The 900 – Meter Bridge
It is indeed my great pleasure to join with all of you in the ground breaking ceremony to build the 900 meter bridge of Koh Puos which will connect the beach of Hawaii to the island of Koh Puos (Snake Island). I would like to take this opportune moment to express my sincere appreciation and thank to the efforts made by the Ministry of Public Work and Transports as well as other concerned parties in clearing problems here to get such an achievement to move ahead.
In between 1994-95 an investment project was signed after the package bidding between the Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh and it is going without saying that the issue of having casino in Phnom Penh had in fact started from here. The casino was not taking place when I was the leader of the State of Cambodia. It was from the same package of this investment. When the Kingdom was starting its first term there was this package bidding between the city of Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville for which the cost of consultancy was three million US dollars. Unfortunately the 1997 Asian financial crisis made it impossible for the company that won the bidding to fulfill the commitment.
There had been so many requests there later by various companies and I have the belief that anyone country that has the possibility to make investment here is the one who has the ability to build the bridge. I have said that if they invest in building five star hotel but they do not have bridge and use engine boats or hanging cars, there was no need for a five-star hotel investment. So my point is that whoever has the ability to build the bridge would have the green light from me for investment.
There have been many discussions as to how high should the bridge be from the water level. A suggestion was raised that we should have the bridge 45 meters above the water surface so as to allow shipping through to the port. With a compromise from both sides the Cambodian engineering and the company, we have come to an agreement of a height of 32.5 meter above sea level. Our patrol ship could also pass through under it if there is a need. This should resolve the issue of having a water area overlapping between tourist and shipping lane reserves.
Clarifying National Sovereignty
Are we selling the island to foreign countries as we developit? I am asking this because it is a sensitive topic that I should try and make clear. In Cambodia, one can be accused of selling anything from island or land to Angkor Wat. People who said such a thing were those who at one point had been the one who initiated package sale of the island too. In China, the Qing dynasty rented land of Hong Kong to the United Kingdom, and Macau to Portugal. When the rent expires Hong Kong and Macau have become one-country two system administrative zones and both are under the Chinese sovereignty.
It is what is left by the colony but China maintains its control over the sovereignty of the two and therefore all infrastructures have now become the Chinese properties. As for Cambodia, we do not sell our land to Russia but offers on a concession investment. We have similar cases in Thailand, Malaysia and other islands in Africa. If we want more jobs we need to have growth and to achieve growth we need to have investment. We are determined that the private sector is the engine of growth whereas the Government is the economist who leads the economic policy and provides guidance wherever is necessary. If we do not have the investment to build the bridge, the company of Koh Puos also has not got the opportunity to make investment.
The Biggest Investment from Russia
It is the first ever investment at the cost of 300 million Euros by the Russian company in Cambodia. In the near future there is a request by another Russian company to invest in another island – Koh Krabei. I would like to express my sincere thanks and appreciation to HE Ambassador of Russia for his efforts in bringing the Russian investment to Cambodia. I would like to welcome the company and others that are coming along.
Aside from the lease amount, more important is the jobs to be created. Take for instance there will be a hotel of 2000 rooms and about 3000 jobs are being created. What our people can see beyond is the fact that tourists come in package of air fees, visas, airport tax, food supply services, etc. The average estimation of jobs for our people has been between 20,000 and 25,000. So it is important to state here that the contract is for 99 years and after the completion of the agreement, the land will be transferred to the state. After that the state will go on leasing to those who are interested.
The Dragon Head Setup
We have to make effort to improve our beaches and city facilities as one of the most important poles of the country’s economy. Here we have tourists, seaport and special economic zone – Stoeung Hav, Prey Nub and the Sihanoukville port with the Japanese assistance. It is a pole with many service areas.
In Sahanoukville we have already connected it to Phnom Penh by the NR 4, to Vietnam by the NR 3 and to Koh Kong and Thailand by NR 48. We also have the Kang Keng airport in operation whereas the deep seaport is in full operation too. Here lies the head dragon economy of the country. More banks come here and perhaps more will go to the island. We might have a stock exchange center here too.
Projects under study are the provision of electricity, with the possibility of wiring between Sihanoukville and Kompot, from Kompot to Takeo and to Phnom Penh, with the possible electric source from Vietnam. We also look at the possibility of wiring electricity from Kirirom to Veal Rinh too. This is indeed the sixth bridge across the sea corridors – one in Koh Kong, four on the NR 48 and this sixth one will be finished by 2010. People will then travel on this bridge to the island free of charge.
A Drug Addict
Because the election is approaching I would in this occasion like to present you, especially our people in the Sihanoukville constituency, former members of the SRP, who have now become the members of the Cambodian People’s Party … In one of the Apsara Radio talk shows led by HE Sok Eisan, I heard HE Ngo Sovan said that in the SRP people have been made to believe that Hun Sen takes addictive drug in cigarettes. That was absurd. It is a serious offense. When I offered a cigarette to HE Om Kim Sea, after taking it, he said to HE Ngo So Van, Hun Sen’s cigarette is normal. They have insulted me for my wounded eye, now they affront me by accusing that I am a drug addict. Isn’t it too much?./.