A Road that Runs Through Three Border Provinces
It is indeed a great pleasure for me to have come and join with all of you here in Banteay Meanjei province to celebrate the groundbreaking ceremony to build a 144.27 km national road 59 that is running from the National Road 5 at the village of Koun Damrei of Banteay Meanjei through Battambang and to Pailin provinces at the village of Stoeng Kaj under the preferential buyers and concessional loan from the People’s Republic of China. It is, I am sure, our great pleasure to see our dream come true. This is the fruit of cooperation between Cambodia and China, and we have so many more.
The project costs 72 million USD, in which the Royal Government of Cambodia also shares its counterpart fund so as to get our country’s south-western corridor constructed. Well, looking at the photographs of the old road is quite sad as the conditions had been too bad and efforts to build the road with laterite, after the integration, did not seem to hold the road for long. Not only for the road here, throughout the country too, it has been our belief and effort now to opt for rural asphalt roads.
HE Pan Guangxue, Ambassador of the Chinese People’s Republic, has just mentioned about the recent inauguration of the Cambodian-Chinese Friendship Bridge at Prek Tamak. Today we are building the national road 59 that runs from a point in the national road 5 in Banteay Meanjei through Battambang province to join with the national road 57 at Pailin province. The road would be of benefits to the city of Poi Pet and Malai district of Banteay Meanjei, whereas the districts of Sampeo Loun, Phnom Proek and Kamrieng of Battambang provinces would enjoy similar deal. As for Pailin province, its district of Sala Krao would be the place to share this chance. Because we have another road from Battambang’s Bavel district directly through this part of the country too, I would call it a triangular link for development.
I am feeling great that our efforts have brought about a great achievement for people of three provinces – Battambang, Banteay Meanjei and Pailin. The total length of the roads that run through here that are built by the Chinese assistance is 423 km – the national road 57 from Battambang to Pailin is roughly 103 km, the national road 59 is 144 km and the national road 57B is 176 km (to be officially launched on March 21). Once the roads are ready our people will be able to visit Pailin’s Phnom Yat or Banteay Meanjei’s O Jrou without having to travel back to Battambang town for doing that. I am sure before the Khmer New Year of 2013 or the year of snake 2557, our people will be able to travel on these new roads.
It has been my vision and direction that we have to work out a plan and make efforts in transforming former battlefields into regions of development and market activities. The idea has eventually been implemented.
I am sure there are now more people who understand that there is a need for infrastructural development in order to develop our country. In fact, despite this much investment in infrastructure, Cambodia is still in need of between 2,000 and 3,000 km of asphalt road more. We are now addressing this need in a gradual manner. Some roads need to be widened and some dirt roads need to be asphalted.
I have the need to reconfirm here, and I think HE Ee Chhien, HE Sok Pheap may agree with me too, that Pailin and Malai were ignitions of peace that from here, since August 3, 1996, we proceeded to implementing integration in the framework of win-win policy. Anlong Veng was indeed the last stronghold (of the former Khmer Rouge) to be integrated into the fold of our nation. Anlong Veng participated in the elections in 1998. Thanks to win-win policy, we have realized national achievements, and in place of confrontation and hostility, there are developments in all fields.
It is essentially true that with peace we can do anything while in absence of peace we would not be able to talk about road construction since human life would face with danger that we could not defend too. If war were to continue from 1996 or even 1998, how many more lives could have been killed. Now that we are in peace we can come and sit together here instead of shelling at each other. The whole country has changed from a place of gunfire to that of Buddhist teaching and music. Therefore, Pailin and Mealai are ignitions of peace by younger generations to a war that was created by former generations. We have now put an end to it and thus far developed the country.
I would lilke to take this opportune moment to express our sincere thanks to the Government of the People’s Republic of China for massive financing so many projects in Cambodia and this particular project is just one of them. There are numerous projects that are waiting to be launched or inaugurated. As is studied by former Ambassador of the PRC together with HE Sun Chanthol (then Minister for Transport and Public Works), a great potential has been envisioned from this area of Cambodia and there is a need for development of infrastructure so that we can tap from the resources here.
I would say that China’s help has enabled Cambodia to link itself with the three neighboring countries – Thailand, Vietnam and Laos. Take for instance, this national road 59 serves as a link between Cambodia and Thailand at a number of points, and Pailin is one of them. The national road 7 from Kratie to the border with Laos and the Se Kong River Bridge has also allowed Cambodia to fulfill its wish to be connected with Laos. As for Vietnam, the national road 8 from the province of Kandal through to Anlong Jrei at the border with Vietnam, and the national road 76 from Snuol district to Sem Monorom of Mondulkiri and to Vietnam, the national road 78 from O Pong Moan of Ratanakiri to O Yadao and on to Vietnam – have all provided links to Vietnam. That is why I would say that China’s assistance has helped Cambodia to link up or to integrate itself with the three neighboring countries.
It has been my philosophy always that peace can never be achieved by making war. All conflicts, whether they are international or internal, must be resolved by peaceful means. I started military service since when I was 18 years old. I have so much experiences and beliefs that gunpoint is not a way to make peace. This brought me in fact to overcome all sorts of hindrances and difficulties to conduct peace negotiation that in the end led to national reconciliation and peace throughout the country. You may ask about this achievement, who has lost in the Royal Government peace plan’s win-win policy.
I also do not believe in integrating (former Khmer Rouge forces) administratively and politically. I strongly see that there is a need for infrastructural development that would serve national endeavor for integration in literal sense but also for transport and communication in tangible term. China has come to help us in our search for funding to accomplish this need and task. One should not overlook local integration while talking about regional and international integration of Cambodia.
After the inauguration of the Bridge at Preak Tamak, I also presided over the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the Bridge at Neak Loeng in Kandal province. The bridges are actually linking the province of Prey Veng and Kandal together in internal integration term. In a wider scale, the bridges (of Neak Loeung and Prek Tamak) will link together the Greater Mekong Sub-region that traffic between Ho Chi Minh City and Bangkok can be conducted via/through Cambodia’s Phnom Penh.
Traffic in this framework will be running through national road 5 and national road 1 in the Cambodian section. This road link will also allow traveling to Laos, Myanmar and India as well. As you can see the national road 5 has a uniquely important role in effort to link countries in the region together via Cambodia.
Since we have a great connection on land like this and because this area is obviously potential in term of agriculture, I think that the areas along are of great economic significance and potential investment destinations. I would urge HE Pan Guangxue to encourage investors from China to look for investment opportunity in this area, especially because of its fertile soil for cassava, maize and sugarcane. If they could think of establishing (processing) factories here, we will see the chance for our people to sell their produces. This will indeed help with the Royal Government’s poverty reduction efforts and with good roads in place all this will be possible.
As for our link point with Thailand at the border pass of Poi Pet, I would agree with the idea that we would leave the current pass at the bridge of Poi Pet for tourists while for trade activities, I have approved for the opening of a new pass at Stoeng Bat. The pass will be for heavy transportations. Senior Minister Sun Chanthol already discussed with the Thai’s Srah Keo authority already. Both sides are trying to locate where to actually build the new pass. As you can see, this will serve the purpose of improving local integration but also coordinating for integration with neighboring countries in the fields of trade, investment and tourism.
HE Sar Kheng, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Interior, reported to me the other day about our forthcoming elections schedule. We have come to a proposed date of July 28 of 2013 when Cambodians will vote (for a new parliament). Elections in Cambodia had been conducted on July 26 or 27 and this time will be on 28. I hope that all political parties will be able to use these roads for their electoral campaigns. The roads are not for ruling party alone but for all. Let’s hope that whatever party that uses this road in the cause of electoral campaign would not scold the Government for these good roads. However, they should be worried about their votes if they use our good roads but blame the one who build them.
I have the need to thank the Ministry of Transports and Public Works, the Ministry of Economy and Finance and concerned institutions for their close cooperation with the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China and the Shanghai Construction Co. to resolve all necessary matters for this construction project to actually happen today.
I also like to thank local authorities, all sub-national level ones, for excelling efforts to provide all facilities and supports needed for studies to be conducted and construction sites all along. I also thank all armed forces involved for their security service for the sites. I have also to thank the people along this road for their genuine cooperation for this project to go smoothly. Last but not least, let me thank the de-mining team for their efforts in rooting out 85 anti-personnel mines and 748 Kg of UXOs on a surface of 2,855,400 sq m.
It has been proven true that one basic way to generate growth and reduce poverty is by developing infrastructure. Even more so, this will ensure an equitable redistribution of the fruit of economic growth. It is not difficult to make or understand this statement as it is the road that everyone can use it, school that everyone can send their kids to, water canal that anyone can take water from, and hospital that everyone can find treatment. We have so much potential for us to speed up our economy but we also have to maintain peace and political stability whereby macroeconomics will be sustained for growth generation.
Cambodia not only pursues the policy of transforming former battlefields into development and market places, but also formulates and implements a policy to transform all border areas of Cambodia with neighboring countries into ones of peace, friendship and cooperation. Let’s (people along the border) trade as usual and from Cambodian side we have allowed Thai trucks to come in and collect produces 30 km deep into Cambodian territory.
For places where there are problems, let’s keep them for solving efforts. Let’s not expand it to other places. Let’s go on with cooperation as usual. It is a good thing too that the Thai exhibition in Phnom Penh on February 17 is to go on and I will meet with Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand too. Let’s maintain the good relations.
Well, I received a report and suggestion from (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior) Sar Kheng about the need for establishing a new sangkat (commune) in the City of Poi Pet. It is a good thing and this has reminded me of a time when I passed by the City with HE Tia Banh (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense) to Aranyaprathet, from where former Prime Minister of Thailand, HE Chatichai Choonhavan and former Commander in Chief HE Chaovalit Yungchaiyuth sent a helicopter to fetch us to Bangkok for a discussion for political wayout.
What I wanted to say here is that behind Sisophon town, it was all a forest of tall grass. On one side we had the Khmer Rouge and on the other too. Now there is neither war nor grass. We have only asphalted roads and electric poles. I came to this part of the country once in 1984 when I was acting Prime Minister and again in 1985 to observe the K-5 border defense line. I also came again in 1989, in company with HE Tia Banh, as I said above./.