I have a great pleasure today to join with all of our people and monks from the districts of Kompong Bai, Kompot and other places so as to witness the groundbreaking ceremony to build the road 32 which is 33 kilometers long from the National Road 3 through to the top plateau of Bokor. In just 30 months away we will have this construction ready to be officiated as a new achievement. Though it is being built by the private company, it will become a road for the public, and be owned by the state and people.
Maybe I should elaborate what has been at the background of the construction project here today. Bokor resort was first built in 1922 when the country was under the French colonialism and later was managed and maintained by the Sangkum Reast Niyum (populist society). It was left in ruin and complete abandonment under the war and genocide until 1998 when the country was coming toward end of the war.
Kompot province could be said as one of the last to put an end to the war because it contains areas like Phnom Voar, Bokor area, where armed clashes occurred frequently in those days. This is the area in the country where development has taken a slow pace. This area has also been framed in as a protective zone issued by a Royal Decree and managed by the Ministry of Environment. Though it has become a protection zone but before then it has already a Bokor resort, which consisted of hotel, casino, guesthouse, and plantation.
Why did the Sokha Hotel Group of Oknha Sok Kong obtain this project? I wish to give our people not only here but throughout the country an explanation. There have been three companies – two foreign ones and one local one – expressing their interests in taking up investment project of Bokor resort. A US company with its registration in Europe expressed its wish to refurbish buildings and infrastructure on top of the plateau but it would not care about roads and infrastructure from bottom to top of the mountain. This means the building of a road to the top of the plateau will rest in the burden of national budget.
Another company agrees to build a road that links to the top of the plateau but only if they are allowed to tax people five dollars up and five dollars down for each car. How could our people afford to spend a lot of money in that road tax obligation? The Sokha Hotel Group agrees to build the road and refurbish the top plateau’s infrastructure that are laid in ruin, which means the company will spend twenty million US dollars for building the road to be open for public use. The company at least has to place a sum of 20 million dollars before being granted the investment project of the Bokor area.
I have ordered the Cambodia Development Council to give priority to any company that agrees to build the road and allow our people to use for free. If we want tourists to go up there we need to have a road. Without road how could we say it is a development? The road will be concrete and enlarged from 4.5 meters to seven meters wide. It has to be concretized otherwise it could not withstand the wearing out by water shed. I need not mention that our people around will be able to grow vegetable and their cultivation can be around the year so as to supply to demand on top of the plateau.
They also can grow flowers. Under Pol Pot growing flowers could be a death sentence. They also do not allow sports. But we do. In the recent Cabinet meeting we discussed this issue of how much we award in cash to those who obtain gold medals, etc. There was a suggestion from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports that the Gold Medal should be bestowed with a reward of 40,000,000 Riels or ten thousand dollars. I proposed to give Gold medal award winner 80,000,000 Riels or twenty thousand dollars because it is extremely high effort to get the medal. With this amount they could feed their families and it is an encouragement to our sport practitioners as well. As far as flowering is concerned, here we could grow flowers and vegetable like in Vietnam’s Dalat, from where flowers and vegetables are being brought into the city of Ho Chi Minh and other provincial towns.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Sokimex Company, since its establishment in 1990, to the period between 1885 and 1991 in which the market transition started to intertwine with the centrally planned economy, and through to the present have become a multi million company that invest in many sectors ranging from textile to hotels in Sihanoukville and Siemreap, and Chroy Changva, various other investment in the region of Kirirom, etc. Talking about millionaires in Cambodia some started their business from selling threads.
I warn again that some people, because they were promised by the party with posts of district heads, like a case that happened in Dang Tung district, have sold out their land and house to help the Party. It is not the Party that decides but you have to pass the exam. Since it is approaching time to make promises (the general elections) I again warn that any posts can be given only through passing exams and you have to be officials in ranks according to the incumbent administrative reform. I would urge all of you that if you want to get a post, the only way is to study hard and pass the exam. You all should no longer heed the promise that if so and so party wins you would be bestowed upon with ranks and posts. Some politicians go around and say so and so will be joining the Government and promise those who help with positions.
What happened so far has been a case in point that Funcinpec suffers a great loss because of this. A real man with his identity “A” for example is actually plowing in Banteal Mean Chey province while someone has bought his identity working with rank in Phnom Penh. We could simply say they sell their post to someone. This is where corruption happens. On another count, can we say people in Phnom Penh are corrupted when they came into Phnom Penh and occupied houses? After some time they sell them and buy new ones. Each time they do so they gain profit.
In Siemreap province, if we were to take a look at the investment in hotel and resort, 100 functioning hotels and 16 new ones under construction – which are going to be open in this year – gathered a sum of one billion US dollars and between 70% or 80% are local investment while only 5% or 6% are investment from external sources. In the past, Cambodians keep their money in the banks in Switzerland or France but nowadays the Cambodians inside the country use money to create money where those who live abroad also send money as investment to the country. They no longer send money to foreign banks.
I encourage this pattern of financial principles. Please do not get me wrong that we offer good projects only to local companies. If the local companies are incompetent we would not honor them as well. Take for instance this project is a one billion US dollar project and will take up to 15 years to get implemented. This area has a great potential for tourist development and attraction but few years ago it has been, like Kompong Thom province, a war zone. But we now do not boast about fighting anymore but developing. The win-win policy allows us to have development and Cambodia no longer has blue, red or white Khmer (color represents ideology or political tendency).
It is a good thing that we help each other and first of all local companies but that does not mean we will help the local ones in negligence of the foreign ones or to create an empire of corruption. It can be seen too that other countries also foster their companies. Take for instance we will implement strictly the tax policy so as to ensure accountability. We apply a strong discipline in term of tax collection, companies with tax due will be warned and a strict measure will be taken or they face their accounts frozen.
I thank HE Thach Khon, the Governor of Kompot, for his report of the current development situation. This is part of the overall development in the whole country. Let alone the tourist sector, the whole country absorbs a certain number that is yet corresponding to the country’s potential. According to HE Thaong Khon, in 2007, we hosted 2,151,028 tourists or 18.53% more than the previous year. Among this number 122,257 tourists visited the beaches but only 8,250 tourists visited Kampot. Some problems need to be settled fist like the renovation of the national road 3. But we should also remember the 5,7 millions local tourists in the past year to all the tourist sites throughout the country.
Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei techo Hun Sen offers a school building of six classrooms and a building to be equipped with fifty sewing machines to the College of Hun Sen-Russei Kaong, a school building of six classrooms to the Junior College of Roluas, a school building of six classrooms to the Senior College of Prek Thnaot, a school building of six classrooms to the Primary School of O ouch, a water reservoir at the size of 25 meters by 35 meters and 3 meters deep to the villagers of Anlong Koki.