It is indeed a great pleasure that we have come here today to celebrate the diploma conferment ceremony for 4,097 graduates of the Build Bright University. I could recall that in August last year, at the National Institute of Education (NIE) I presided over the same ceremony for some 4,000 Build Bright graduates. We have in fact ended the situation where some students, because of quite a large number of them, had had to stay outside the official ceremony building, under the setup tents.
In Svay Rieng province, last July 19, there was a similar situation because the number of graduates was far larger than the building to accommodate. With contribution from various generous persons, my wife and I have offered to build a 460,000 USD multi-purpose educational building, in which some two thousand people can be accommodated. This sort of building has in fact been built at Jamca Daung Agricultural University too.
This has also proven a new phase of development in our country. Some people have blamed my analogy of a frog-leap development pace to be too slow. However as we all can see, this frog has achieved in each of its leap such as a bridge at Prek Kadam, and now a bridge at Prek Tamak. No matter what they say we will go on with our development effort. Every country in this world, how rich they may be, needs a certain time frame for every construction. We have the rights to defend our vision and effort.
This has brought me to a fact when Mr. Long Bora (a businessman turned politician) assured me in his calling-on that if he were to be the Governor of the city, within months he would transform it into Switzerland. I asked him how that could be done and he said he would go to the World Bank for money. I then reminded him that there has to be a certain timeframe for everything, even with making concrete floor. Take for instance, the Prek Tamak Bridge, which we have opened for use by our people on July 21, it has in fact taken us three years to finish.
How could people make mythical statement and bet for votes? Some even deceitfully stated to people that if they ever win the elections they will give 40,000 Riel a month to every senior citizen, and/or to do so and so. Maybe it is a call for the National Election Committee to consider what these people say to be one way of buying vote by installment. This is forbidden by law. Some even promised to give so and so size of land, and thus land has become the core topic of their propaganda. What could this mean to be?
As there will be this fifth General Assembly of the Cambodian Red Cross on August 4 and 5, my wife has been quite busy and that is the reason why she could not attend our ceremony here today. However she also sends her apology and best wishes for all graduates and those of you who are in pursuit of the studies.
I have learned that those of you who have obtained a Ph. D degree have been patronized by PH. D Heng Vong Bun Chart, whom I have requested to continue his role as the advisor of the Royal Government of Cambodia. He has been the advisor of the Royal Government from its first term through to fourth term and if I were to be reelected for the fifth term, I would seek for his continuation, despite his age.
I have to admit that progress achieved by the University has been obvious. And this year is the tenth anniversary of the foundation of the University too. It is a pride that, according to the report by the University rector, Diep Seiha, 16,547 students have graduated from the University and 26,094 students are still pursuing their studies in eight branches – Phnom Penh, Siemreap, Battambang, Banteay Meanjei, Preah Sihanouk, Takeo, Ratanakiri and Stoeng Treng provinces.
I must repeat what I used to say on many occasions about the correctness of the Royal Government policy in providing opportunity for participation from the private sector in the field of education in particular, and human resource development as a whole. If it were not for this policy, with the limited Royal Government resources and capacity, how could we cater to the need for education and human resource development for so great number of students who have finished the secondary school education? The problem we could have faced is huge.
The state tertiary education foundations and their capacity to absorb students are indeed limited and they could not provide scholarship to a large number of students too. It is in this note that the state tertiary education foundations have also offered a two pronged education program – certain group of students, based on a set criteria, will be enrolled in the state scholarship program and others will have to be in the fee-paying program. Thanks to the correct policy of the ruling Party in the Royal Government, we have been able to absorb and provide tertiary education for a large number of students who finished their secondary school education.
We have the correct policy of the ruling CPP party and the Royal Government, and with its participation, the private sector has taken active role in building educational base, along with its ability to provide pensions for professors, and our people who pay for education fees, all of these have brought about the best chance for our education from year to year. Take for instance, the Build Bright University, one among many others in the whole country, has already trained some 40,000 students. You may agree with me that if we put those figures together with other universities and educational foundations, the number of students will be very large.
Looking from the BBU technical support and development aspect, it is amazing that the University has achieved the development of seven branches, for which the state could not afford with its coffer. Take for instance I have to send a request by HE Im Setthi, Minister for Education, Youth and Sports, to build a five-storey building within the National Institute for Education compound to the Ministry of Economy and Finance for advice and the response was that the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport has not got any credit left. So I have instructed to the Ministry to start saving credit from 2011, which means they have to start trimming down their expense to a smaller size than their income, so the saving part can be used for other purposes.
Years ago, there was no crisis of surplus in our current expense budget. However, in 2008, the budget law submitted to the National Assembly contained therein some 30% of surplus, which means we have gained 100%, but we spend only 70%, where the remaining 30% we used for building bridges, water canals, hospitals, schools and other infrastructures for social services.
I would like to take this opportune moment to express my sincere appreciation and praise to the management board, leaders, staff and professors of the Build Bright University for making their all-out efforts in transferring knowledge to the younger generation, and I hope that this good gesture will continue, with focus being on quality of education. On behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia, my wife and myself, I would like to share with all of the graduates your successes and joys, whom I believe will indeed be added on to the pool of human resources to serve our people and the whole Cambodian society.
Also I would like to thank BBU for providing me with 930 scholarships, 110 scholarships for this year alone, so that I can offer them to poor students. Starting from 2009-10, BBU will provide 50 scholarships for the Ministry of Education so that on behalf of the Royal Government, the Ministry could choose to provide to poor students. This year alone, in all I have been offered 1,290 scholarships or 1,390 scholarships to include those provided by the University of Svay Rieng. I have a team that consists of my son and my Cabinet staff to manage and use the scholarships to a good course.
If we were to review our situation thirty years back, we see that we are now in a much better shape in terms of human resources. Let’s recall after the Pol Pot’s killing, there had been a small number of people who could read and/or write. We had started schooling under the trees or stilt houses, or even the Buddhist monk’s residences. There were no educational tools, and the chalk we used was made from clay. That was the situation under which Cambodia, as a country under punishment (from outside), had had to endure and made ends meet. Under such circumstances, how could we expect to have trained teachers?
In those days, we recruited just anyone, and after they a short term pedagogical training, they had to be sent for teaching students. In time of need for drafting or writing letters, our people went from family to family to search for one with ability to write. That is how we were in those days. As of now, the situation has evolved sharply different. In fact now there are more people who have their educations. Illiteracy could now be found perhaps only among people at the age of fifty and above, because their time of education was missed when the country was at wars.
The question here is whether we have created and offered chances for education or not. If our people have access to education, I would not argue against the fact that everyone could prove to be the best. I do not buy a general belief that those children from the rich families could do better than those from the poor families at all. Children of the poor, because they do not have other means in life, they make more efforts, whereas those of the rich families, because they have everything, they may make less effort. As for me now I am so worried that my grandchildren, who know how to play VDO game, may develop an attitude of finding study unmotivated.
I have six children but one died already. Among the remaining five, four are born in the time that we have better living style. I would not underestimate the four but it seems the first one, among the five, who was born when his mother had barely anything to eat, is much more physically fit and doing the best among them in term of study. He graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point, where the criteria for enrollment is strict. They admit only some 80 foreign students per annum on a strict entry exam. If only 40 made it, they would leave the remaining places vacant. So the child who was born in hardship and had barely anything to eat is proving to be more capable.
If we were to put into perspective again condition of the rural and urban areas in the past thirty years, we could see clearly stark differences. In 1979, when I entered the city, the recruitment of staff for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had been so difficult and limited. For the same case, if we were to recruit new staff now, I am sure there would be many applicants with better ability too. Some applicants could be bilingual or even trilingual.
I just conducted a state visit to Singapore last week. It should be brought to attention that it is not completely true that a country with rich natural resources could eventually make itself better off. While, it is also not completely true that a country with little or non natural resources could not make it either. Let’s take Singapore as an example. What does this island have? It is human resources with which Singapore creates its knowledge-based economy and know-how.
I asked straightforward a question about its economic achievements because according to some studies, Singapore has achieved some 17% of economic growth for the first six month of the 2010, while it has been expected to achieve between 15% and 16% for the second half of the year. In my meeting with the Minister for Trade, he humbly put it at between 14% and 15%. I asked how Singapore can maintain high growth in time of regional and world’s difficult economic conditions. He said in time of crisis, Singapore did not close any factories or lay off workers, so by the time the world (economy) is making a comeback, the remaining options could make it to cater to new market demands.
So what has been done and achieved in Singapore is unique. What happens in general is that when one country is experiencing stagnation in export, the only alternative is to close down production lines, and the reassembling of the lines would commence only when there being demands. This would make the country in case lose advantage of being timely manner producer and exporter. It is a good example for us. However our experience has suggested that we could not match with the Singaporean model. Because of collapses, some fields of production could not reserve capital to cater to workers’ salary, and this has been a general happening in many countries.
The Chinese economy could rise to 12% or 13% but it is still a remarkable experience to see that Singapore has made it to 17%. Well my example has been quite faraway but this is what I wanted to have your attention on what knowledge and know how can do to one nation’s capability. That is why it is my humble joy and pride to see that Cambodia has traveled along the correct path of human resource development. Whether after graduation some have and some do not have jobs to go on immediately, I am sure they could find something to be creative because they have knowledge.
However, I would urge that you graduates should go on acquiring more knowledge and know-how, because situation evolves and technology advances, thus it is required that we have to stay ahead. In case we could not cope with those developments, we might become conservative, by which our thought and skill could not be used for any advantageous purposes. It is because of this that some senior officials, who have not been updated themselves, have been considered conservative and therefore left idle.
Take for instance, in term of construction, there needs to build skyscrapers, but some have retained their conservative thought of maintaining horizontal construction landscape, where buildings, for example, will be not of more than five stories. In some instances I find it hard to accept when people criticize baselessly about the fact that some former lakes had been filled for construction. In one instance I declared giving medal to anyone who could build highest skyscraper (in Cambodia). In Phnom Penh we have places where the names are being called after their former geographical conditions – like lake (Boeng – Boeng Trabek, for example), stream (O – O Russei, for example), etc.
I asked if these Boeng or O, where have they gone now. If they were filled before, why we cannot fill them now? More than that I should bring to your attention that the Cambodian architects have made it obvious now what they can do. Take for example the National Assembly building and soon we will have the meeting hall for international conferences. They all are built by the Cambodian with the Cambodian money, with no involvement of foreign architects or engineers.
We have to be proactive so as to catch up with younger generation or we may face this situation of being a scapegoat of conservative concepts. We have to define clear stages of development and stay ahead. Like in one case of Tumring rubber plantation that we developed in the province of Kompong Thom. A matter was brought to our attention by the special representative of the United National Secretary General that rubber plantation development in the area would lead to elimination of primitive jobs of the ethnic minorities who have been living there. I got him on a point that while talking to me about poverty reduction, how could they warn me of that? I asked if it was their wish to see that my people continue to wear a piece of cloth around their private parts. My wish is to see that my people know how to grow rubber. Foreign advice too is not always applicable. Take the above example it is clearly a disagreement between two concepts of development – conservatism and modernism.
Now let’s look together if we have already gone by the world financial crisis and economic downturn. It has been said now that the crisis is seemingly over and economic situations in some countries have returned to pre-crisis state. What is noted to be different here is the fact that Asia rises fast in comparison to the speed in America and Europe. What is happening in the Euro zone, the case of Greek, makes it difficult for some other countries like Portugal and Spain. In Asia, thanks to strong growth in China and India, a better state of economy for other countries in the region, especially ASEAN, has also anticipated.
As for Cambodia, we have in fact predicted our growth in the Budget Law of 2010 to be 3% but basing on various factors and indicators it seems that the actual growth could eventually be reaching some 5%. We are in the stage of exercising outward-looking measures, which means we are trying to become an exporter, whereby the country has had to strengthen its competition to expand new market, while maintaining and strengthening existing markets in the United States of America and Europe or Canada. The new markets we are aiming for is in the Middle-East, Persian Gulf countries and other markets within regional frameworks like Japan, South Korea, China, India and other partnering members of ASEAN.
During the visit of the Prime Minister of Malaysia to Cambodia and when I visited Singapore I also have sought out for market, especially for rice, whereby a policy in relation to rice export will be launched and disseminated on August 17. This year we have a surplus of 3.5 million tons of paddy rice. We have estimated for 2015 that our rice surplus will not be less than four million metric tons. HE Chan Sarun, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, has said five million metric tons of rice surplus is not a difficult target. However, we have a problem of lacking the means to assure export quality milling and to store it. We also are lacking capital to invest in buying rice from our farmers for export.
The need is big. We have reserved some money to purchase rice, and we also encourage associations to set up milling machines and purchasing depots, but the capacity does not match with the amount of rice that our people have actually produced. That is why our people have exported rice to Vietnam and/or Thailand. Exporting paddy rice to those countries put us in a situation that we are losing broken particles from rice, rice brand, husks, and more important than that jobs for our people. It is for this benefit that I have requested to the Prime Minister of Malaysia, during his visit here, to consider investing in exporting rice from Cambodia to Malaysia.
As for the Philippines, I have met with former President Arroyo and I will be meeting in the ASEAN or ASEAN-US meetings, if it is going to take place as schedule in September, with the current President Aquino. We also have chances to meet either in the Asia-Europe meeting in Brussels in early October or in Hanoi too. My aim of the discussion will be to figure out about the Philippines’ need for rice import from Cambodia. This is in line with what we say outward-looking effort.
As for this year, based on weather condition forecast, more calamities such flood and drought have been expected. In the last few days, thousands died of flood in Pakistan, many deaths also have been recorded in similar disasters in China, India and Bangladesh, for whom we also express our deep condolences. We have had the news that China is in the process of importing some 15 million metric tons of corn. Cambodia also has some one million metric tons of corn for export too. Because of withdrawal of capital by the Thai investor, the process of drying corn in Mealay has come to a difficult situation. Mr. Tep Khun Nal has written me personally about the issue and I have instructed him to collaborate with everybody involved to come up with a solution, whereby the Canadia Bank has also made a contribution.
The need for 400,000 USD to invest in drying our corn for export is an amount that we can address. When the issue is resolved, we can go on purchasing corn from our people to serve the purpose of export. I have asked HE Prach Chan, Governor of Battambang, and HE Ung Oeung, Governor of Banteay Meanjei, with regard to cassava cultivation. They told me the harvest of cassava has been recorded at some 800,000 tons in Battambang and 700,000 tons in Banteay Meanjei. The two figures put our cassava production at 1.5 million tons already. With this in hand as I used to say we are now in a situation where we have gold but we do not have paper to wrap it. Ability to compete starts from human resources.
Duch’s Sentence and Preah Vihear Developments
I am sure people are waiting to hear what I am going to say about the Extraordinary Chamber in the Court of Cambodia’s sentence on Duch (or Kaing Gech Iev, Head of former Pol Pot’s S21 prison). My response to the sentence is short firstly, “the Royal Government respects the court’s decision. The court is independent and we respect its independency.” As for how long (the term would be for Duch to serve) is totally the matter of the court’s decision; Secondly, the issues regarding Preah Vihear temple in the UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee meeting in Brazil and tension at the Cambodian-Thai border.
In Brazil, things have been decided with the five point statement is brought to public by the press of both Cambodia and Thailand. I would not argue who wins and who loses. In Bangkok the yellow shirt group has put pressure on the Thai Government and argued that the Thai delegation led by Minister Kunkitti has been deceived to sign the document. Who has deceived whom? The meeting is in everybody’s presence, and the signatures of both HE Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and the Thai Minister are next to one another.
The yellow shirt group is putting a question whether signing the document is unconstitutional to article 190. Whether it is wrong or right is totally the Thai matter, as for Cambodia, it is a done deal. I thank HE Sok An for keeping me informed regularly and I would also like to express my appreciation and thanks to all in the delegation. We will go on with what we have to do as we have started in 2008, 2009 and are still doing it in 2010. We have built the stairs and maintained the temple in accordance with the recommendation of UNESCO. It is also true that UNESCO has officially accepted our proposed document. This is what I have to comment.
With regard to our situation on the Cambodian-Thai border, I would assure our people that though Thai has augmented their troops, the possibility for a war seems still far. It is true that on the Thai side they also have the duty to defend their country, as so do we. It has been encouraging news about meetings, dining and sporting events organized by both militaries. I have been informed regularly about that. My order is definite that Cambodian armed forces must stay in the Cambodian territory.
The possibility of war is still far away only if there happened to be accidental firing. It would be best if the two sides keep such accident from happening. In lieu of such an accident, communication must be established immediately to inquire information. This is the best way to solve border problem in a peaceful, friendly and cooperative manner. I don’t like to see any animosity between the two countries, but to seek out win-win solution, whereby the principle of mutual respects will be upheld. Cambodia, as always, would never cause problem with or to anyone.
The Pig Disease
Last but not least, there has been this “blue ear disease” among pigs that has been quite contagious and the spread has now come to Cambodia. According to the report by the Minister of Agriculture, this kind of disease took place in September 2009 in China, and then in May 2010 in Vietnam and Laos and in July 2010 in Thailand. Now it is happening in Cambodia, where many pig farms in Kompong Cham, Takeo, Kompong Chhnang, Kandal, Kompot and Prey Veng’s provinces suffered the same fate. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has taken necessary measures in its authority with the collaboration from all related institutions in the aim of preventing further jeopardy.
However, it has been noticed that, no matter how much measures have been taken, some provinces along the border have allowed further import of pork or pigs. In this understanding I would like to take this opportune moment to place an appeal to the provincial authorities along the border, especially with Thailand and Vietnam, with the participation from Veterinary Service, CamControl, police and custom officers, to suspend import of pork and/or pig. It is by no means a violation on the norm of World Trade Organization but it is necessary for the protection of human and animal lives and the prevention of contagious diseases.
In our country now it is not an issue of eating whatever just to fill our stomach anymore but we have to start thinking about what to eat to guarantee better health for both human and animal. I am placing a strict order here and would urge immediate actions to cope with contagious disease of any kind. I also seek cooperation, in presence of prevention of import of pork and/or pig from neighboring countries, from traders of local pork and/or pig not to benefit high pricing in this circumstance./.