Skipping UN Speech, Get Ready for Europe Trip
I am so glad to be able to join with all of you today in this joyous ceremony to celebrate the graduation and diploma presentation for 373 graduates of the Puthisastra University. Because of her prior engagement, my wife could not make it today. As you know that I just returned from New York, where there is a big time difference with Phnom Penh. And in just three days from now I will embark on a journey to Europe, again with a six hour time lapse. Changes of time zone from one to another within such a short time have created problems for some people, especially those with difficult sleeping habits. It was because I have so much to do back in the country I have decided not to read my speech at the United Nations. This is coincidental as I have to get ready for another trip to Europe. This year the trip abroad has been a bit frequent, but thanks to smooth progress that our nation has secured, I have combined that with the ability to work and control situation from afar.
Aiming for Quality Education and University’s Sustainability
In line with the reported by Rector of Puthisastra, on behalf of the Royal Government (of Cambodia) I would like to give my appreciative evaluation for the University, its Governing Board, Rector, other leaders and professors for efforts that they jointly make for the University’s progress aimed at achieving ultimate goal of quality education.
I have said many times that to start a University would be a big task, but to sustain its activities would be harder a task. In whatever organization, it is important to have the foresight, i.e. whether it is going to be able to move on, and here for this particular situation, I have often said that one should be sure of walking before starting a run. It is very often than not that when one is unstable in her/his stand, s/he would fall when running.
It has been the case that numerous non-governmental organizations have not been able to sustain their operations and existences after provision of funding decreased. As far as this situation is concerned, it is known to everyone that in our country now non-governmental organizations compete with one another strenuously for funding from foreign sources.
Funding Determines NGOs’ Positions
It has been noted that in the course of such competition, whoever comes out the best in blaming and scolding so and so is the one to get the funding. This has brought about an understanding that funding determines what positions so and so NGOs would take. However, it is worth noting that there are NGOs who could fulfill their missions without having to blindly criticize the (Royal) Government too. These organizations operate with funding and credit provided by development partners from so and so countries. They are also noticed to have worked directly with people, like farmers and the disables, and/or in areas of demining and provision of clean water.
These organizations seem to have been working along constructive line with the (Royal) Government. Also noted, those working in relation to issues of democracy and human rights happen to be the best in making exaggerated reports in order to get funding. They start from making one shortcoming ten-time worse of what it was. It is therefore important to distinguish them.
For Human Resource Development
Like other private tertiary education facilities, the Puthisastra University has shared a responsibility with the (Royal) Government for development of human resources. I have noticed that every year we have thousands of graduates. There is clear demand for human resources, whereas Cambodia that had suffered losses of intellectuals under the Pol pot’s genocide, redevelopment of human resources after the country’s liberation has always been a priority.
Intellectuals, whom we have developed back in the 1980s, both those who went for study abroad and were locally trained, are working actively in making contribution for the national construction and development. It should be noted that in those days we sent them for study in Vietnam, the former Soviet Union and Eastern European countries. Comparing to those of you today, you have got better chances for education.
Peace and Political Stability Create Chances for Education
It is now a quite easy for all of you to find a chance for education. Now every University has got contact with universities abroad for sharing experiences, knowledge and know-how and also for student exchanges. The Rector defines this moment to be important for us. In fact it is the best chance that we have after achieving peace and political stability, under which conditions everyone has equal chance for education, both learning and teaching, in no fear of war. Let’s imagine when in the past teaching and learning had been under a reality of constant fear from bombardment and shelling.
We have so many chances both locally and abroad and it is time for making effort. It should be kept in mind that the best that one’s parents could provide is chance for education and there is nothing more valuable than that.
Your Own Successes – Familial and National Prides
You may have learned already along your study path that parents and sponsors have shared their time, resources and works in the families so that you could be able to sit and study until you get this far. Your success here means that our society has achieved new blood as human resources. Families are also proud of you. I would therefore in this instance express my sincere appreciation for all efforts involved and wish to share with all of your parents and sponsors such a valuable pride you have given us.
I would in this moment also give my approval to what the Rector has just mentioned to be the three core qualifications of the Puthisastra University – self respect, respect of others and social development. The three values are ethical codes not only for this university but for other educational facilities and for every citizen at large to apply self respect, respect of others and concept of social development. It is the case that first one has to have self respect because in absence of this one would not make it anywhere. Then one has to respect other people’s rights because your rights (of expression) stop at the boundary of others’ rights (of expression) too.
Political Propagation Vs Commercial Ads
Having brought this issue up, I wish to remind you of what I used to compare political propagation to commercial ads. I suggest that politicians should follow commercial practice in their propagation. The commercial advertisement never discredits others for their products but concentrates only on their own products and quality. Unlike political parties, in their statement, they claimed so and so to be puppets of so and so or so and so parties is either this bad or that bad.
Especially, endless efforts and tricks for discrediting (from the opposition parties) the ruling party so to speak. As the rights for expression of those who criticize stop, the rights for expression of the criticized start. How will that be expressed? It is by legal means of course. In every country and situation, there have been various ways of response, but responding with a stick or a bullet is by far not to be done. What remains to be an option is by legal means. It is really funny that when a response is being carried out by legal means, there have been people who react that it is an attempt to use the court system to ‘shut up’ the rights for expression.
Justice or Injustice for Own Gain
It is a general practice now that when one abuses the others, the best way to pursue a solution is for the abused to bring the matter to court. Or the court would not be necessary. What standard would we understand it to be when one would accept (the court’s decision) to be justice only when the court says one is right or good, while any decision in opposite to this would be all injustice? Some people have lost the case twice in the French court, why did s/he not scream at the French? It is in fact the same case that has been adjudicated in the court of Cambodia.
So this is what I said the boundary of your rights meets with the rights of others to express their opinions. It is also true for the land boundary. You can walk in your land and will stop when you meet with the borderline with others or you will bump into a fence or trespass into other people’s land and property. This is what has been frequently said about how unreachable is the sky? In one instance they wrote in search for a royal pardon for reentry to the country, but for another instance they resorted to tactic of suing us.
A Royal Pardon for Constitutional Amendment
While I was in New York, they sued me in the court of New York and claimed that I have to kneel down and apologize. In 2005, a letter was written to me and clearly sought for a cooperation to get a royal pardon. In fact I have cooperated on issue of the royal pardon for the sake of constitutional amendment and for this reason I would convince them to learn more about Hun Sen. It was in that course that the opposition parties, both of them, offered power to the Cambodian People’s Party.
They helped us amend the Constitution from two-third majority to 50+1 system so if any parties would renege on that they may have to bring it on the opposition. Is it or is it not naïve for that matter? If they were to keep the two-third majority system, (CPP) would have a hard time to bargain in setting up a Government. In 1998, we had 54% of the votes and in 2003 we had 60% of the votes or we come from 64 seats to 73 seats out of 123 seats of the parliament, we had a hard time to get a Government up and running. They used the system to bargain for power. They abruptly joined together when the elections results convinced the CPP has won. However, when they get more share, one of them joined us.
It is in this knowledge and experience that we have put an end to the situation of power deal for the sake of ensuring the country’s stability free from stalling. Now CPP is in control of a two third majority, which means, and I used to mention, that even if we do not talk about gaining, by losing ten seats in the forthcoming elections of 2013 (from 90 to 80 seats), CPP will win and be able to set up a Government. Another ten seat loss in the elections of 2018, which should bring the CPP seats to 70, still it will win and guarantee the setting up of the Government.
In light of this, one could be hopeless in dreaming to be Prime Minister, whereas the key to reenter (return to) Cambodia is in Hun Sen’s hands. Why should he (Hun Sen) apologize? What (foreign) court that has the authority and rights to take action on me? The incumbent President of Sudan has had an arrest warrant from the international court and he just won the elections recently. Who has the gut (in the case of Sudan’s President) to enforce the deal?
In this incident that they sue me to the court of New York, have they any idea as to what authority does the US court have on the Cambodian Prime Minister? Since I will soon leave for Europe, they may sue me to the court in Brussels too. As NATO’s headquarters is there they may also ask NATO to arrest me. It would be unfortunate for their action that I, as a coordinator between ASEAN and Europe, will give my opening address and attend the press conference at the closing session.
One-to-One Meeting with (Thai Prime Minister) Abhisit (Vijjajiva)
I have said prior to my departure for New York that any meeting is possible between Abhisit and me and I have said that if ever such a meeting is to take place our discussion would cover many issues other than border. I must say it is a fruitful meeting for solving problems and creating an atmosphere of cooperation that I have told the Thai Prime Minister Abhisit that ‘the meeting has created trust and cooperation.’
Initially, a scenario has been tested as to who would request for a meeting with who. I said there should not be any request and in the course of our hands shaking at the summit/s, we could ask if we need a talk somewhere during a coffee break or something. Later, Prime Minister Abhisit proposed for a meeting whereas Cambodia should try and find a place for the meeting. Cambodia hired a 1,500 USD room for two hours for the meeting. It was planned from Phnom Penh that there would be three dignitaries from each side and later in New York there was this diplomatic rearrangement for five from each side. In the end, after shaking hands, the two of us agreed that we will meet one-to-one with only one Thai-Khmer interpreter.
Many Issues Covered, Border Issue to Await Thai Parliament Approval
In the course of our meeting many bilateral issues, not only border, have been discussed. They include border trades and investments as nature of two neighboring countries. I told Abhisit that though we have conflict we cannot get rid of each other. I also told the Thai Ambassador yesterday that Cambodia and Thailand are like teeth and tongue, where one could not get rid of the other. I mean no one could move Thailand or Cambodia to anywhere else. The only way out is to settle the issues we have with each other.
I told him that I have information that the Thai Parliament will ratify in October the minutes of meetings of the Foreign Ministers. He confirmed it. If the minutes, in which there includes a clause about readjusting the troops from the Keo Sekha Kirisvarak and the temple vicinity, things would go in a positive way. For us, as long as this point is resolved, we see no need to bring the case to international hearing. We have agreed during the meeting that when the matter is being brought to the Parliament in October, we will review progress on this matter while we are meeting in Hanoi for the ASEAN summit.
Is War the Choice of Cambodian and Thai Peoples and Armies?
What lies ahead importantly for us here if the people of Cambodia and Thailand, as well as their armies are for war with each other? In simple term, whether one is a Thai or Cambodian or any other national, one would not be willing to go to war, be it internal war or one between nations. Therefore I have suggested some measures for the sake of placing situation under control.
Firstly, we must be patient and prevent all sorts of armed clashes by means of observing existing cooperation and strengthening of bilateral relations. Secondly, we must not leave military confrontation unresolved, and thirdly, we must prevent unresolved matters from further expanding into other issues along the whole Thai-Cambodian border and/or being obstacles for cooperation in other areas.
Cambodia and Thailand has some 800 kilometer border together and the border conflict lately has been at the point of Preah Vihear temple. Should we expand the conflict to other areas along the whole border? That is not right. We should not keep it an obstruction to border trade between our peoples too. The two sides agreed that though we have problems with each other, we have been able to control the situation and contain the problem from spreading to other areas.
Forthcoming Bilateral Cooperation
We have agreed to initially start with exchanging journalists from Cambodia to Thailand and vice versa. I will send the Minister of Information to Thailand first because the Thai Information Minister has come to Cambodia already. We could think of a joint artistic performance, in which Thai and Cambodian artists, separately or together, sing or perform mutual lyrics and compositions. We have agreed for a continuation of trade exhibition. It is a sad thing that a market at O Smaj was on fire, (but it is a good thing to see that) authorities from the two sides joined hands in putting out the fire and restored trade activities for people.
Another point of urgent attention is the opening of a new pass at Stoeung Bat also on the last section of the national road 5 with Thailand. The current Poi Pet pass could not handle this huge volume of trade flow so I have agreed with the Thai Governments, from HE Surayudh Chulanondh to the late HE Samak Suntharavej, for a new pass at Stoeung Bat, which is about four kilometers to south of the Poi Pet pass. The new pass is for heavy trucks whereas Poi Pet would be reserved only for exchange of tourists. It was first suggested to have a pass at O Nieng to the north of Poi Pet but there has been unresolved border issues.
Solving Border Issues Bilaterally or Multilaterally?
Bringing matter of border to a wider audience is also what we have in mind. But we also have to figure out all aspects related to such legal procedure. We already have the international court’s decision and many other legal tools at hand. However, I have stated many times that we will act when and where we see fit. Let me explain to all compatriots who may not agree with my style and action that two countries that are sharing border have many issues other than the border to work out. As of now the two sides have expressed their wills to speed up resolving problems and cooperation. I have said earlier that the meeting that I had with (the Thai Prime Minister) Abhisit has brought us to a stage of confidence and cooperation.
Some people may not be willing to stay in the country where war is to break out. Take for example in the elections of 1998, many people including foreigners left Cambodia because they were not sure of the situation. It was also the case in 2003. When the elections came to a close and CPP was declared wining, they all returned. In 2008 the situation seemed different maybe because they came to a foregone conclusion that CPP would be the winner.
There have been reactions lately from the opposition and those who CTN TV named ‘the yellow shirt’ in Cambodia. It would not be a good gesture to reproach them because they never work as Prime Minister or Minister. They have no idea what is state matter and could only think of bringing the matter to the United Nations or International Court. I am grateful for their concerns and patriotism, and let me reassure you that we have kept that running and pondered various options with regard to going with this issue internationally.
Some have concluded that my meeting with Abhisit could be compared to a start for a bilateral solution to the matter and an abandonment of resolving the issue internationally. You may have heard Deng Xiao Ping’s economic strategy of catching mice by either black or white cat. As for us here, as long as the issue is resolved once and for all, let’s not confine by just any one rule. We would go with either bilateral or international as long as we are sure the problem will be solved. I have made it clear to (Prime Minister) Abhisit that I am waiting for the approval of the Thai Parliament on the minutes of foreign ministers’ meetings. Once the approval is reached, the matter between our two countries would go through a bilateral way.
New Tanks and Real Ammo Test, Nothing to Do with Meeting
Let me recall that before the meeting with Abhisit, Cambodia conducted a military exercise using real ammo to test our air defense capability in Battambang province. It was just a coincidence. The same is true for the arrival of new tanks. If there were not going to be a meeting, the tanks would also have arrived and the real ammo test would be fired anyway. Let me confirm here that number of tanks and amour vehicles is just a part of what we have ordered only. It should not be misunderstood to be a way of putting pressure on such meeting so to speak.
Workers to Return to Work, Court Ends Accusations
There have been strikes at a number of factories by some trade union members. The case has been brought to my attention on September 24, the day I was still in New York. I have seen that the measures proposed seems to be not in tune when the trade union members stopped their strikes, the employers took legal procedure to the court and sacked some workers. I have given my approval to the measures proposed by HE Ith Sam Heng (Minister of Social and Veteran Affairs) and also I added my proposal for the court to drop off the charge on trade union members and leaders, and seek the employers’ consent of allowing them to get back to their jobs.
This is a win-win solution or the matter will go on without end. The matter should be resolved by compromise, as the strike will cease and the job will be returned. I would seek all workers to understand that factory is like a rice pot for all. Loss of factory by any means like being caught on fire or no order from market could translate into jobless situation for our workers. Demand for pay rise or any other issues must be in line with labor law, and also consideration must be put on real economic factor. By demand for high rise of pay while the economic factor would not allow the factory to do so, the only option rests with the employers is to close the factory and leave the country. I appeal to employers and workers, who are members of the trade union that both of them are inseparable partners and depending on each other./.