China’s Assistance for Economic Efficiency
My wife and I are so happy to be here with all of our people to witness the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the Cambodian-Chinese Takhmao Bridge – which our people are longing for. As is said by the Chinese Chargé d’Affairs, what has been waiting for is now becoming a reality. I would like to take this opportune moment, through H.E. HE Leping, Chargé d’Affairs of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, to express my sincere gratitude to the Government and people of China for the provision of assistance for infrastructural development projects in Cambodia.
H.E. He Leping already mentioned about the visits of former Premier Zhu Rongji to Cambodia in 1999 and again in 2002, when Cambodia hosted the ASEAN Summit and related meetings with its partner countries. I wish to restate the fact that the PRC is looking for economic efficiency in providing its assistance while leaving project decision entirely up to the Royal Government of Cambodia. As long as the projects are envisaged from studies to have economic benefit, approval will be provided accordingly. The Cambodian side too would not propose unsoundly economic projects.
Cambodian Four Priority Areas
It should be noted too that the Chinese assistances in recent years have addressed the four areas of priorities defined by Cambodia. If we were to count from when I first proclaimed in 1987, the four priority areas are 20 years old now. As I usually said, these priorities – water, road, electricity and human – will continue to be Cambodia’s focus (of development) for at least 20 more years. Without (development made in) the four areas, the country would not be able to reach its development goal.
Lately, the (PR of) China has been involved in providing assistance for the construction of large-scale irrigation projects aimed at addressing agricultural needs. As for road and bridge, through its assistance, China has been building road and bridge with length that are longer than assistance in same area provided from other sources. With loans from the Chinese State Banks, the Chinese companies have been investing in Cambodian major hydropower stations, in which two of them will be providing electricity by end of this year – The Komjai Hydropower Station of 193 MW and The Kirirom III Hydro Power Station of almost 20 MW, to address the need for electricity not only in Phnom Penh but in the province of Kompong Cham, etc.
Having accomplished that I would say Phnom Penh residents will no longer suffer power outage. Especially the Chinese Embassy will not be out of electricity as well. In one of the meetings with the Chinese delegations at my house, we suffered power outage and I said to the Chinese that this clearly indicated the need for China to help Cambodia in area of electricity production. Also to mention here, every year, scholarships have been provided for our students to continue their studies in China, which definitely addresses issue of Cambodian human resource development.
China’s Growth, Developing Countries Benefits
You may note that I have mentioned on more than one occasion that the Chinese economic prowess not only benefits China itself but also the developing countries, where Cambodia is one of them. Premier Wen Jiabao, in the ASEAN Summit, declared providing some 7.5 billion USD for the ASEAN member countries. Cambodia has received a chunk of over 700 million USD already from the package. Today, we have made use of the 400 million USD earmarked during the visit of the Vice President (of the PRC) HE Xie Jinping to Cambodia in 2009 for seven projects, one of which is under negotiation – the Takhmao Bridge, the Phnom Penh Container Port, the National Road 71, the Pursath River Development, the Rural Electricity Development Project, the Irrigation Project of Stoeung Treng, the Enlargement of National Road 6A into four lanes, and the Enlargement of the National Road 5 into four lanes.
During my visit to the PRC on December 13, 2010, Cambodia and China accorded an additional sum of 300 million USD, for which development projects have been underway. Among them, about 100 million USD has been earmarked for the jointly studied development project for (Svay Rieng province’s) Vaiko River irrigation. For 200 million USD, we are looking at the construction of a road from Preah Vihar province to the province of Stoeung Treng, including also another bridge across the Mekong River, and the remaining 100 million USD has been earmarked for the construction of the national road 76 which will connect the provinces of Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri together.
Having said that you now have no doubt that the Chinese economic might would not benefit only the people of China but also developing countries in their endeavors to achieve national development. China has twice proven its important role to play in saving world and regional economies from crisis – the Asian financial crisis of 1997 and again the world financial crisis and economic downturn of 2008-2009. In the course of remedying world economic crumbling, China’s economy continues to grow strong. What could we expect if in that state of word economy, China and India, with a combined population of 2.5 billion, are also falling on their feet? It is because the Chinese economy remains in shape that its financial assistance and investment in Cambodia has not been downsized.
Provincial Level Buddhist Head Monks
Well, there has been a matter concerning the Buddhist monk appointments as I have touched on issue of benefit of the Bridge for the people in this area of Kandal province, where some twenty of its communes have been trimmed out and placed under Phnom Penh. Leaving the secular affairs aside, because of the reconfiguration of the administrative boundary of the province, this has also led to alteration in Buddhist monk leadership and appointment reconsideration.
Since some of the Buddhist senior monks like Samdech Preah Vannaroth Noi Jrek, Samdech Preah Puthivang Am Lim Heng, Samdech Preah Udom Vongsa Muong Ra, and their monateries have now come under the administrative boundary of Phnom Penh, formerly under Kandal province, there is a need for new appointments of Buddhist monks according to their apparatus.
I would suggest to Samdech Supreme Patriarch Tep Vong that this matter should be taken seriously and swiftly and promotion should therefore proceed accordingly as I am ready to approve whoever the Buddhist realm proposes. There are only 24 Mekun (Cambodian term for provincial head monk) in our country so I think it is not that complicated and difficult to proceed with this matter. I do not know where does this appointment issue is stuck, in the bureaucratic system of the Ministry of Cults and Religious Affairs or at the Cabinet of the Buddhist Head Monks Committee?
Takhmao Bridge’s Benefits
As far as the bridge is concerned, by 2014 the bridge will link people between the east and west bank of the Bassac river. There was a sound of slight disapproval when HE Tram Iv Toek, Minister for Transport and Public Works, mentioned in his speech that the bridge will be ready by 2014 – or 42 months from now. Well, this is going to be a concrete bridge that extends across a river of almost one kilometer. So the construction of such a bridge would definitely require certain time. However, taking the constructions of the Cambodian-Chinese Friendship Bridges of Sekong, Prek Kadam and Prek Tamak into consideration, the contractors always finished their works before schedules.
Again by then, the ferry service along this river will eventually come to a close. This would have impact on ferry business but million commuters will make big earnings whether in financial and time resources. They could cross the river for whatever purposes and needs in a speedy and free of charge manner from one side of the river to the other. Imagine one small experience when a sick person had to travel on one side of the river upstream all the way to the bridge of Monivong, which is kilometers away, in order to cross the river to get to medical attention. Would this prolong and/or endanger his/her chance of being recovered?
For your information, Takhmao Bridge costs 32.89 million USD, in which 168,998 USD is counterpart fund covered by Cambodia. The Cambodian side covered a sum of 750,000 USD of de-mining and removing unexploded ordnances, other impact related costs of 2.5 million USD, and some 3.9 million USD of tax exemption. It is in this understanding that I have the necessity of acquiring a sum of money in hand as a counterpart fund to implementing the various projects whether they are to be administered by the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and/or bilateral donors. It has been in some case that Cambodia also covered some 20% and over as counterpart part fund.
Visions of More Infrastructures
I would in this instance also lay out more of my visions for furthering Cambodian infrastructural development projects. We are seeking more funds to accomplish this vision too. As far as bridge is concerned, by early November, we will celebrate the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the fifth bridge – the Cambodian Chinese Bridge at Jroy Jangva with financial loan from the PRC. Negotiation is also underway for the sixth Cambodian-Chinese Bridge at Stoeung Treng province – the second of its kind in the province – to bridge between Preah Vihear and Stoeung Treng provinces.
According to my vision, along the River of Bassac, we will have two more bridges built – one in Sa Ang district at the point of Prek Koy on one side and Svay Proteal, Talun and Troeuy Sla on the other, and another in Koh Thom district at the point of Prek Thmey or Kompong Kong. I also have in mind more concrete bridges along major tributaries of both the Mekong, Tonle Sap and Bassac rivers – take for instance the rivers of Pursath, Sangke, Mongkul Borei, Sen, etc. We may picture one bridge within every ten kilometers in between at least. This would lessen hardships in travelling for people living along the tributaries.
Since the stretch of river of Bassac along the two points at Sa Ang and Koh Thom district would be within 500 to 600 meters, and the water level would not be that deep, I would foresee the projects implementable as the bridges would not bear too big a cost. As for the Tonle Sap River, now we have the bridges at Jroy Jangva, at Prek Phnov, and at Prek Kadam – which I think is quite accommodating. As for bridges along the river of Mekong, aside from two bridges, one is to be constructed, at Stoeung Treng province, I think that we will seek more funding to build two additional bridges – in Kratie province at the point around Chhlong district, and in Kompong Cham province in between the districts of Kroj Chma and Stoeung Trang.
I also anticipate two more bridges across the Tonle Sap River and the Mekong River to carry the train from Phnom Penh to the border with Vietnam.
Local and Regional Integration
I am so proud that in the last ten years, we have made great achievements in terms of infrastructural developments. I never buy this philosophy of national unity and/or development from the angle of administrative and political integration, while lacking infrastructural links like roads and bridges. If we were to leave Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri remote and inaccessible, how could we expect people there would achieve development? In the endeavor to integrate locally, after success of win-win policy implementation, we have made efforts to integrate former (Khmer Rouge controlled) areas into the fold of the nation.
Roads to (former Khmer Rouge stronghold of) Anlong Veng and Pailin have been built. We do not overlook the need for physical links after the political and administrative integration. Having done so, we have achieved a status in which Cambodia after local reintegration was not cut-off in parts for lack of physical links. If Cambodia were to lack local integration, how could one think or say of integrating regionally. Our Chinese friends have done a great deal to help us fix this matter.
In real term, through the Chinese assistance, Cambodia reintegrates with its neighboring countries, among other links provided by friends and partners, through the national road 7 to Laos, the national road 76 between Stoeung Treng and Ratanakiri, 78 between Snuol of Kratie and Mondulkiri, and the national road 8 to Vietnam, the national road 57 between Battambang and Pailin to the border with Thailand. We also have more links with Thailand like the national road 57B at Thmor Kol, 62, etc. The Chinese have done a great help to this effort of integrating not only within Cambodia itself but also with its neighboring countries.
Still Here in 2014
Let’s wait together till 2014 to cross the bridge. I am sure I will still be around in 2014. Some in the opposition, when Pheu Thai party in Thailand won the elections, have voiced with their suggestion that we follow changes in Thailand. Well, nobody is to oppose your coming to replace me. I will always welcome it when you win (the elections). I will recognize the election results and will get myself ready to transfer power to you in the Santepheap building. They may not have to pour scorn on me with that. They praised Thai Prime Minister (Abhisit) for walking out, and I assure I will do so when people tell me to.
For note taking, it was they who blamed those (in Bangkok) who came to power not by electoral means. It is a special case in Thailand that the opposition (Pheu Thai) has more seats in the parliament than the ruling party (Democrats). It has been stipulated by the Constitution to allow for any elected party with enough coalition partners to set up government. Well, let’s wait till 2014 together to cross the bridge as I will turn to be 62 years old. Let’s leave this issue be decided by the people on July 28, 2013 and if I were to lose the elections, I will declare my recognition and urge for a quick formation of the Royal Government.
All ministers and I will get ourselves ready to transfer power, and each ministry will have to sign transferring ministry, its property, cash and staff to new comers. However, they first have to have people’s votes in their supports. I have the info that internal strife has been more imminent in their parties. I only wish that they do not hold the ruling party accountable for their rifts and disagreements. It seems problem in some parties is getting more serious than another. I hope they would resolve the issue in open, not by “invisible means.”
Hailing Pheu Thai’s Electoral Victoy
As far as the Thai elections are concerned, HE Hor Namhong, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Cambodia has issued a declaration already and I have sent a letter to th Prime Minister elect Lok Chumteav Yingluck Shanawatra to congratulate her on the Pheu Thai victory and to express my sincere wish to work with her. However, from here, I would like to take this opportune moment to express my appreciation for the elections that were held in Thailand. I express high esteem for all political parties in Thailand for their recognitions of the electoral results, which, through their actions, serve as an example, and Pheu Thai will form a Government.
I strongly hope that all problems will be peacefully resolved and the bilateral relations between Cambodia and Thailand will enter a new era. We feel encouraged with the coming elected government of Thailand and hope to work together in partnership of cooperation between Cambodia and Thailand, as well as within the Greater Mekong sub-region, ACMECS, ASEAN and other mechanisms. Our people and armies along the border, either Cambodian or Thai, are happy with the outcome of the elections.
Pheu Thai, judging by its long rule in Thai politics, started from being a Thai Rak Thai party, then People’s Power Party, and then to its present name, has won consecutively, despite many difficulties. Let’s hope that this time around Pheu Thai will be ruling for long and be able to build and reconcile the Thai nation, and again, to restore relations with neighboring countries, Cambodia is also included. I wish the people of Thailand, Pheu Thai Party and the Prime Minister-elect Yingluck Shinawatra to form a good government who will then become a working partner with the Kingdom of Cambodia./.