701 Graduates, Techo Hun Sen Buildings
It is indeed my pleasure to be able to join with all of you to celebrate two important events – the graduation of 701 physicians and the inauguration of new buildings. I am seeking your understanding that my wife, who is now in the New York, the United States of America, and could not present to share this joy with all of us, as this event is closely relating to her area of expertise.
Things have changed greatly. When I was here at the time when HE Chhea Thang was Minister for Health and HE Di Narongrith was Vice Minister, our medical students studied in a dilapidated corrugated roof steel building with holes that rain water leaked through. However, now we have a better state of building. With the presence of the Japanese Ambassador here, Japan offered a building that I also had the chance to put it into official use.
I could recall that the building was for midwifery training but there was then a low rate of applicants. It was in that knowledge that we have taken the initiatives to promoting midwives that whoever chooses this career would be encouraged with better pay and rank as government official.
I am sure we all are happy to see that we have here a seven floor building, which I am so grateful for the proposition to name the building after me. I also wish to express my sincere appreciation and thanks to Rector of the University of Health Sciences for requesting to name one other new building there after my name as well. I would like to take this opportune moment to express my sincere thanks to the leaders and officials of the Technical School of Medicine who have made great efforts in institutionalizing a new working environment that is completely different from that of ten years ago.
However, I wish to draw your attention that we have now come to the time when school will have to raise income to foster its training and development programs. I used to mention on several occasions that it has been a correct decision and policy from the part of the Royal Government to allow the private sector’s involvement in education investment. If we were not to allow the private sector’s investment, we would have encountered a huge problem of university absorption capacity in face of high turnout of students who finish their secondary education.
Even in state universities too, if that was not the case, students would be unable to take up study as fee-paying students. How do we go about solving the problem of leaving them outside the formal training and educational system? While allowing the universities to offer courses to fee-paying students, with the income from school fees, they not only cover the lecturing/tutorial costs but also see about fixing and even building new facilities needed for training purpose.
Having reflected on the correct policy of the Royal Government in relation to its decision to allow the private sector’s investment in the field of education and human resource training and development, for which a major part of contribution has been made by the people who pay for their children to study in these training facilities – state and private, it should be noted that this is a good example of what I term state and people jointly develop human resources. As for the new buildings here and at the University of Health Sciences, the Royal Government, aside from allowing tax exemptions on some materials required for the construction and training purpose, did not pay a cent for them. It was all in the university’s efforts.
New Working & Living Environment
It should not be wrong to say that here and in other places, working and living environments have changed considerably from ten years ago when the country was in a state of ruin and turmoil. Even in 1996, not to mention civil war, the country was in the state of division with two governments – one was the elected government in Phnom Penh and another was the Anlong Veng government of Khieu Samphan, which printed currency of its own too. Also, you may remember that in Phnom Penh, people were scared to see that some went to noodle soup carrying with them the B40 rocket launchers.
That was not a simple matter for the country. Take one example, a VIP went to have noodle where there were bodyguards with rifles of all sorts ranging from pistol to B40 rocket, to M79. Let’s imagine that another VIP came with bodyguard team that was similarly armed. People were scared and worried of security as these armed men might provoke clashes at any time. They would stay away. Under the former State of Cambodia, when the CPP ruled Phnom Pent alone, the city was not plagued with armed groups as such. After the 1993 elections until the armed incident in 1997, Phnom Penh was a city full of armed men.
Having said that reminded me of the Eight-Point Statement that I issued from Prey Nub district of the province of Preah Sihanouk. Among other things, it ordered for collecting all weapons and removing dark-tinted sheet from vehicles. Since then security has improved and people could enjoy their noodle for breakfast free from the above fearful situation. Thanks to the statement and implementation of the order thereafter, we demolished some 30,000 rifles. It would not be overstating remarks to say that we almost forget about weapons.
About Blood Donation
Today I would like to say a few things about blood donation. It has been noted with a low rate of blood donation so far. On behalf of the Royal Government and my own behalf I would place an appeal to people of all circles and strata, those in healthy condition, to donate blood that will help in saving life. Some people who do not have resources to help for achievements may conduct blood donation as a way to sacrifice for the good cause of saving life. It is a culture of sharing, and even more so a culture of life saving.
We have a great number of Cambodian Red Cross volunteers who donate their blood. However, blood donation will be carefully and scientifically examined. Blood transfusion has been one way of saving life but also, if not properly examined, transmitting disease from one person to another. We have been doing a great deal in relation to blood donation free from HIV/AIDS. H.E. Dr. Nuth Sokhom, Senior Minister, who just returned from New York where he delivered a statement at the 2011 High Level Meeting on AIDS, brought us his remark that former President Bill Clinton of the United States of America, who visited Cambodia and is a champion on AIDS issue, and having witnessed the progress Cambodia made, has offered his deeply great thanks.
It is in this note that from his address, the former President of the United States of America referred to various examples and cases from Cambodia and thanked the First Lady and HE Dr. Nuth Sokhom, former Minister of Health, for the common success in lowering the level of HIV/AIDS infections.
I have seen that HE Mam Bun Heng was leading the Day of Blood Donation yesterday and the number of donor among our people is still low – 0.3% or three people among every 1000. I would appeal to people in all corners of the country to contribute their blood to save human life – from diseases or wounds whether it be self inflicted, natural or other noble causes.
School Fee for Two School Constructions
I am indeed pleased with the efforts in putting this new building in place. It should be noted that the cost of USD 1.936.437 has derived from school fees from 1) the University of Health Science (UHS) and 2) the Technical School of Medicine (TMS). So I would like to remind those at TMS that for the building that we have here, a part has been contributed from the UHS. It can be said that school fee from two schools has been used to build facilities here. In this remark, I envision a mutual help between the two schools – UHS and TMS.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks and appreciations to all development partners, especially the cooperation with France, Japan, Australia, World Health Organization, Korean Community, NGOs and charitable persons for providing assistance to the two schools. With regard to the UHS, I have something to say concerning the Korean-Cambodian Friendship building.
In 1996, an agreement was signed on establishing diplomatic relations between Cambodia and the Republic of Korea (RoK). After the signing of the agreement, the two countries established their missions. I took the time after the Consultative Group meeting in Tokyo to conduct a visit to RoK. Then President of the RoK, HE Kim Young-sam said to me that he would offer me two million USD as a token of my first visit to RoK and it could be disbursed either in cash or anything I might wish to.
I told HE Kim Young-sam I wanted Korean construction equipments. They have been offered and used in Cambodia until these days. In that circumstance, as the elections were approaching, other politicians would have accepted money offer rather than equipments as such. That was followed by more assistance from RoK and the Korean-Cambodian Friendship Building at UHS was one of the kinds. Searching for friendly assistance, Japan offered us help in TSM, RoK did at the UHS, but involvements have been made by the French in this sector together with various development partners.
High Percentage of Women Graduation
As far as graduation is concerned here, I would like to take this opportune moment to express on behalf of the Royal Government and my own, the appreciation for efforts made by UHS and TSM as well as their professors in the course of transferring knowledge to our younger generation physicians, who are being presented with diplomas of graduation for both scholarship and fee-paying students.
It is indeed necessary that we have to provide technical and material base so that our students can benefit the most from their study. It is in this understanding that we have taken all-out efforts to put in place such needs so that both students and professors could work together to achieve excellent results in human resource development in the field of health. With the graduates, let me share the joy upon graduation that you all will be addressed as Doctor, pharmacists, dentists or physicians.
As far as gender issue is concerned, the number of female graduates is quite encouraging. Among the 701 graduates today, 435 of them or over half of the number, 184 from the UHS and 261 from the TSM, are female. This figure clearly suggests that the number of female physician is higher than male one. However, female or male, all physicians need to carry out their tasks of providing treatment for patients. I would like to share with your parents and/or sponsors their joys as they have approved that you have been doing a great job to get this far and be presented with diplomas. It is a great pride that our society today has welcome 701 physicians more.
Health and Education Go on Recruiting
In fact, let me clarify this matter, so far we have allowed only two state institutions to go on recruiting staff – health and education. The two institutions have been exceptional even in 2010 when we did not allow recruitment at all. Every year we allow some 5,000 recruits for the Ministry of Education and some 1,000 for the Ministry of Health. I would urge consideration on issue of students admitted to the curriculum to go on till they finish and streamlining is allowed. Last year, there was this decision that some students who paid already one year school fee and were not allowed to continue their study. That prompted a protest in front of my house. I sorted it out and they had the chance to go on.
However, I would like to say a few more about post graduation professional career development. As is mentioned by HE Mam Bun Heng, Minister of Health, training, morale and qualification are important elements but efficiency and effectiveness is critical as this is a profession that is answering to matter of human life. Morale and virtue for the sake of patients from the part of physician is vitally important. I would like to take this opportune moment to appeal to students who are pursuing their study here as well as physicians all over the country to take seriously in term of morale and virtue while in this profession.
I would also like to mention here that physicians who are trained under the line of the Ministry of National Defense and served in the military have not only provided services for the army personnel but also people at large. I am sure this has increased the number of physicians in the whole country and it is also undeniably true that you have to keep abreast with the technological innovation and development so as to master in using it and hold up virtue and morale while performing the duty.
Treatment First, Payment Second
Having said that I would like our physicians to pay attention to provide treatment and care while patients are being brought in to your ward. It has been reported that in some places, patients are required to pay fee in advance before treatments begin. I would like to appeal at this moment that all state and private hospitals have to pay attention in providing prompt treatment and care to patients.
I think that we should consider all possibilities to establish a reserve fund from which the Ministry of Health could disburse to all hospitals for treatments of some emergency patients. There has been some cases that treatment was delayed in private hospital for patients checking in without financial record or assurance. Maybe HE Mam Bun Heng, Minister of Health, will take this request back and discuss among health professionals and policy makers, the Ministry of Economy and Finance and concerned institutions also included.
If we could work this out all patients will be taken care of in a professionally and timely manner because all hospitals will not be concerned about who will cover the bill. This will eventually, I am sure, put an end to issue of negligence from the part of physician or hospital management on patients for lack of financial assurance. I am sure for the majority of doctors and physicians perform duties according to professional and ethical standard, except very few who would eventually upgrade their standards too. We have these days what we call the Equitable Fund and I would urge HE Ouk Rabun, Secretary of State for Economy and Finance to also take part in the discussion and figure out if this fund can be used. All in all, I would urge us to work out a way to help save people’s life.
Mother and Child Mortality Rate Fall
It is now urgent matter and we have done a great deal already to bring down the mother and infant mortality rates from major disease such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and other preventable diseases through vaccination and use of better human resources and equipments. I visited a village in the area of Tonle Sap Lake, bordering one part with the province of Kompong Cham’s Batheay district, one part with Kompong Chhonang and another with Kompong Thom provinces, and I ordered a health clinic built.
We would have difficulties to provide it with physicians but we will see to sending in midwives prior to other services. It should be brought to mind and solution should be figured out from now.
Redistribution of Physicians & Elimination of Certain Diseases
The Ministry of Health should indeed reconsider its plan in redistributing the physicians. This is a matter of concern and would not be too difficult to organize as we have now achieved peace and political stability, which, I am sure, is prerequisite for physician distribution. Infrastructures ranging from roads to bridges, and construction of referral hospitals in better state could be of critical benchmarks for actions. In 1997/1998, distribution of physicians was somewhere 30% in rural and 70% in urban areas.
Now we have a new statistics that more physicians have been distributed to working in rural areas. What needs to be done though is to see about providing both human resources/expertise and technical and material facilities. I hope that our development partners will see that as a target of actions to be encouraged so that we could move Cambodian healthcare and service to a new level.
Having performed such duty, we will be able to eliminate certain diseases as defined in our actions and plan. We have pinpointed malaria to be eradicated by 2025 as we already did to polio. We have defined our actions to eradicate small pox and tetanus by 2012 so to speak.
A Strange Case of Espionage
As for issue relating to our neighbor I would not want to say anything. However, I would urge the Ambassador of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to give it a thorough thought about this issue of espionage claimed by this neighbor of ours – Thailand. It is a strange espionage case as the agents are composed of Cambodian, Vietnamese and Thai. I do not wish to respond but I cannot keep silent when they went this far on the espionage case. How could this spy story be of the concern of the three countries at once? In Bangkok, Thai Prime Minister has picked the issue up himself while in Phnom Penh this matter has been responded only by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson.
They claimed that the issue is for certain as the Cambodian Consular Office has made a contact. The (Cambodian) Foreign Affairs spokesperson responded already that it is a normal practice that Consular Office needs to figure out the situation of their citizen on foreign soil. Spy or not spy, even if the person charged is responsible for drug or other matters, it is the Consular Office’s responsibility to figure it out. Why have they used this to ascertain the case?
I do not wish to respond because they (Thais) are in the electoral campaign phase but they have been too quick to say it is a spy case and wish to report it to UNESCO, etc. I doubt if they could gather more votes if whatever they said has been more to fool and lie to the Thais. I would just wish they go smoothly with the elections and they do not bother to cause troubles with Cambodia. I would warn them they may suffer loss of votes if Cambodia counter attacks their smearing campaigns. Well the matter will be up to the people of Thailand to decide.
The other day, the Thai Ambassador came to see me and brought me two letters from the mothers of Veera Somkwamkid and Ratree. It has been sounded out by some to exchange spies. The Foreign Minister stepped out and suggested to exchange spies. Let me tell you, let the Thais do according to the Thai law, there will not be any exchange. That would not be accepted so that a precedent would not be set. Here I would warn our officials not to frequently visit Thailand because there might be ill-intentions from their part that some of us could be arrested on accusation of being spy and used for trading with the two Thai prisoners.
It is so ridiculous that as soon as the persons were arrested, while there were no charges from court yet whether they were really guilty or not, how could the foreign minister, I doubt if he knows of law, step out and suggest an exchange. I have worked with ten Thai Prime Ministers but I never have difficulties as I have with this one. I do not know how Thai people could trust in him. They may judge themselves. I do not involve in their campaign and if he is going to get elected I would have to continue to work with him still. He has been quite hypocritical as the yellow shirt said the other day, someone knows Thai told me, “Abhisit, where do you put the words you have said the other day?.”