Aside from the prepared text, Samdech Hun Sen gave the following comment and a brief response to the press about the Cambodian position on the recent situation in Myanmar.
… My wife and I are very pleased to be able to join with all of you to celebrate two important events in the University of Health Sciences, first of which is the inauguration of the new building in front of us, and second, the graduation of medical doctors, dentists, specialized doctors and pharmacists, who have made their efforts to complete their studies and defend successfully their theses. I am grateful to the invitation and happy to see the building in real after presiding over the groundbreaking ceremony on August 16, 2005.
Please allow me to express my sincere thanks for the Ministry of Health as well as its leaders and staff for the efforts they have been making for numerous achievements throughout the country. I would also express similar gratitude to the leadership and staff of the University of Health Sciences for continuous progress as mentioned in the report by Professor Dr. Kong Sophal.
The building is finished on October 03, 2007 or two years after it was first started. I am grateful that there is a consensus to name this building after my name – Hun Sen. I did not ask for it and if the building is to be renamed, it could also be done later since I never ask for it. What impresses me though is the trend of schools to base on its financial status to support their programs.
Take for instance, if we look at the total cost of the construction, again according to the report of Prof. Dr. Kong Sophal, the sum of US$ 830,000 in which US$ 649,465 is the fee paid by students and the rest is financed by the state. So the building is indeed the efforts made by the University. It has the intention and consensus to construct the building. If they do not agree to use it on the building, we would not have a building to inaugurate today.
I could recall that in the afternoon of January 10, 1980, I attended the ceremony to re-open the School of Medicine, in my capacity as the Foreign Minister – one year and three days after the country was liberated from the Pol Pot regime. Students who had not yet finished their studies, came to this School to continue their studies with a number of our doctors and pharmacists – includes HE My Samedy, Yit Kimseng, Nut Savoeun, … It was the time that the country was punished unjustly by foreign countries for the reason that we had removed Pol Pot from power.
As of today they sent Pol Pot men to the court for trial. What I wanted to related here though is the fact that the University of Health Sciences, the School of Medicine in the past, was also being punished. We made efforts from scratch to prevent the return of the genocide on the one hand and to rebuild the country on the other. We placed human resources the highest priority. Most of the students who came to finish their studies after the fall of the Pol Pot regime have now become doctors, professors, etc. As of the moment we speak, we have trained a total number of 3,506 doctors in different expertise.
The Japanese assisted us in the construction of a technical school for medical care. We have put an end to dilapidated condition in that school of medical care. We could at this point say that we have a great number of medical staff. What remains to be done is to re- distribute those staffs in accordance with the number of population. I would have your attention again on this matter that about 70% of our doctors so far have been serving only 30% of the total population, because those doctors want to work only in urban areas, whereas about 30% of doctors have been servicing for 70% of the population in the rural area.
We have to work out incentives so that those doctors could change their minds to work in rural areas and I am sure time will be needed for such a reform to take place. Upon our arrival, my wife asked one of the graduates about expertise and the response was a midwife. I am so grateful because we are short of midwife. Working on my recommendations, the Ministry of Health has made amendments to its definition and role of midwives ranging from rank to salary. We have a high birthrate and this means we need more midwife. What we want to achieve is to reduce maternal death. That is why I recommended that we have to work out an appropriate policy aimed at encouraging our students to pick up birth attendance as their career.
Taking this opportune moment I wish to express my sincere thanks and appreciations to assistances provided by friendly countries such as France, Japan, New Zealand, and various other specialized organizations aimed at increasing and improving human resources in the health sector. Equal thanks and appreciations also go local and foreign professors who have been teaching in the University.
We have been working on training curricula that are quite varied. Doctors have had to do an eight-years study while specialized doctors have had to do theirs between nine and eleven years. Dentists would do for seven years while pharmacists for five years and specialized pharmacists at the doctor degree have to do between eight and nine years. What I would like to stress out this time is we should think of a unified standard which I am sure is requiring interest from the Ministries of Health, Education, Youth and Sports, and other training institutions, as well.
What has been the problem is the fact that happened at the Maharussivedic University in Kamchay Mea of Prey Veng province. They opened a faculty of medicine and in the end their teaching was meditation. Finally the problem was brought to me and what I did was to let them finish their studies in the Military School of Medicine. Though we have different standards in various training institutions we should not opt for different curriculum. The National Committee for Accreditation should pay special attention on that. This is a vital subject matter. These people after their studies will work on saving human life. We may let go with mistake in accounting, etc. but not with human life.
So we have to have a unified or unique curriculum for all training institutions and thesis should be considered of equal value. In 1980s we did not have thesis because it was so urgent. I raised this issue eleven years ago and those of you who have graduated as of this day are all successfully defending your thesis. We have 431 theses left here from the period of 1970-1975. Some people cheated us that they were doctors because they thought those doctors of that period were all dead. They have been ashamed because when they came to Phnom Penh they faced with doctors My Samedy, Yit Kim Seng, Mam Bun Heng … etc. who have their theses deposited in this university. They were liars because they do not have their theses in the file.
It is indeed obvious that healthcare and service have involved in all sectors. For instance we have learned good lessons from the rescue operation during the plane crash incident in the province of Kompot last June. It was a tough and hard mission and I wish to take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks to HE Mam Bun Heng for directing this emergency medical operation himself in his capacity as a leader of the Ministry of Health. Once the crash site is discovered, HE Dr. Mam Bun Heng, his medical team and medical equipments were dispatched and did what was necessary for rescuing efforts. He spent the night on top of that hill.
I promised our people and concerned parties that I would not leave the rescue operation command until all rescuers were back. A few weeks ago we conducted a drill for rescuing operation in case of a plane crash. Hospitals and medical staff took active parts in the drill. We also did what was called ASEAN Flood Rescue Operation exercise and our medical services, doctors and staffs were also involved.
Our medical service is improving though we still have more works to be done, especially in relation to contagious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, bird flu, from which priority has now shifted to public health response. In this regard, I have a remark which I do not know if it is appropriate to raise here. It is about condom. It is true that we have to continue to raise awareness on condom as a preventive measure for sexual diseases and communicable disease such as HIV/AIDS. Thanks to the campaign, we have noticed a decrease of the infectious rate. But spots administered by some organizations, with authorizations from the Ministry of Health and PSI have gone from raising awareness to advertising to sell condoms. They said in one instance “Number 1 and Number 1 Plus are Your Happiness.” They were presented with actions in which the Khmer women are depicted as inappropriately desiring for sex.
I would argue that the spot is instructing those who never practice extra-marital sex to get a desire to try it. I do not know if PSI is giving Number 1 and Number 1 Plus out for free or sell them. If they sell them, I would not hesitate to say they advertise it. I would seek relevant officials and politicians to give a consideration on this matter. I also made similar remark about a spot on literacy campaign sponsored by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports the other day.
I also have a comment on a spot to raise mother awareness of the importance of breastfeeding. I am sure and agree that this has to be done. But we have to also orientate our action as to where we have to do this. In the world, countries that are serious on this matter are United States, Europe, Japan, Australia, etc. or other rich countries. As for Cambodia a good thing to do is to raise awareness among mothers in urban areas because there is a tendency not to breastfeed babies.
I would not argue to the contrary but why campaigning in rural area. I would urge for a correction because this will in fact be registered as aid to Cambodia. Why educating mothers in rural areas about breastfeeding while they do not have money for powder milk? We should try and focus this campaign in urban areas. We should not waste money on campaigning in places where powder milk feeding is not present.
I would urge all graduates and those who are in the course of completing their studies to continue to work for you. We need human resources in our integration efforts in regional as well as international frameworks. Our army has now been integrated in the UN operation in Sudan and I would expect that our medical doctors and staff would be doing similar task in different missions in the near future. For instance we have doctors from foreign countries open their clinics in Cambodia, I would expect that one day we would do the same…
Brief responses on Myanmar Situation to the Press
I would like to make it clear that last Friday I had a telephone conversation with HE Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore after the declaration of Foreign Ministers of ASEAN in New York. HE Prime Minister Lee said to me about his obligation to write a letter to the Senior General Than Swe for the need to stop using force and to release political prisoners, Aung San Sukyi to be included.
I have reminded that I first proposed in 2004 in Kuala Lumpur on the issue of Myanmar that we should continue to use the role of Malaysia who at that time was the chairman of ASEAN. I think the current Chairman of ASEAN, Singapore, should continue to uphold that role and what I said in addition is that ASEAN should consider the role of its Troika since the matter has grown to a bigger concern dues to the presence of the Buddhist monks in the protest.
I have raised this formula, whereas the current head, former and future heads of ASEAN, should form a Troika to help solve problem of Myanmar within the framework of ASEAN partners. On October 1, I received a letter dated September 30 written by HE Prime Minister Lee to HE the Senior General Than Swe, which letter expresses our desire that Myanmar maintains maximum patience, ceases the use of force and try to restore the process of national reconciliation aimed at resolving all problems so as to reach out for democratization, peace and human rights respects.
I learned that President George W Bush of the United States of America wishes to have US-ASEAN summit last September. But it did not take place. I apparently learn now that he wishes to have that summit in the State of Texas. I have advised HE Hor Nam Hong that if this idea is proposed Cambodia will give its nod. We have held similar summits – Sino-ASEAN summit in China and Japan-ASEAN Summit in Japan in the past – so the US-ASEAN Summit in the US soil is nothing unpredictable. I would say that the US-Cambodian relations has come to its best stage if we compare to previous stages where the relations had been disturbed by this or that matter.
The relations have offered stable access to the US market for the Cambodian goods and because of this we have been able to sustain our jobs availability for our workforce. The latest change in its position in providing again military assistance and its aids through the Royal Government channel have, to my mind, re-energized the improvement of Cambodian-US partnership in combating terrorism. We also see it as a remarkably good gesture that the US helped us participate in a recent UN supervised military exercise in Mongolia.
However, I think the two countries have got more potential for one another. We could try and urge the US for more investments and, assistance in other sectors in a complementary pattern within the framework of our two countries’ relations./.