… I have a great pleasure indeed to learn about achievements reported by HE Tuy Koeun, Rector of the Royal University of Fine Arts (RUFA). I wish to express my sincere thanks and high appreciation to the efforts of the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts (MCFA) as well as the RUFA in making step by step development so far while taking this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to senior professors (of arts) for making every effort to transfer their knowledge to younger generation.
In this occasion, on behalf of the Royal Government, I wish to share with all of you graduates and your families the joy for the achievements you have made. On this joyous occasion I wish to share with you all some backgrounds in relation to RUFA. In 1918, RUFA was already a school and it developed in to be a faculty in 1965 in the time of Sangkum Reast Niyum (Popular Socialist Community) under the leadership of Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk. It continued to operate even under the Lon Nol’s (President of the Republic Khmer) period.
In between 1975 and 1979, the faculty was not operational. It shared the same fate of heavy destruction without hope of sustaining and developing culture so to speak when we were all subjected to death. As you all may know that we have re-opened this faculty in 1980 thanks to the efforts made by the late Minister of Culture HE Keo Chenda and his successor HE Chheng Phon.
We had numerous difficulties in the sphere culture and I would later clarify what culture means so that prevailing misconceptions on this University could be cleared. As is reported by HE Tuy Koeun, we re-started this cultural education from mobilizing those with knowledge of fine arts to set up a school. We first called it a School of Fine Arts and many names thereafter. I kept in my mind the year 1988 when we came to a period that we had to decide whether to upgrade it to be a University or not.
In 1980 we upgraded it to be a University with core curriculum of sculpture, circus, dancing, music, drama, archeology, architecture, etc. Questions arose as to how we go about recruiting human resources for this job while problems also distracted us in areas of materials and technicalities, etc. We had at that time what we call the Propaganda and Education Central Commission (PECC) which was in control of the Ministry of Culture, Education, Media, etc. Minister of Culture HE Chheng Phon and his deputy HE Hang Chuon came to see me on their proposal to upgrade the school to the level of University.
Then PECC hesitated but in my capacity as the Prime Minister I agreed that it was about time to get that job done. We turned to the method of those who know much teach those who know little and they will teach those who do not know. Thanks to those decisions, commitments and efforts of everyone involved, we have come to today’s achievement. The school has now been conferred a different name but it certainly has been evolving a long period that we all have remembered.
I wish to take this opportunity to affirm that there has been misconception that the School of Fine Arts is doing training only in dancing and singing. It is not that simple. I have just talked to HE Im Chhun Lim Minister for Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction (MLMUC) to study the possibility to recruit some of specialists in architectures and urbanization for its works.
As you know we are in the process of removing illegal construction of Long Cheng villa and I am sure the actions have been taken as I am speaking here. So RUFA’s graduates are in great demand. You all see that we have thousands of temples that we have to take care of and today as I see we have 72 graduates in architecture and urbanization. They have finished their studies that will be of great help in relation to construction, where modernity and identity has caught our attention the most.
So it should be noted that there are many things that RUFA is more than just dancing and singing. In fact RUFA had in the recent past been under control of a lady who is an out-of-wedlock partner of a leader and wished to do in her partner’s authority whatever she liked to. Facing this problem power abuse, I have pushed constitutional amendment so that the Royal Government could get itself off the control of that lady. I should not mention her name because we all know her.
In relation to this, I would consider this a message to all institutions that if your spouse is a Minister, you are not in any way to influence his/her decision or make decision on his/her behalf. In our experience, an out-of-wedlock partner of a leader has incapacitated the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, especially in arts. In this sense, all district heads or ministers, their spouses are not in any way their substitutes or they risk being removed from positions. To be frank, what happened in Cambodia concerned mostly illegal partners while legally married partners seem to never bother their spouses’ affairs.
As of now we see that the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts as well as RUFA has to continue to pay attention to orientate human resource training to quality while putting in place norm for setting criteria for examination, curriculum, final exam mechanism, etc. In order to achieve this goal, players involved that are the Ministries of Culture and Fine Arts, Education, Youth and Sports will have to abide by the norm set by the Accreditation Committee, and perhaps other institutions related. What we aim is to get to a point that graduates from this University will become professors who can then take over the tasks.
We should try and focus not only on conserving but also developing of Khmer culture and arts as we have human resources trained by the University and other programs administered by the Ministry and the University together. Take for instance construction in Phnom Penh would later have skyscrapers so they have a big role to play in the future. What we concern most is the Khmer national identity. We have to conserve what was left from our ancestors and it is indeed important to get a sense of originality or we would risk losing our identity.
We have countless originals of Khmer arts to preserve ranging from carving tones, to different from of artistic performances – Ayai, Yike, Lkhaon, etc. I wish to take this chance to express my sincere appreciation to efforts made in retrieving various dances from Oral area, etc. That is very grateful. I wish that senior arts experts be brought in for consultation on various art issues and we should try to incorporate what deems to be useful into curriculum. We should also encourage candidates to take part in contest of Khmer music in all TV stations.
Today’s decision to remove illegal construction in the lake of Tamuok should be yet another warning bell after we have dismantled the house built in the Toek Chhou water system and a house in the water reservoir of Preah Sihanoukville. We have talked a lot already. We have now removed Governor and Deputy Governors (of Kandal Province) and we may do the same for Heads and Deputy Heads of the Districts of Muk Kampul and Punnhea Loeu. This is a warning to other provinces and districts throughout the country. If they have given any lakes for private development, they’d better take them back. The Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction (MLMUC) should look into this issue whether they have issued ownership for illegal holdings.
We have talked a lot in the framework of the Royal Government and we have the support from the Plenum of the Central Committee of the Cambodian People’s Party. We will take more serious actions in the future. Some people, due to their past political affiliations and now become officials in the Military Police (PM), etc., have been involved in the case. As far as the lake of Ta Muok is concerned, there is a proposal for building a recreation area and the proposal was granted with a specific agreement that the lake should be preserved and deepened. What they did was the opposite. They fill the lake with soil. One may ask me why this matter is not brought to the Court. I would say this is a battle we lost and now we retake it. There is no need to involve the court. If were to go to the court, we might instead legalize them on what is in fact does not belong to them in the first place.
I would urge all Ministries related to keep abreast with this situation and I would urge them to act in their capacity in dealing with this violation. I warn that, throughout the country, all matters relating to similar issue will have to be addressed. We have to take actions in accordance with the existing Law on Water Resource. We will base our action on the map. We do not deny the fact that some water course may have dried out or not deep anymore, and if they are seen to be no longer appropriate as a natural lake or deep waterway, we then may consider providing permission for development.
The Government or State would not hold itself accountable for breaches of any land deal that falls in this case. They may have to study the Law on Land. The Law offers punishment between one to five years’ imprisonment. I would say that investigation has to be conducted to find out if there is ownership of that sort provided to anyone by the authorities concerned. They should be quick to revoke those ownership titles. It is best that the one who issues the title revoke it. I think what we do is for the country and people’s interest. I am not afraid of being criticized.
On that occasion Samdech Hun Sen offers per diem to graduates and participants and financial assistance to the RUFA.