The First Cabinet Meeting
The cabinet meets for the first time as scheduled after we had the general elections, the period defined by the electoral law to be the provisional electoral result announcements. We have indeed planned for the Parliament to convene on September 24 and the Royal Government to be formed on September 25, and the first Cabinet meeting will be on September 26. We have fulfilled our plan as the country’s political development does not get obstructed like in 1998 and in 2003, which has showed the political maturity and righteousness of all political parties, especially the one with majority votes could get down to forming the Royal Government in accordance with the confidence entrusted by the voters. The parties with less votes could not held the winning party as political hostage as in the previous times. I hope that from this time on, the fifth or sixth terms to come, we will continue to be free from political deadlock situation.
It is because of this favorable condition we will be able to make a full five year commitment to implement the political platform, unlike in the previous third-term Royal Government that had only four years for their actions – it scored a remarkable two digit economic growths, though. Today I wish to unveil to all of our people the Rectangular Strategy – Stage II to be implemented in the next five years.
I also would like to ask for an understanding that a proper place for the Cabinet office has yet to be finished and thank HE Deputy Prime Minister Hor Nam Hong for making the meeting room of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs available for the Cabinet meeting in the meantime.
Urgent Matters to Attend to
After the Prochum Ben Day (Buddhist Religious Ceremony) we will speed up and finalize the drafting of the Budget Management Bill for 2009. I am sure HE Deputy Prime Minister Keat Chhon has already led the job almost to the final stage already. But we have to pass the bill as soon as we can so as to give ample time for the National Assembly (NA) and the Senate to study the bill.
Toward the end of the year I have some foreign trips to conduct. First, in October, I will go to the People’s Republic of China’s Nanjing ASEAN-China Expo, and then I will go on to Beijing to participate in the Asia-Europe (ASEM 7) Summit. I also have to go for the ACMACS meeting in Hanoi in November and then the triangular meeting of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam in Lao’s Vientiane. All this will be followed in December by the ASEAN Summit in Bangkok. It is in this remark that it is urgent to get the bill passed in a timely manner because passing the budget bill requires the presence of the Prime Minister in the cabinet meeting.
If things go the way they are, in October there will be the visit of HE Somchai Wongsawat, the new Prime Minister of Thailand to the Kingdom of Cambodia, which is a routine visit by the Head of Government of an ASEAN country. According to the information given to me by HE Hor Nam Hong, the visit will likely be on September 13. In December, HE Lee Myung Bak, the President of the Republic of Korea, will conduct a state visit to the Kingdom of Cambodia as well, and it will be after my return from the ASEAN Summit in Bangkok.
Aside from the budget bill, what is also urgent is the fact that we have to make effort to bring the price of fuel down further in light of fuel price plunge in the world. I also wish to make an appeal to Companies involved in selling fuel to consider lowering the price a little further, especially at the time that the country is celebrating the Prochum Ben Day. I thank the Sokimex and Tela companies for lowering their fuel prices and I hope that Sokimex will continue to lead in this direction.
As far as the Cabinet is concerned, I would say it is retaining previous Government’s composition while adding some new faces and hopefully this combination will become an efficient and effective force in getting the Royal Government’s tasks fulfilled for the next five years.
I also wish to beg all of you to lead a life of virtue as I am fully aware that you are well-to-do already. I hope you all will truly serve the people, and as you can see spots on TV in which people telling us their expectations, requirements and demands. A taxi driver complains about off-the-record taxes which seem to have recurred. I order that the Ministers for Interior, National Defense and local authorities to fully address the issue. We have to win the trust of the people and this is the task that must be implemented as we are the ones that the people place their confidence in to serve them. People voted us – everyone and even some are the handicapped – because they trust we will listen to and help them solve their problems.
The Rectangular Strategy – Phase II (RS – Phase II)
What I would like to have your attention is the core rectangular in green color which emphasizes the good governance comprising four angles – first, the fight against corruption, second, legal and judicial reform, third, public administration reform, and four, reform of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces. If we were to fail any one of the four or the four angles of reforms, we will surely face defeat. Some people say that the previous rectangular strategy is in failure that is why the Royal Government is putting out this time another one. I would respond that as an incumbent Prime Minister, unlike those Prime Ministers in example, I know full well of the strategy and the status of its implementation. The Rectangular Strategy is a long-term platform that is to be implemented on a rolling basis of ten or even 20 years to come.
The RS – Phase II encompasses some of the works that I have put out in 1987 – 21 years ago, which has yet to be continued in its implementation. Take for instance the four priorities that I used to mention – water, road, electricity and human resources – have been the core of the policy and are still the command of the time. What I will do is to step by step implement the platform and I do not make empty promises as someone did during the electoral campaign period.
The Anti-Corruption Law
As we now have the Criminal Code at the NA and in the near future the NA will return the Code back to the Royal Government of Cambodia – a procedure to be followed since the law was not passed by the the NA in the previous term – we will then send them according to the procedure to the NA again. After the Criminal Code is adopted, the Anti-Corruption Law, which is now waiting in the Council of Ministers, will be sent to NA. In the course of campaigning some politicians have made promise that they will get the law up and running in three months, after the elections. Look, it has taken us two months already to get the NA going, so how can they do it in the one month left? I will see to that HE Deputy Prime Minister Sok An will take this matter the soonest he can.
I think we will take it for granted that the law will be adopted by the NA after it has come through the Cabinet, which has been entrusted with the people’s confidence. The law will come out no matter what comment some NGOs would make. If it is rejected by the NA, we will review it, and if it is acceptable, we will not need to revise it. What I wanted to say here is that the law alone will not be sufficient for combating the corruption. All laws have in their bindings the punishments and if everyone abides by the laws, it will be fine in preventing and curbing the corruption, at least a major part of it. Take for instance, the law on forestry resources, it has in its bindings punishments of all sorts if found to be guilty. The establishment of one-window service has also been a good example of taking out corruption in the line of administration too. However, we need to have the anti-corruption law passed to guide our action in this matter.
The Organic Law on the Administrative Management of the Capital, Province, Municipality, District and Khan
We have the Law already and what needs to be defined is the fact that the elections of the above councils may not be applicable in March or April next year and according to my discussion with HE Sar Kheng, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Interior, we have agreed to aim for Sunday, May 17, 2009. We have a lot to be prepared before the elections can take place. We have to prepare decrees to change the status of the capital for example, Siemreap from the district town of Siemreap to the Siemreap City, etc. As this is a new thing, we also have to look into the issue of establishing the tiers of public financial policy and management …
NGO Establishment Law
We have overlooked this issue in the past terms. When we discuss this law, NGOs do not want to be under the law. They are the ones who ask every other person to abide by the laws but they cry foul when we make known that an organic law will be discussed. As a country we need to have law that governs the establishment of the non-governmental organizations. Some organizations have been registered only to disguise themselves in action they need to hide it from authorities, take for instance some have claimed land for development only for own interest; some have not been transparent as to from where their budgets are coming.
They want to know everything from the Government, but theirs are not for anyone else to know about. Some have gone on with court case of corruption within an organization. We have a concern that sometimes under so and so NGO, financial assistance has been provided for terrorist activities, take for instance the Al Um Quran under which Ham Bali hid himself in Cambodia. We will have the Anti-Corruption Law and the Organic Law for NGOs to be passed in the NA at the same time.
Oil – A New Priority
We have increased the number of prioritized areas from four to six and then now to ten, with information technology and trade are the two last. It is also about time for us to add in the use of natural resources too. It is so annoying that some people and institutions worry about how Cambodia will spend its money, while the money is still in the ocean. I told them to stop worrying about spending the money but about making it first. Some even warn us of the Nigerian oil curse. In contrast, some companies have come to us to seek reduction of royalties for them or to accept smaller deposit on their profit. Some even asked the Royal Government to complement the loss for three years, etc. Now they have withdrawn those conditions and they all are companies with interventions from Prime Minister and/or Ministers of Foreign Affairs. I told them I would not agree with conditions to help cover their loss … Take for instance the bidding block for oil, if one company wins the contract, those losing the contract would complain and as in the case of the US Government, with Chevron winning the contract in the block, they never complain…
Cultivation Land Tax
Some political parties have stated they do not understand why the Royal Government does not impose tax on cultivation land in Cambodia. There are not many in countries in this world that the Government does not tax people of the land on which they till. In Cambodia not only do we not impose tax on land, but the Royal Government also makes some intervention in assistance for the farmers in the form of building major water canal and some water reservoirs. They have questioned why the country’s income is only 11.7%? Our response is because we do not impose tax on people’s cultivation land and if we were to tax them, we would increase about 12% more. The same is true for income from forest, which we have banned logging a long time, the loss of income from fishing lots in a size of half a million hectares that I have earmarked from the Government’s list for use by the local fishermen. I have not taxed the cultivation land for the interest of the Cambodian farmers since 1979, and as long as I am here in power I will continue to impose no tax because I see that in twenty or thirty years from now it is not too late to do that. I would urge to provide assistance to farmers and not to leave rice in drought condition while there is the source of water for irrigation nearby.
Cambodia Aims for Nuclear Energy
It may sound ambitious but in the framework of ASEAN, this topic has already been discussed though Cambodia is still far from the actuality, but this is the country’s vision for energy need. Before listing this in the political platform, I have already discussed with companies with interest in projecting investments in relation to nuclear power production… It has been so unbeneficial that in the field of energy production for Phnom Penh, while waiting for the decision from the World Bank consultant, we wasted two years in wiring 200 megawatt electricity from Vietnam, which could hopefully help bring the price down. However, the electricity will arrive as scheduled in March next year to help supply areas in Phnom Penh where electricity has been insufficient. The demand for energy in term of electricity in Phnom Penh has gone beyond our expected 12% to 25% per year in face of more housing constructions, new families, new factories, etc. In November I will take time to seal dam of the Komchai valley so as to make some more hydroelectricity available. Hydropower projects and clean-coal energy production, which combine together with the purchase of low price power from outside the country, will indeed address our energy demand. I will not seek the energy production by burning fossil fuel anymore.
The CPP Election Victory – Two Messages from Voters
I would like to take this opportune moment to share with you my thought of the victory that the CPP has scored in the recent elections. I think the voters have made two clear messages for the CPP. I would like all CPP officials in the whole country to listen to it loud and clear. Whatever that would taint the Royal Governemnt’s reputation will have to be dealt with.
The first message, they warn us to work hard to make socio-economic progress. People in both urban and rural areas have given more than two-third support through the election to the CPP, the level of support that no political parties in the world ever garners. The UMNO of Malaysia, which leads the Barisan Nasional of many parties, has just lost its two-third majority. So to achieve positive socio-economic development, we have to fulfill reform to the best we can, especially the public service sector.
The second message, voters clearly give us a sharp majority which is tantamount to telling us that they have given CPP the full right leadership of the country and CPP could not opt to passing responsibility to its partners. It was thought before that it was difficult for CPP to fulfill the country’s needs because it shared leadership with other parties. Now this is not a concern because CPP has the power even to change the Constitution or in other words, the full right power has been bestowed upon the CPP already and it is the CPP alone that has to take up the responsibility.
Labor Law and Emigrant Workers
Some people may have a question as to why we do not create jobs for people inside the country but to send them for jobs in foreign countries. In the world there are those countries with surplus labors and those with shortage of labors. In South East Asia, we have seen the trend of sending laborers to one another, take for instance the Filipinos are working in Cambodia, in Thailand, etc. Cambodia also has immigrant workers from Laos and Myanmar, whereas Thailand sends their workers to the Middle East. However, here we have to pay attention that sending laborers to foreign countries has to be done with a clear objective, which is in conformity to provide opportunity for laborers to be technically trained, etc. rather than going just to do unwanted jobs. Otherwise we should mobilize our people to work in the country.
As there is a growing demand for labor in the local labor market, I would appeal here to our laborers to end their illegal working status in foreign countries and return to Cambodia. The day pay has gone higher than before between three and five dollars for eight hour working day in Cambodia now. There is demand for labor in rubber sap collection industry because people are now growing own rubber, which means they have transformed from laborers to owners of rubber plantation, leaving sap collection industry in demand of laborers.
In the old days, we know that Prey Veng has more population but according to the latest statistics Battambang has taken the turn of increasing population now. The reason is Prey Veng (or long forest) province, because of the population pressure on environment, has become Veal Veng (a long field or no more forest). Increasing nymber of people who settled in Pailin and Battambang province are coming from Prey Veng, Kompong Cham, and Kandal provinces. If it is hard for them to claim land in one place they go in search of land in other places. Prey Veng province now has only 1.98 million people whereas Battambang before with only 700 thousands now has gone up to over one million too.
The Public Service Reform Term
I would like to stress that is this term special attention is being paid to improving public service while continuing to build roads, water canal, infrastructure, etc. What we have learned from the elections – the communal council elections and the national elections, are that what the people want the most is a better public service, and no matter what mechanism has been established, the decisive factor lies in the working manner of our officials. I would argue that people would be happy to left unharmed and threatened, or with equitable access to social service, one may not have to bring money to them. It is counterproductive that you bring food to the pagoda in the morning (a merit gesture in Buddhism) and on you way back you commit sin (bad deeds in Buddhism). Officials at all levels have to continue to perform good actions, as you can see no one with their bad actions, take for instance Lon Nol or Pol Pot, could stay on for long.
I am warning you all that you are not bringing money or properties with you when the time (of death) has come. So I would urge that what you have should be considered sufficient and you must refrain from committing harmful and bad actions on the people. If you really love me and are faithful to me, you must refrain from doing those actions. Some people said he loves or supports me but when he leaves, his convoy annoys all in the street. We should not forget the taste of being poor as we used to be ones. Actions like these would not only shorten your work life but also being cursed by the people. I am a boy that is raised in the pagoda and I cannot stay away from the poor. I would stress again that everyone returned (from the genocide) with empty hands so we have to think more to the poor and lead the life of virtue while refraining from committing sins and bad actions or karmas on innocent people./.