Sub-National Democratic Development – Theory and Practice by Former State of Cambodia
… I wish to stress here on this important issue of the elections of the sub-national council – city, province and district/khan. After a long discussion started in 2004 with HE Sar Kheng, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Interior, we have opted for non-universal suffrage to set up these councils. The issue which requires thorough discussion has been the role of the councils or to be more specific the relationship between those at the district and provincial levels as appointed by the Royal Government and those at the communal levels that are being voted in by the people. Also discussed was the issue of delegation of power in the form of decentralization to the local level.
Though these things could be said anew, they are similar to what we had applied in between 1979 and 1993. We wanted a unified administration. It had been established once in the time of the former state of Cambodia. In fact we have backtracked from there. I would say that it was in fact because of the unified administrative mechanism that in between 1979 and 1991 or 1992, we were able to stand against the Polpotists.
As of now I think the situation has improved if we were to compare the provincial situation to that of 1994, when HE Serei Kosal and Ung Sami (then Governor and Deputy Governor of the Battambang province) had to manage with only one million Riel (per month). The motive of such a decision and implementation in those days could be understood as the aim of weakening if not killing the provincial and district administrative authorities from the former Sate of Cambodia. It was with this intent that all income, starting with business stall in the market, must be centralized at the Ministry of Economy and Finance.
Well to come back to the sub-national councils, it was stipulated in the Constitution of the State of Cambodia on the people’s council elections. But because of unfavorable conditions, then Prime Minister had (requested the Parliament) to postpone the elections. However, what could be identical to this system was what (the State of Cambodia had and) was called the Provincial People’s Revolutionary Councils, in which Governor, Deputy Governors, and heads of all offices at the provincial level were all members (of the provincial councils). In those days, the system allowed for decision and implementation to be made by provincial level. Take for instance, with the authority bestowed upon, fixing some minor road and/or bridge damages could well be within their decisions and actions.
But because of this system in place, they do not have the power and resources to do anything like those. They had to wait for decision made and resources provided from central level. They would rather sit and wait for the central authority to act on mending even minor road damage, restoring a small water canal, etc. What has brought us to this situation? It is because their power and resources have been stripped off or limited. Again I am asking you to understand that the motivation hidden behind the system is to incapacitate the power and resources of the sub-national authorities, which are in fact those left from the former State of Cambodia.
As of now, I have just signed a few days ago on a document proposed by HE Keat Chhon, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Economy and Finance, in which by 2011, the national budget of no less than 2.8% would be earmarked for the communal operation, and so and so amount for subsequent years of 2012 and 2013. As you can tell the difference now that we (in the current system) have dispensed our budget to the communal level, which is indeed a different manner to which (system in the past) that no resources had been allocated for those at the provincial and district levels.
That was, I must say, because of motive of reprisal (by those in opposition to the State of Cambodia), now we have come back to a similar system, though the procedure and form may not be same as for this time there is this organic law of the whole organization of the system.
All Positions – Not for Life
… In one of the Cabinet meetings, I have requested members of the Cabinet to meditate on the fact that everyone is not a person in position (minister) but a simple citizen and to concentrate our thought that what (the work that) we have been doing is for the national future. My major concern is that some of us may have thought or believed that the position s/he has been bestowed upon is something that one has to hold on for good. I may warn you that positions of Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister, Secretary of State, etc. are not for life and/or for passing on to siblings.
The same is also true for those at the provincial level. They should understand that struggling for more power for the provincial level would then make them Governor for life and/or to transfer this position to their siblings. Let’s all think alike that what we have been doing is for the sake of our country’s future. Our younger generation will indeed be grateful to have benefited from what we have been doing and reforming. It is in this thought that we have been making efforts to urge for delegation of power and resources to local level, or in the term we used decentralization of power to the local level.
Decentralization – Challenges and Practices
There is also this issue of power concentration at the central level as well. I could recall an issue by which the Ministry of Transports and Public Works has brought to my attention their decision to plan for a registration of all water transport means in one place at the central level. I annul the draft in the Cabinet meeting right away. I do not see it fit to create a situation in which everyone across the country has to bring their water transport means (even engine boats included) to register in Phnom Penh. What would happen to those operating engine boats in Stoeng Treng province or any far away provinces? Worse still, their registration would be valid only for some months.
I would urge that such power must be transferred. Let’s look into this issue of other means of transport like vehicle of all kinds. I would urge that they be registered and provided with number plaques by the local authorities, for example, for those with cars as their means for transportation should go to the provincial level for their licenses and those with motorbike should go to the district. I am sure transferring power to local authorities can be done but there seems to be a lack of will to do so. That is why I am asking all of our officials to change their behaviors. It must be ensured that power transferred from central to the provincial level must then be decentralized to lower level too.
We can come to another example of provincial representation. In the time of the State of Cambodia, it was the line Ministries that appointed their Head of Offices in the provincial level whereas it was the provincial committees who appointed Deputy Heads of Offices. As it is the case now, the line Ministries appoint their Heads and Deputy Heads of Offices, the practice of which has brought about this functional delineation, in which (system) some officials tend not to collaborate with the provincial authority for communication they have only with the line Ministries.
Let’s look at China, because of its size, if China does not apply this policy of decentralization, how could one expect this country could control what happens? If every detail has to be decided by Beijing, how could one expect their decision could match and solve the problem in time? I do not have to raise an example of the United States of America or Germany where there are federal state systems, or even the Federation of Russia. Let’s look into China. The central power structure of China has in fact encouraged the power transfer to the local level and I could give you an example of Nanning where huge investment fund has been mobilized.
In my visits to Xinjiang, once in 1996 and again in 2004, the Governor told me that he gave some 70% of income to the central level, whereas the rest is kept for staff salary and infrastructural development. This is a different situation compared to ours where the central has to cater to demand from the provincial level. In the time when HE Chhay Than was Minister for Finance, in his financial updates to me, he provided a list of income and expense, on which so and so imbalances could be addressed by so and so amount of money to be taken from the provinces of Kompong Som (now Preah Sihanouk) and Koh Kong.
In fact the two provinces’ got incomes helped cover financial imbalances at the central level. But for your information, those provinces with surplus of budget were Phnom Penh, Kompong Cham, Kandal, and then at a later stage Svay Rieng. However the biggest income provinces were Kompong Som and Koh Kong. Having said all this I would once again stress the importance of behavioral changes, specification of functions and delegation of power. Take for instance, officials designated by the Ministry of Interior to work at provincial and central levels are now being transferred to be those of the provinces, whereby we will write a law on Sub-national Officials, after we already have the law for officials who work at the National Assembly, the Senate and the Constitutional Council.
Bylaws for Sub-National Management and Organization
To put it in short, the Secretariat for Public Functions and the Council for Administrative Reforms have to take the responsibility in preparing bylaws and human resource development for the sub-national level management and organization. However, no matter what needs to be done, it is forbidden for any establishment of what could be termed as two frameworks of one administration. What I wanted to clarify in this statement is that we will not allow differentiation in salary terms for those who are covered in the law for officials working for the National Assembly, the Senate and the Constitutional Council from those who would be covered by law for Sub-national level officials. There will not be two standard for one administration.
Having shared the time with our administration for some 32 years, not to mention 26 years of being in the position of Prime Minister, I understand the situation quite well. I have a point to make on this particular issue of “officials who is addicted to power and position.” Some people, who used to have much power at the provincial level, when becoming leaders in the ministries, tend to inquire to be powerful as they used to. Take for instance, these people were the ones who claimed that provincial power had been confiscated by the central level, but when he got to the central level, it is he who then try to be even more powerful. This is the group of people that I am calling them “power addicted people.”
In 2010, we have proposed a number of officials to take retirement while new recruitment would not be made, except in the case of medical staff, such as midwives, and teachers, where some 5,000 have been recruited every year. It has been suggested by HE Sar Kheng already that the formation and provision for officials for the sub-national level would not in effect demand for intensive recruitment of new staff … aimed at helping maintain our macroeconomic stability. Also the case is any appointment and/or promotion proposal for police and soldier, except those at the lower ranks. What is the reason?
Staff/Administrative Expenses – To Get Back to 2.5% of GDP
As a matter of fact our expense on administrative staff has risen from 3.6% of GDP in 2008 to 4.7% in 2009, or about 44% of current expense for staff. So it is required to take necessary measure to return to the need for a stabilized macroeconomic stability. It is forbidden for any staff expense anywhere more than 4% of the GDP or 40% of the current expense, but we have in fact exceeded. We have to bring it down in 2010 to some 2.5% and 2.6% in 2011. Our measures will be varied and multi-pronged ones like in one department there consist of some 200 staff, if five staff retired, no recruitment will be allowed. They have to go on with fifteen staff. It is more effective to have less but efficient staff than to have large number of incapable staff.
In this instance, I wish to appeal to all institutions that in 2011 we do not plan to make sudden recruitment of large number of staff which would in return inflate our current expenses, and this will leave us with no financial resources to help with infrastructural development for our people. So for the years onward, out of five recruitments, only one new staff should be recruited. Our situation has evolved from making four (former) administrations into one, which I used to compare it to one small cooking pot for ten people, and then we had to cook in the same size of pot for twice the number. You may ask why? Only the State of Cambodia’s administrations were making income to cover expense on staff and operation and its armed forces.
For example, in the field of education, there used to be so many staff working in office but thanks to our wisely correct policy of developing three different sets of fees 1) salary 2) pedagogical pay and 3) overtime pay, we have been able to get more teachers out of office workers. This has changed our situation from more staff working in office rather than teaching. It is also true about medical staff, where, as I used to say, some 30% of our medical staff has been working for some 70% of our population in the rural areas, and some 70% of them have been working for 30% of the population in urban areas. It is a problem but we have to see that there need other issues to be addressed when talking about this particular subject such as the need to develop and put in place roads, bridges, housing, security, etc.
After the (implementation of) national reconciliation, armed forces from all factions as well as their officials have to be merged into one list and their payrolls were all placed in the burden of the State of Cambodia alone. That is why I am saying we got to feed an increasing number of people for the same pot we had. It was so immense task for such coordination. While there were no customs or trade officers in some instances (for other factions), they provided us with a list of ones for integration. What could we say or do other than compromise? However, as we now have united our country and factions, it is time for us to observe the rule of law, and in this instance, at age of retirement, one has to accept it.
We have an example from Greek economic and financial crisis. They used financial policy to solve their political problem. Take for instance, in time of electoral campaigns, political parties always promise of salary increases, which because of unsound economic achievement, the country is overspending, thus making their state debt bigger. I would like to have your understanding on this issue of retirement and recruitment that while putting someone into retirement with on-going 70% – 80% pay of his incumbent salary, and recruiting a new staff with 100% pay, the state is technically carrying both pays for the two staffs. You must agree with me that our retirement budget from day to day will be bigger, whereas a challenge of recruitment will also have to be met.
It is important to review our state of financing or we may lose the balance between incomes and expenses. It is true that in the first six months of 2010, tax collection has increased at some 19% compared to the same period of 2009, but it is not a match to that of 2008 yet. In 2008, for the first six month of the year we had collected 1.5 billion, while in 2009, 1.1 billion and 2010, the up curve is 1.4 billion, which is still 5% lower than in 2008. Because the 2008 income had been large, our surplus was also big. Unfortunately, it dropped all of a sudden. Thanks to our savings, we have been able to keep a balanced financial state.
Decentralization – No Military and Diplomatic Aspects, No State within State
Going back to our topic once again I urge you all not to gain power over each other because everything we’d do is for the people and nation. It is true that HE Sar Kheng urged all of us to continue learning and understanding on the Organic Law and national program for sub-national democratic development. I also urge the Royal School of Administration and the Military School of Political Studies to take up the role of disseminating the above documents, while envisioning the need for liberating oneself from aspect of power gripping by ministerial level persons, and being bold in transferring power to the sub-national level authorities.
However, I would like to have your attention on one issue. Having said all the above, it should not be understood to have a green light for establishing a federation like system or own military forces or own diplomatic representation in negligence of the central decision. Power could be offered only on some aspects while none of the above – establishing own military forces and/or diplomatic representation and decision – would be allowed. Any Governor found to have committed these would be stripped off his position. For example if one thinks that decentralization of power automatically allows the set up in his/her authority the foreign office, take for instance the Taiwan Representation Office, one will have to bear consequences. Cambodia is observing One-China policy, whereas Taiwan is just a province of China. Therefore, autonomy here does not mean complete independence or allow for a state in the state at all.
Cambodian-Thai Border Issue – Two Letters to the United Nations Bodies
There is one other issue that I am sure you all are aware of already. It was the fact that I have sent two letters to the President of the Security Council of the United Nations and the President of the General Assembly of the United Nations for information among state members. They were both sent with the mark “Very Urgent” because the Prime Minister of one country has threatened to use forces against another. That is not a simple matter. In the letters Cambodia reiterates its position of using no forces against any country but holding firmly the rights to take up arms in self defense and in its territory only. Cambodia does not know where the 4.6 kilometer or overlapping area is. If they wish to use force to evict us, we have no other choice but to face them.
Once the armed clash breaks out there will be two parallel procedures to follow up. First, we will respond accordingly to the invasion within our territory, and secondly, we propose convening urgent meeting of the Security Council, which three of their diplomatic representatives are here today – the United States, the United Kingdom and China. In the CPP plenum I talked to the Party members about whether we should bring the matter (Preah Vihear and related issues) up to the International Court in The Hague, and/or the Security Council of the United Nations. What we have done as of the time I sent the two letters is just to give them information.
The Press in Bangkok has made comments that Hun Sen had taken the matter too swiftly because the Prime Minister (of Thailand) made his comments in public and not yet official. How could they say so? It is the Prime Minister who said it. I apologize to the Thai Charge d’Affairs here that I have to touch on this issue because it is serious and could be a bloodshed issue. On July 15, when I was sick, there was this rumor that Hun Sen permitted for a day of anger against Thailand. I have no idea of what was about. I later asked the Phnom Penh Governor, from whom I got the information that only about eight people had gathered.
It is my wish to affirm that there was not ‘anger day against Thailand’ in Cambodia and because HE Suthep Thaugsuban, the Thai Deputy Prime Minister has said something about this, I would urge the Charge d’Affairs of the Thai Embassy to convey the message to him that he misunderstood Cambodia. The Phnom Penh Municipality gave no permission to such a gathering against Thailand in Phnom Penh. However, in Bangkok, Paris and Brasilia, there had been demonstrations, and the latest one has been noted also with the presence of the Thai Prime Minister too. I have on the part of Cambodia repeated to Thai leaders – Abhisit, Suthep, Prawit and Kasit Phiromya, that we would go for bilateral mechanism for the solution of the problem.
However, the bilateral mechanism is coming to a halt. Worse still, it has been maneuvered to put faults on Cambodia for lacking the will for negotiation. In this remark, I may ask a question in return as to who has and has no will to do so. Has the Thai parliament ratified the three agreements by the foreign ministers? Thai sounded out they would like to send Suthep for a negotiation, so I get HE Hor Namhong, the Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister for such a meeting. I would attend a negotiation only with Abhisit, who is the Prime Minister. If they want to resume bilateral negotiation they have to ratify the minutes of the three foreign ministerial level meetings. Cambodia is waiting for this and they should not accuse Cambodia for lacking the will for negotiation. In fact it is the Thai side who has tried to internationalize the issue of Preah Vihear wherever they go, in Seville of Spain last year and again in Brasilia this year.
Besides that note, (they have also placed a condition that) negotiation will be taking place if Cambodia accepts that registration of the Preah Vihear temple into the list of World Heritages is the cause of tension. I have the duty to clarify this issue that tension arises not from the registration of the Preah Vihear temple into the world Heritages list but the invasion on Cambodia (by Thai troops) on July 15, 2008. They now want to annul everything – the maps, the French-Siamese Treaties and Conventions of 1904, 1907, MOU 2000. I doubt they could sign anymore accord or treaty with others? They had clashes with Myanmar, Laos and now with Cambodia.
International Conference – A Proposition
In light of all this I would therefore propose for the convening of an international conference on the border between Cambodia and Thailand. I have tested the water now as I sent the matter to the Security Council, and if necessary later, to the International Court of Justice in The Hague for reinterpretation of the issue. Or is it their intention to base on force because their country is big and Cambodia is a small nation? I have instructed my forces to stay and wait on the Cambodian side and not to trespass even one inch of the Thai territory. But we will not allow in the same manner any infiltration into our territory.
Cambodia is not afraid of the attempt to internationalize the Cambodian-Thai border conflict. I would appeal to every interested nation that Cambodia is proposing the convening of an international conference on the border conflict between Cambodia and Thailand, and demand for the Thai to withdraw their troops. I must warn of unilaterally drawing map, like Hitler did and fought for in the world history, as the world will not be a safe and peaceful place anymore. What is the meaning of the new world order? And in the latest development that the Prime Minister threatens to use force to solve bilateral issue, what else could one say?
I have tried to bite my tongue on this issue over the past months and even assured my people that a possibility for fighting is far away. But I could not imagine that the Prime Minister (of Thailand) asserted his eagerness to ‘proceed diplomatically and militarily’. It is now a must for us to seek for multilateral mechanism such as ASEAN, the United Nations, or even the Paris Peace Agreement Signatory Nations to deal with the fact that we have clearly mentioned in the two letters of the violation of article 2.3 and 2.4 of the UN Charter. I have the knowledge that some friends would lobby us to reconcile, thus I would in this moment seek our friends that both sides need to reconcile and not just the Cambodian side. The word and position said and applied to Cambodia must equally be said and applied to Thailand./.