Dream Comes True
It is my honor to join with HE Banno Yutaka, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Japan, and HE Masafumi Kuroki, Ambassador of Japan to Cambodia, and the Cambodian people from all walks of life in the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of Neak Loeung Bridge, in the commune of Kompong Phnom, Loeuk Dek district, Kandal province. The Neak Loeung Bridge is going to be the longest one in the Kingdom of Cambodia, to be built under the grant aid from the Government and people of Japan.
I am so thrilled in mentioning about this event since this has been expected for a long time and today we all are here to witness its coming true on February 12, 2011. I am sure this represents excitement and joyfulness of the whole people of the Kingdom of Cambodia, as the bridge will eventually be replacing the ferry service, which sometimes has taken hours for travelers to go from one side of the river to the other, and serve the Cambodian purpose of internal as well as regional integration.
Importance of the Neak Loeung Bridge
Please allow me on this joyful occasion to express my own and our people’s sincere thanks and gratefulness for the greeting messages from HE Naoto Kan, Prime Minister of Japan, and from the President of the Japanese Parliamentary Japanese-Cambodian Friendship Association of the Democratic Party of Japan to this event and Cambodian people. In his greeting message Prime Minister Naoto Kan of Japan said: “Last year, I had a chance to meet with Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia, in the Second Mekong-Japan Summit. That renewed my understanding of significance of the Neak Loeung Bridge as it would hugely contribute to the development of Cambodian and regional economies because it will link the ASEAN highway and Great Mekong Sub-region highway…”
On October 29, 2010, I had a chance to participate once again in the Greater Mekong Sub- Region’s meeting with Japan, after the first meeting that took place in November 2009, when HE Hatoyam was then Prime Minister of Japan. The bridge construction is to be conducted by the Sumitomo Mitsui Construction Co. Ltd. at the cost of 95,960,000 US dollars. The company to provide consultancy is the consortium of Chodai Co. Ltd and Oriental Consultants Co, Ltd.
The Longest Bridge in the Kingdom
As is said in the report by HE Tram Iv Toek, Minister for Transports and Public Works, the project study phase of Neak Loeung Bridge has taken quite a long time. This bridge is going to be first of all the longest, 2,215 meters, and biggest so far in Cambodia. To include the approach roads to the bridge from National Road 1 on either side of the Mekong River, it stretches in all over five kilometers. The project has been under thorough and careful study because the bridge has to be built in a state that will not obstruct navigation to and from Vietnam and Phnom Penh beneath the bridge, especially in the flood season.
However, now that we are conducting the construction ceremony, I am sure you all agree with me that late is better than never. The collapse of part of a bridge that was under construction in Vietnam, which was assisted by Japan too, has increased vigilance to the Neak Loeung Bridge project study too. As is reported, the bridge will be divided into three sections. The western approach section (of the bridge), which is in Kandal province will be 900 meters, the eastern approach section (of the bridge), which is in Prey Veng province will be 675 meters, and the main bridge crossing the main river will be 640 meters in length and will be a cable stayed bridge.
(The first ever built cable stayed bridge in Cambodia), will consist of two towers of the main span at 130 meters high from bottom of pile cap. The main span will be 330 meters high to allow clearance from the maximum water level of 37.5 meters that will ensure water transportation for 5,000 tons ships in all seasons. As you can understand now that because of the complex nature of the project, the project study phase has taken quite some time. It was designed to have only 220 main span but we have requested Japan to make it equal length with that built in Vietnam, which is 330 meters.
Inauguration in March 2015
According to the construction plan, the bridge will be ready in March 2015, which will be before the Khmer New Year (in April). Our people then will not depend of the ferry service here anymore. I think that by then, I will try and set my time to attend the inaugural ceremony even if I were not to be re-elected as Prime Minister. The Cambodian People’s Party has declared my candidacy for the fifth term and forthcoming terms, but I would let that be decided by the people of Cambodia.
If I am to be re-elected, I will come and inaugurate the bridge (in my capacity of Prime Minister) and if I were not going to be re-elected, I can also join the ceremony as a parliamentarian too. I hope that elderly people try and keep themselves fit and healthy, and I encourage their children to pay attention to helping them achieve so, to wait and see a new bridge in the coming. This bridge’s existence will be here for the first time in the Cambodian’s history in 2015.
National Road I by Japan, 118 by Cambodia
It should be said here too that Japan also built the whole 56 km of the national road 1 section between Phnom Penh and Neak Loeung. Yesterday I told HE Banna Yataka about the cabinet meeting on a bus from Phnom Penh to Kompong Phnom commune along national road 1. The purpose of the meeting on a travelling bus was for the cabinet members to see how awful the road was. It was in the second-legislature of the National Assembly’s Royal Government and HE Khi Tainglim was then Minister for Transport and Public Works.
Traveling this distance, the bus drove from 8:30 am through to 12:00 am. It was in that circumstance that the Cabinet, especially HE Khi Tainglim and HE Keat Chhon, came up with a plan to repair the road – 1) with own fund and 2) seeking funding assistance from Japan. If you trace it back I have requested assistance from Japan since 2001 when I met with HE Junichiro Koizumi, Prime Minister of Japan, during my visit to Oita prefecture in Japan. He approved my request in 2003 and the project study commenced in 2004.
This is the background of how we go about funding the reconstruction of the national road 1 (which is linked to the Neak Lowung Bridge on the Kandal province side). That said I would like to recall for all of you that on December 16, 2006, HE Fumiaki Takahashi, Ambassador of Japan and I came for the inauguration of two concrete bridges, one in district of Kien Svay (103 meters long and 14 meters wide) and another in district if Loeuk Dek (68.8 meters long and 14 meters wide), that cost in all over 6.7 million US dollars.
Again on January 5, 2010, with the presence of HE Masafumi Kuroki, Ambassador of Japan, I put into official use the national road 1 segment between Neak Loung and Koki market (42.88 km) at the cost of 41.5 million US dollars. The third phase in the reconstruction of the national road 1 segment of 9.1 kilometers from Koki market (Pole Marker 13) through to Viel Sbov at Pole Marker 4 which is now under 70% construction. There are four kilometers left from there to the Monivong Bridges. In all, the segment between Phnom Penh and Neak Loeung of the national road 1, Japan helps build both road and bridges, which are playing critical role of internal/local and outside integrations.
Since I am here today I would like to also declare open the construction of the asphalt road 118 that runs from the national road 1 (on the right hand side before reaching the Neak Loeung ferry) through to Kaam Sam Nar, which consists of 36 bridges and at a length of 42 km. The project, started in 2008, will cost the Royal Government 59 billion Riel in a three years period.
Internal and ASEAN Integrations
The bridge of Neak Loeung, which is provided in form of grant aid by the Government and people of Japan, will serve two main purposes. Firstly, it will help Cambodia integrate itself internally, or to say in simple term, between the western side and eastern side of the Mekong River, or between Kandal province on the west bank and Prey Veng province in the east bank. Today, the bridge at Neak Loeung, which we have waited for a long time, is under construction and waiting to play the role of internal integration of Cambodia.
Secondly, the bridge will serve the need for connectivity between national road 1 to national road 5 of Cambodia so as to integrate (and facilitate trade and development among countries) in the greater Mekong subregion and ASEAN through what are called North-South economic corridor and/or East-West economic corridor. The line will link three cities together – Ho Chi Minh, Phnom Penh and Bangkok, whereas Phnom Penh is in the middle. For a broader East Asian transport perspective, this road and bridge will be part of an ASEAN highway that is going all the way to Turkey. The lower end of this link will be running through to Japan.
After the bridge is in place, it will serve as a new link in the relation between the people of Japan and the people of Cambodia, and I am sure that Cambodian socio-economic aspect will then be improved in a speedy manner.
Japan’s Consensus on Cambodia
I would like to take this opportunity to express on behalf of the people of Cambodia and myself, our sincere thanks and appreciation for the Government and people of Japan for providing supports for Cambodia in this particular project. According to HE Keat Chhon, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Economy and Finance, the Japanese assistance to Cambodia has been recorded to be 1.9 billion US dollars. As of end of 2010, Japan provided already grant aid of about 1.6 billion US dollars. The annual rate has been about 130 million US dollars. Japan has been maintaining similar size of its grant aid to Cambodia despite impact of economic downturn.
I have worked with many Japanese Prime Ministers, HE (Ryutaro) Hashimoto, HE (Keizo) Obuchi, HE (Junichiro) Koizumi, HE (Shintaro) Abe, HE (Yasuo) Fukuda, HE (Taro) Aso, HE (Yukio) Hatoyama and now HE Naoto Kan, in my request for the construction of the bridge of Neak Loeung. What I wanted to lay down here is that no matter who or what political party may take the leadership role in Japan, there has always been a consensus of Japanese foreign policy towards Cambodia. Take for instance, in its political leadership change from the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan to that of the Democratic of Japan, there does not seem to be change in Japanese behavior of assistance toward Cambodia.
Japan – Biggest Donor to Cambodia
It is in this remark that Cambodia continues its regular partnership with our Japanese friend who happens to be the biggest donor for the people of Cambodia. I wish to express, on behalf of the people of Cambodia, my sincere thanks and appreciation for the Japanese tax payers whose contributions have been set aside for help for Cambodia. I wish to assure them that their contributions have been well spent by the Government of Japan for the sake of helping Cambodia. I hope that members of the Senate, the Lower House and people of Japan continue to offer supports for the Government of Japan in providing assistance for Cambodia.
As soon as Cambodia is making economic progress and development and its social condition is making a positive upturn, Cambodia would relieve Japanese burden to a certain level. We are well aware that Japan has got a huge and heavy responsibility to provide assistance not only for Cambodia but many other countries in the region as well as in the world. Japanese share for the United Nations is also big.
Thanks and Appreciation to Locals
I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks and appreciation for the Minister of Economy and Finance and concerned institutions for their close cooperation and work with the Japanese partners on technical as well as financial aspects so that the project is making a smooth go. I must also thank those who have involved in working out a counterpart fund (of over 18 million US dollars) and resolving all policies concerned.
I also thank the de-mining team 315 and the company 911 of paratroopers for their active efforts in de-mining and searching for unexploded ordnances at between 0.2 meter and 7 meters and in the river bed under 15 meters deep water. The total area of action is 376,789 sq m. We have found twelve anti-infantry landmines, 4,216 pieces of UXOs, and 12,127 pieces of shrapnel. You may be recalled that this area used to be a war zone that was hit hard by bombardments in between 1970 and 1975.
I also thank and appreciate participations by the local authorities of Prey Veng province and Kandal province with concerned parties to create a favorable working condition for the project. I would also like to appeal to our people in either end of the bridge to continue to participate with the project. I also urge the armed forces to look after security and take case of construction machines as well as safety for the construction workers as this effort will eventually be giving fruit to Cambodia and serve the interest of the region. I am sure once the bridge is ready, investment activities will be flowing into Neak Loeung are and the special economic zone at Svay Rieng province (which is on the other side of the river) too.
Traffic Rules and Barring Use of Siren
Now I come to this issue of traffic rule and safety. It has been noted that there have been so many fatal traffic accidents that are caused partly by speed above limit. HE Tram Iv Toeuk has just warned that outside town speed should not be above 90 km per hour. Last Friday I went to Kompong Som town with my family and I instructed my driver to drive only within 60 km per hour limit.
I would like to take this occasion to appeal to all everyone to not go beyond speed limit. As for siren, I think we should allow only four dignitaries – HM the King, President of the Senate, President of the National Assembly and Prime Minister, and foreign guests – to continue to use it. This has to be defined by a sub-decree. I would like HE Sar Kheng, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, to give a thorough thought on that. Let’s prepare a sub-decree for me to sign and I proclaim its forceful approval from today. I would rather anger by a few people (who will be barred from using siren) than being criticized by our people (students, patients, travelers, etc.) at large./.