Fish Trap across the Lake and/or River
… In relation to issue of placing barrier for trapping fish across the river or part of the lake, we should understand that it will be also a hindrance to tourist traveling by engine boats or other water transport means. This could cause a disaster. I would like to urge for immediate attention by the various provincial authorities that are bordering with the Tonle Sap Lake or basin. Placing bamboo net across the waterway brings about this condition in which silt is being caught and therefore making the area shallow. In Cambodia, water is turning unclear in the rainy or flood season. This is because the flood has brought with it some silt which is in fact an element that heightens the mud level in the lake every year. Those who live along the rivers need 1) silt for their cultivation, 2) soaked land that is easy for plowing and 3) lessening of threat from grass and insects.
It would be a bad year for them if by any natural reason their villages or cultivation land are not flooded. In the 1990s, there had been this motivation of channeling assistance to everyone affected by natural flooding. In fact people living along the river are so happy with seasonal flooding, only if it is not as disastrously high as that of the year 2000. Take one real example of a place between Prey Sangke village and my commune of Peam Koh Sna in Kompong Cham province. In 1995-96 people there requested for my assistance to build a road to connect the two villages. I dared not say yes because I used to row a boat along this requested path and it was as deep as a bamboo tree (perhaps eight to ten meters). But the road has been later built because the place has been silted up by flood every year and the depth is no longer what it was when I lived there. Four huge lakes behind my village have now become our people dry season rice fields. Silting up the lake by flood is not the only reason. Leaves of inundated trees and bushes have also been adding to the situation as well.
This is not a different situation to that of Tonle Sap Lake. There have been numerous waterways that are being dried up within the section from Stoeng Treng province down to Prey Veng, Kandal provinces and all the way to the border with Vietnam. Dues to a bad flood situation in 2000, I gave my order to HE Lim Kean Hor, Minister for Water Resources and Meteorology, to cut through the road to relieve flood water from one side of the road to the other at the place where the Japanese people and Government offered to build us new bridge along the national road 1. We did the same for a section of the national road 2 to relieve flood water from the western part of Phnom Penh. In fact there used to be a water canal but it was filled up under Pol Pot’s time. Later it has been excavated with the Japanese assistance.
Deepening the waterways or streams to help bring water from river into the lake system plays very important role in drawing silt into the lake while reducing the speed and thrust of flood water from upstream, but also would drive the fish and baby fish from the river into the lake as well. I would say it would be marvelous if HE the Japanese Ambassador could consider helping us deepen a number of waterways in upstream. This would also help in relieving flood pressure, which in the last years had caused flooding in Prey Veng, Kandal and a certain part of Svay Rieng province. As far as baby fish is concerned, when HE Chea Sophara, now Minister of Rural Development, was the Governor of Phnom Penh, by pumping silt from the Chadomuk (four intersections) river, millions of them were carried away by flood current directly down to Vietnam more than they were to Tonle Sap Lake. It is also important to know also that in addition to this cause, the high sea water level in Vietnam has also contributed to heightening the flood level in Prey Veng and Kandal provinces as it prevented the flood from flowing down to the sea in a fast manner.
It is to be understood here that all sort of barriers for catching fish is one major cause for silting up and the areas adjacent to the river system are in fact the first to get silted up. That is why I have said it would be great if our Japanese friend, and/or development partners, could help us deal with this threat of our waterways being blocked by silt. This should be seen as a matter related to the Tonle Sap Lake and Mekong Basin as well.
The fact that parts of the Tonle Sap Lake are getting shallow could be understood to be caused by both natural and man-made factors. It is true that nature also plays a critical role in that but what we can do to help with is to avert disastrous human actions. That is why there have been calls for management. You may have remembered on April 6, 2010, from the Agricultural University of Chamka Daung, I brought this matter up and there is also an instruction to dismantle man-made water reservoirs within the Tonle Sap basin. I wish to see that this instruction/order is to be uphold and implemented as a national movement for the protection and preservation of Tonle Sap Lake.
Beware of Native Settlements in Zone III
However, I have some notes for us to consider in our policy making vis a vis this actions. There have been cases in which people in Kompong Chhnang, Pursath and a part of Battambang provinces, who have been settling for generations in those areas. So it is not a correct understanding or action to evict them all from the zone three. They have the rights to continue their settlements there. There have to be discussions and studies by those of development and preservation works in improving their ways of life and to keep them from actions that are causing disastrous effect on environment. This should include also consideration towards infrastructural development.
It is important to make them understand that it is not a viable way to clear inundated forest and we have to help them find other means to support their livings, take for instance providing them with seeds and job trainings. In various discussions with a Professor from the Sofia University of Japan on how to go about with the effort to preserve the Angkor Wat temple, since when it was not yet registered to be one of the world heritage sites, I have made suggestions that it is important to reduce firewood cutting, tree chopping and burning for sap, which would in fact bring about forest fire and/or environmental degradation.
The best way is the state to create alternative jobs that people in this area could swap from tree sap collection and firewood cutting. I think we should take similar approach for the Tonle Sap Lake and its vicinity. Some immediate supply is necessary but it would be best to provide them with a sort of development so that their living conditions do not depend too much on actions that cause negative impacts on environment as it is commonly understood that poverty would have severe impacts on the environment. It is in this thought that I request for a meeting between those who belong to the trend of development and those of the conservation trend, whereby specification of role will be well defined.
Take for instance in order to prevent the expansion of families on to new land near and around Angkor Wat area we have developed a village at Run Ta Ek for some 1,000 families, mainly newly married couples, who traditionally have to move out and set up their own families or households. If we were to leave this issue unattended, it would not be long before the area of land around and near Angkor Wat will be encroached upon with new settlements. This is what I would call a preventive measure with a long term interest. Again, it is in this belief and thought that those who belong to conservation and those to development need to meet with each other and figure out how to help them alleviate their poverty, the progress of which would relieve pressure of any sort to the Tonle Sap Lake environment.
As is defined, the Tonle Sap Lake area consists of three zones, in which Zone I is the centre of all. We have decided to mount markers defining the boundary in Zone III. However, I would not like to see any intentions to suggest investments in Zone II. I have just instructed the annulment of the discussion with regard to the proposal for such development projects from the province of Kompong Thom at the Cambodian Development Council. There have been quite some proposals from the province of Kompong Thom for the development of rice cultivation projects in the area. I would say, let’s leave this project of rice cultivation in the lower land for the moment and try to increase area of cultivation on high ground.
I would suggest that HE Chan Sarun (the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries) and HE Mok Maret (Ministry of Environment) should promote development on higher ground area because I am talking here to protect and conserve both Zone III and Zone II, including also areas that are adjacent to Tonle Sap Lake. We have land available along the Mekong River as we can see that they built reservoirs while preserving bio-diversity of the system. And after the flood recedes, they use water to irrigate their rice fields in the dry season, where fish that came from the natural system to reside in those reservoirs can be caught.
We are now one Khmer nation and for fulfilling this mission one cannot blame failure of any sort on so and so, like before it had been placed all the impossible on the Khmer Rouge. In 1995, they had in fact come into area behind the Kong Meas district of Kompong Cham and even shot at my helicopter. Now we have only one Khmer and no one could have taken the blame for us. Any disaster that would arise would be within the responsibility of the ruling Party and the Prime Minister will be accountable before the history of our nation. So if any Governor is to be removed from position in light of this, I would seek your understanding, because I, as the Prime Minister, and other Ministers concerned, will be the one most responsible for whatever happens before the history of our nation.
Reactions to Thai Prime Minister’s Comments
Now I have one more thing to talk about and I would excuse foreign diplomats who are present for taking this issue up on this occasion. I have had to make comment on that. Here is the letter by HE Abhisit Vijjajiva, Thai Prime Minister, sent to the Security Council and to the President of the General Assembly of the United Nations. The point to be noted in this letter is that he (the Thai Prime Minister) put his blame on me for misquoting the Press (on issue relating to his comment to use both diplomatic and military means to resolve the border issue with Cambodia). I just feel pitiful for the Press in Thailand that every now and then they have been victimized for quoting what was said. In this case wrong statement by the Thai Prime Minister has been a blame placed on the press – printed and audio-visual, and also websites.
Taking this development into consideration, is it still trustworthy as far as the Thai press in concerned? I think to defend their credibility they should come out and ascertain the fact about what the Prime Minister had said. The August 7, 2010 news have been written and quoted in many Thai press – ASTV, TNN Online, Matichon, Thai Rat, etc. I must tell my Thai counterpart that on the Cambodian side we have recorded from Thai TVs and we could also send the Thai Prime Minister a copy if he’d like to.
In the same live program, earlier there was this piece of footage about Siddhi Limthongkul, who happened to talk about the map of the Thai-Cambodian border. (The Thai Prime Minister) Abhisit Vijjajiva said and here is the quote – “we must take both measures – diplomatic and military …” In one other note Abhisit said: “the military will provide cooperation 100% with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in taking actions …” If the Thai Embassy here would like a copy, I could have one ready which includes both the roundtable discussion and the footage in which Abhisit is holding a microphone and talking. I wish to make a note here to you all that among all Thai Prime Ministers, only Abhisit Vijjajiva, who happened to have claimed to use military forces with Cambodia.
This is a grave matter and a serious humiliation not only for the Cambodian nation but also the UN Charter. Secondly, with regard to what is said by HE Kasit Phiromya, Thai Foreign Minister, demanding urgent resumption of meeting of Joint Border Committee within the framework of the MOU 2000, I must clarify that any foreign minister level meeting could be held only after the Thai parliament ratifies the three minutes of previous discussions. There will be no discussion as long as the three documents have yet to be ratified. I would allow however for such a meeting of JBC because the meeting would be presided by the two Defense Ministers.
According to the news we got here the Thai parliament is to discuss four issues, three of which I could recall are: 1) Minutes of the negotiation between Thai and Cambodia on border issue, 2) Minutes of the negotiation on the Thai-Lao border, and 3) Adoption for loans by the Royal Thai Government from the World Bank and Asian Development Bank. I regret that on TV the yellow shirt tore up the paper on which has the signatures of HE Sok An and the Thai delegate, and the Minister of Brazil.
Thirdly, HE Abhisit declared that their presence at the Preah Vihear temple was to oppose to the MOU, which this Prime Minister assured will be raised at the General Assembly of the United Nations next month. My position is that since this matter is to be addressed to the General Assembly of the United Nations and the Secretary General of the United Nations, Cambodia would propose to the Secretary General of the United Nations to coordinate the matter. This is so because HE Abhisit said in his letter that he informed the Secretary General once last year and this year he is going to bring the matter up again. I will also have chance to inform the Secretary General of the United Nations too in his visit to Cambodia from October 27 through to 28 before his participation in the ASEAN summit.
No Use of Force – A Similar View
I have a point to agree with Abhisit too as he said “Thailand noted with pleasure the reassertion of the Cambodian Prime Minister that Cambodia does not have a policy of using force for solution with neighboring country. Thailand also has the same policy.” Since we are two of a kind, let’s not use forces. However the problem remains what they said to send our military and civilians from the overlapping area of 4.6 square kilometers. I am not aware of where the said area is because in the map that is recognized internationally, especially the International Court in The Hague, there is no such thing as 4.6 square kilometers area. Therefore, how on earth do I instruct my people to leave our land? They do not live on Thai land. Why did not they talk about their invading troops on July 15, 2008? If they were there long ago I do not bother ask this question. Did I ever demand for Borei Ram, Sisaket, Ubon, Surin, etc. which formerly belong to Cambodia?
All I did is to defend the Cambodian land that is mapped in scale of 1/100,000 in between 1933 and 1953, with a deposit in 1964 and 1970 at the United Nations, with Laos and Vietnam. With Thailand we depend on the French-Siamese treaties of 1904 and 1907. If we observe the map put out by the yellow shirt, Cambodia does not have even its own land and Preah Vihear is in Thai territory. The map is based upon the watershed. Someone in the Thai parliament has even suggested sending in aircraft to bomb the area. They have gone this far. I must assure you that Cambodia is not using force to solve the problem but retains its rights to defend the country, territory and people. I totally deny what is called the overlapping area. There has been only area where Thai invaded Cambodia.
Let’s Have International Involvement in Resolving Border Conflict
Any bilateral negotiation should be coordinated by a third party if the proposition for the international conference is not workable. We could call for the third party observer who is the special representative of the United Nations Secretary General. Despite the fact that we have agreed to solve the issue bilaterally, the Thai side has opted to inform the Secretary General of the United Nations, while I never have said a word about that to anyone. They sent people to internationalize the issue in Spain and in Brazil (where the UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee held its meetings) on the territorial conflict but they seem to be afraid of negotiation. Why else do not we talk together to the world?
An analyst in Singapore said about ASEAN to be used as a conflict resolution mechanism. ASEAN is also fine as long as there is an international third party to be a witness. Japan could also be ok. We cannot afford to meet and negotiate, and in the end all is to leave in vain. And because Kasit said he had helped explained to diplomats from eight other ASEAN member nations, it is even better to have ASEAN join in this mechanism. We could invite foreigners to visit the place and if there is such thing as area where Cambodia “invaded” Thailand, and if there is proof that it truly is Thai territory, I would order them out within three hours. What I wanted to say here there is no need to be afraid of bringing the issue for international involvement.
By saying so I mean whatever form of international involvement will do, whether it be ASEAN, international conference, the United Nations, Special Representative of the United Nations, or fellow dignitary, such as President of Indonesia, who in fact have suggested his help. However I then assured him in our meeting in Beijing and in Singapore that the matter is to be solved bilaterally./.