Cambodian families for every other reason. As of now some people do not know who their parents are. They have been well brought up and educated according to their abilities and wisdom. Some have graduated from high schools and from universities too. Some are now pilots, etc. Again I mention this in order to illustrate our history to you about the case that can be a success because we have people participation.
One more example would be our win-win policy. It is a story of great success and there does not seem to be successfully implemented elsewhere yet. Again if it were not for the people’s participation, it would not have been such a success. Take for instance, the policy was there, but if the Khmer Rouge forces did not cooperate or a part of the Royal Government did not support it, how could it be implemented to this level of success? Or if the people under different factional occupation disagreed, how could we achieve a unity between forces. From A to Z, I would again stress that participation, including those by NGOs from the hardest time to the present, is key. We have a lot to talk about. Thirty years is a long time. It is half a life time too. I started working with NGOs on behalf of the Government of Cambodia since when I was 27 and now I am 57 years old.
Another point I wish to share with you in this solemn anniversary event is about my time as a Foreign Minister who had to face with many awkward situations. Once I was in Moscow. I was never allowed to meet then Soviet or other leaders of the Eastern European socialist states on ground that they considered me, literally speaking Cambodia, to be a liberal. In Paris, I was considered to be a communist and I was treated no different to way I was in Moscow. I came to a determination that no matter what classification they gave to me, I would be still Hun Sen and I have got nothing to lose for being myself, or Cambodia to lose for being Cambodia. Cambodia has got nothing else to lose more for than it did already.
Betting one’s life for liberating and rebuilding the country, while one of my eyes has lost, my only child then died, my wife and relatives had been missing, what would cost me more, even my life? It would not be too much or too little to lose even my life then for the country’s liberation and development. My late mother and grand aunt came to see me when I returned from the Khmer Rouge’s stronghold at Pailin in my mission to complete a reunification there. They were worried I was to be assassinated. I said to them it would be an ill fate only to me and a few of my colleagues there, if the mission did not work. But if it worked we will have the whole country united. If I were not to go there, how could I convince our people there?
I also would take this moment to thank Ms Eva Mysliwiec for the book she authors “Punishing the Poor” which I think that it will serves the best interest for research on Cambodia and I truly and strongly agree with her that it was a real punishment on the poor. Many NGOs have been working on their plans according to different phases of development of Cambodia. Many families in Vietnam, at the time that we were just liberated packed their food or utensils and sent to Cambodia, which in those days and circumstances had been valuable and thankful as they saved millions of Cambodians from death.
As is mentioned by Ms Eva, in the course of working together, we discovered mass graves one after another in the 1980s. Remains have been collected as evidences and stored in various places in the country. I had to fight for the preservation of those evidences after there was a move to cremate them en masse. In 1981 and 1982, they said those remains were fake ones and were recreated for media purpose. How painful it was when the truth was unrecognized and fault was blamed on the victims. I think it is now time to show their sorrow, at least as a moral obligation or else, why should we try the Khmer Rouge? However, the court continues. In 1980s, we had less than 30 NGOs while as of now we have up to 3,207 NGOs, among which 1933 are non-governmental organizations and 1274 are associations. I would assure you that I am open to appreciate every contribution. I wish to make a note here though that some organizations have disguised under NGOs in conducting their political actions. Why else they do not come out as political parties? We have political pluralism as well as NGOs and associations. I think these are some of the experiences we have learned from working together in the last 30 years as cooperation in this Government-NGO partnership has evolved from one stage to another. Many works we have done together from institutional and human capacity building to rule of law, democratization, good governance, anti-graft and many sectoral issues relating to agricultural development that are being pursued the Royal Government and helped by NGOs.
Preparing a law on “NGOs” is underway in a careful manner that after passing it will ensure a fully responsible action by NGOs as well as way to manage the more than three thousand organizations as well as issue of transparency relating to their sources of financial assistance. The Royal Government is also happy to be knowledgeable of the share contributed by development partners, and NGOs is one of the sources. Having access to such a record would allow us to compile together actual figures that we together put into all fields of investment. This will surely help us ensure transparency and a smooth operation thereon … /.