My wife and I are so pleased to be invited to officiate with you all at the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a new Monivong bridge at Chbar Ampeo, which is adjacent to the old one in place. Let me offer my appreciation to the Governor of Phnom penh, HE Kep Chutema as well as his colleagues in the Municipality of Phnom Penh, the office of Transport and related sections who collaborate with a private company in the development of the Pich (Diamond) Island – an important part of the Agreement has stipulated the construction of several bridges.
According to plan the company will have to build three bridges over the Bassac River – one of them is the new Monivong Bridge that its construction is officiated today. Two more bridges to be built are to connect the city from the river’s western bank to the Pich Island including also the concrete pavement of the bank itself. This is a creative effort that was proposed in gradual procedure to me by the Municipality of Phnom Penh.
As we all know about the Pich Island – it was before a place where there was a sinking ship and since then silt has mounted and developed the place into an island. We had also another island which before was a place where a US warship sunk. Fortunately we were able to pump sand and silt out to get rid of the island. With the development for Koh Pich or Pich Island we have brought a term that those residents of the Koh have agreed in exchange for the land to be developed. What is the most important for us though is the fact that we have this new bridge of Monivong constructed and two others. If the development project of Boeung Snao is shaping up, it is possible to bridge it with Koh Pich. I have recommended to a Korean company with its project to develop Boeung Snao to build a bridge and with the company that develops Koh Pich I think the two could work together to get the two parts connected to one another. What is important is that we could solve problem of traffic from this side of the NR 1 to Phnom Penh.
The Monivong Bridge in place was first built in 1929 in the reign of Preah Baat Sisivath Monivong under the protectorate of France and here today we also have the presence of HE the Ambassador of France. It was then a steel bridge called the bridge of Chroy A Aok. Under the supreme leadership of Samdech Head of State Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia it was renamed the Bridge of Monivong. It is indeed a precious heritage left for us from the time of Sangkum Reastr Niyum. By the increase in volume of transportation in and out of the city and issue of population coupled with the effort in making the NR 1 a standard ASEAN highway, which is to be a road connection from Tokyo through to Turkey, we have to adapt this bridge to a new situation.
I met with a Japanese delegation headed by Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs and Vice Minister for Trade yesterday. They jointly affirmed the provision of grant for the construction of the Neak Loeng Bridge and the road will be enlarged to a standard that is the largest from Chbar Ampeo to Neak Loeung as some parts will be about 29 meter wide. In Phnom Penh, we have a registration of 120,000 motorcars and 600,000 motorcycles. In this situation the old bridge could no longer support traffic and it means that we have to build a new one. We have come to a solution that the city will have to make income that will lead to building the bridges or in this instance to rent out Koh Pich for the construction of the bridges. Entry to the city will continue to be on old bridge whereas the new one will be a lane for exit. We need more bridges. When there is this water festival, the traffic on the two bridges is so impossible.
How do we go about the name of this bridge? One one side is Chbar Ampeo and on another is Kbal Thnol or (the Start of the Road). HE Chutema asked me about naming this bridge and the old one is named by the Heroic King Father after the former King of Cambodia as Monivong Bridge, and as a token of respect to our Kings I would suggest that we continue to call this bridge Monivong Themi (new Moniving Bridge) and I have requested through HE Samdech Kong Sam Ol for a permission from the Heroic King Father who instructed in French in the letter that reads “To Samdech Hun Sen, Head of the Royal Government of Cambodia, thanks and appreciations from me, the Heroic King Father, the Heroic Queen Mother and HM the King Sihamoni”. This means that HM agreed that the bridge is called New Monivong from now.
What is left to be done is that the Sino-Pacific Company which is one among 8 companies that joined in bidding for the project with a consultant company from Hong Kong to guarantee the quality of the bridge for long-term use. This year HE Lim Kean Hor of the Water Resource and Meteorology is gathering speed of preparing for the January 7 road and dyke project. I wish to see more roads built in Phnom Penh and I thank very much the people in Phnom Penh for their cooperation with the Municipality Project of 50% + 50% at the allowance from the Royal Government in road renovation or construction in the city.
To the north of Phnom Penh we have the flood bunker at Kob Srov which is used as both road and flood protection. We still have difficult problem to the southern part of Phnom Penh. We will soon have the January-7 dam. It is supposed to help divert traffic from one side of Phnom Penh to another without having to cut through the city. This can happen because of the cooperation between Cambodian People’s Party and Funcinpec. I would give no heed to what some opposition say about us – they criticize us for not doing and also for doing still. In the Cabinet meeting of December 22, 2006 I revealed someone with his name and threatened to expose documents. I am to get along with that.
As January 7 approaches and it reminded us of the day when we entered Phnom Penh. It was so quiet then and there were coconut trees and banana fields. We could not organize any Buddhist ritual because there were yet any monks. If we did not have December 2, we would not have January 7, without January 7 we would not have today. The Koh Santepheap newspaper published a piece of news on December 23 that “from the website of Samdech Preah Moha Virak Khsatr (the Heroic King Father) on December 18, 2006 Samdech wrote in French … that some dignities of the CPP have recalled the January 7, 1979 because without January 7, me and HM the King Sihamoni and Samdech the Heroic Queen Mother Monineath Sihanouk could have died in the hands of the Khmer Rouge’s Pol Pot. It is a historic reality. I wish to express my respect and gratitude to Samdech Heng Samrin, Samdech Chea Sim, Samdech Hun Sen and their armed forces and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and its army. It is obvious that if it were not because of them, Democratic Kampuchea would have led Cambodia further to hell.
In Cambodian, who could be more patriotic or politically mature than the Heroic King Father? HM accepts the reality again and again and always writes something before Janaury 7 event. Cambodia today has been blamed by some as poorer and poorer and I would ask in what state could Cambodia be poorer than January 7, 1979? I would not hesitate to resign if the country is poorer than 1979. Yesterday I have requested Japan, who gives us a large grant to build Neak Loeung Bridge, to provide Cambodia with more low interest loan – like 0.01%. I said Japan could think that Cambodia would be unable to repay but he immediately responded that Cambodia is able to pay back and they said that soon Cambodia will be rich and will no longer need Japan. I said to them if Cambodia is rich, Cambodia will follow Japanese example, which means that Cambodia will look after poorer countries as Japan did. Yesterday HE Keat Chhon, Senior Minister for Economics and Finance reported that GDP has gone up to 500 US dollar per capita from 448 US dollars. In this sense, I wish we all greet the anniversary of January 7 in the new coming year 2007./.