… May I convey my respect and appreciation to our people for spending time to participate in the inauguration ceremony of the Cambodia-China Friendship Bridge and the groundbreaking event for the rehabilitation of the national road 61, formerly was part of the national road 6, which is running 16 kilometers from the bridge to the intersection with the national road 6A on its connection to the national road 7.
The bridge, after its groundbreaking event on June 11, 2007, was officially connected since September 14, 2009. I should recall that upon my visit in honor of the connection, the contractor company – Shanghai Construction (Group) General assured me that the bridge would be ready for use in April 2010. I then discussed it with HE Jan Kim Fang, former Ambassador of China to seek the company’s effort in getting the bridge ready for our people to travel on during the Khmer New Year. The response from the contractor company has been positive. Four days before the Khmer New Year, on April 10, HE Yim Chhai Ly, Deputy Prime Minister of Cambodia, and HE Tram Iv Toek, Minister of Transports and Public Works joined our people in putting the bridge into official use.
I must say that today the people of Cambodia witness a new and marvelous achievement among the various outcomes from the cooperation between Cambodia and China. I am so glad to see so many achievements that have sprung up on the Cambodian territory in the time of peace and gradual development, which I used to compare to the speed of a frog leap.
Please allow me to get you the background of how do we come to achieve this realization. HE Wen Jiabao, the Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of China was on his official visit to Cambodia in April 2006, in which he offered on behalf of the People’s Republic of China a credit assistance of USD 200 million for infrastructural development projects at the Cambodian Government’s wish. That does not include projects for the construction of the hydropower station and dam at Komjai and the office of the Council of Ministers at all.
We have used one part of the loan for the construction of the national road 76 that is running between the district of Snuol of Kratie province and Sen Monorom of Mondulkiri province, one part for the construction of the national road number 8, the brand-new road and the bridge at Prek Tamak, Kandal and Prey Veng provinces, and one part for the construction of the bridge at Prek Kadam. We also use a sum of the loan to build the national road 62 from Tbeng Meanjei to Preah Vihear province’s Koh Ker and the national road 57 from Battambang to Pailin city and the border area with Thailand.
I would like to take this solemn occasion to express my sincere thanks for the efforts made by the Ministry of Transport and Public Works and the Ministry of Economy and Finance in conducting negotiation with project counterparts and construction companies involved while providing counterpart funding, whereby making the task implemented in a speedy manner. I also thank the local authority for their efforts to help in providing protection and security for construction sites.
Also in this solemn occasion, I would depend on HE Pan Guang Xue, the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to convey my sincere thanks to the Government of the People’s Republic of China who always provides massive credit assistances for the development of the Cambodian infrastructure. I also thank the Guangzhou Wanan Consultant for making a good cooperation with the Shanghai Construction (Group) General Co. I must present to you my assessment on this project implementation by the Chinese assistance that it is the Chinese style of doing things more than just talking.
This project has come to its final stage some 15 months before schedule. But as I said China talks less but does more. I have noticed that that happens not only among the lower rank officials but also among the Chinese top leaders too. They have the same working approach. It has taken the contractor to finish the job in just 34 months, while it was scheduled to be finished in 50 months. They have been able to do a quick but high quality job. This has positively responded to our expectation.
Longing for something has been our people’s anxious situation. Since when the country came into being, the bridge has in fact been our people’s wish and expectation. Today we officially put it into use though I know that our people have used it for about more than a month now. The Ambassador of PRC, HE Pan Guang Xue said just now about when I was a young boy and had to accompany the monks to and from across the river here by a ferry. I also could recall that by late 1991, Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk, the heroic King Father and Samdech Me – the King Mother Monineath Sihanouk took their last ferry trip upon their visit to Kompong Cham, after they returned from residing in Beijing.
In one of the recent visit to the district of Joeng Prey of Kompong Cham province, in her capacity as the Honorary President of the Cambodian Red Cross, again Samdech Me – the King Mother traveled across the river again only this time by bridge. As you can see all of us could now cross the river by bridge and I am sure this is the best way to redistribute the fruit of economic growth in an equitable manner. In fact the first to benefit from the infrastructural development are the people because HM the King, Samdech Ov and Samdech Me, for instance, I too, would rarely travel on the bridge.
In China, correct me if I am wrong, there is a proverb that goes “to be rich, one has to first build the road.” Whereas in Cambodia we say “where there is a road there is hope.” Our people have applied the term and concept into their daily life already “are there or are there no ways?” to mean if it is hopeful or not hopeful for what they are actually trying to do or pursue. In fact another component that constructing bridge is of benefit to the country could be understood that it does save people’s lives. In time of difficulties, I traveled from place to place and instructed construction and mounting of Bailey bridges through various river ways in the effort to save our people’s lives from death of sickness as they could be saved if they could get to hospital for treatment and care in time.
It is in this belief and understanding that Cambodia has sought for the Chinese assistance in developing its infrastructure, whereby at the moment of speaking, three bridges, two of which have been put into use already as of today, have been constructed. The first bridge is at Steong Treng province to run over the Sekong River, whereas the second one is the Cambodia-China Friendship Bridge at Prek Kadam. Before long we will be officially inaugurate the bridge at Prek Tamak. I have two more bridge projects to request China for assistance – one of them would be a new bridge along the existing bridge of Jroi Jangvar and the other would be a bridge across the Bassac river at Takhmao district of Kandal province.
HE Jan Kim Fang, former Ambassador of PRC, was attending 15 (inaugural) ceremonies with me and today is the first time for HE Pan Guang Xue, the new Ambassador and I am sure it is not his last. I hope that he could break the former Ambassador’s record. Aside form the Cambodia-China Friendship Bridge at Prek Kadam we will have more inaugural ceremonies to preside together such as the forthcoming Cambodia-China Friendship Bridge at Prek Tamak, national roads 76, 62, 57, 8, and various roads in the district of Kamrieng. We also have up to four hydropower stations to put into official use too.
It must be noted that working with the Chinese leaders has been simple and encouraging. It is easy to communicate with them and they tend to have a good understanding. After all China does understand and help Cambodia’s four priority areas that I first set out in 1987 – water, road, electricity and human resources. It was correct then and it still is after 23 years now and will be in some 20 years ahead. In this line, China is the first to help us with irrigation project at Kanghot rice land in Battambang province. They also do the same for the irrigation project at Kompong Trabek of Prey Veng.
As far as hydro-electricity is concerned, PRC has done a great help in developing stations and dams at Komjai, Kirirom, Atai, Arai Russei Jroi and transmission gridlines too. In term of human resources development, PRC provides help for training of students at the Agricultural School at Prek Leap and many have been sent for studies in PRC. Therefore, China has covered all the four prioritized areas.
As far as its benefit is concerned, the Cambodia-China Friendship Bridge at Prek Kadam is closing the gap between national road 5 and 6, whereby all provinces around the lake of Tonle Sap are now linked up together. It has been known to be those along the national road 5 – Kandal, Kompong Chhnang, Pursat, Battambang and Banteay Meanjei, and along the national road 6 – Kompong Thom, and Siemreap. Now we have included Kompong Cham into the system and the bridge serves as the connection. People in provinces along the national road 5 who have had to go for business at the southern part of the country, like the sea area, may not have to take the detour to Phnom Penh anymore. Those from the other side of the river and lake system could also do the same.
For those who before have had to pay for each time river crossing, they could take it that the Royal Government is covering the cost for them now. Moreover in case of sickness, our people who happen to get stuck because of the river crossing, whereby ferry’s lateness or not-in-operation could cause them death for simple and curable diseases, can now travel anytime they may need. We no longer wait while we need anymore. So I am sure you can see how the bridge helps in reducing people’s difficulties if not poverty.
I have one more wish and that has to be done by people of younger generation. I would insist that brothers and sisters of my age or younger should take their elders out to see the bridge that has never existed before in the history of the country. Look at the Phnom Preah Raja Troap (royal property mountain) and huge stupas in the background of the green scenery in front of the bridge to the west. I am sure the souls of our late Kings and ancestors are happily looking at and blessing us – their younger generations – for the construction and development efforts we have been making.
Also I have to agree with HE Pan Guang Xue that since tomorrow will be June 1, the International Children’s Day, let’s all devote this achievement for the children and in fact whatever we have been doing are all for our younger generations. I am sure they will appreciate what we have been doing for them.
We have lost so much time in developing our country because of local conflict and war, therefore construction effort in those circumstances had not been fruitful, take for instance the Japanese assistance bridge at Jroi Jangvar. It was blown up in the war of 1970s. Now the time has come for us to develop and construct our country. What remains to be done henceforth for the bridge here and elsewhere is that commuters must refrain from traveling at speed excess and from loading exceeding permitted weight.
I would also like to take this opportune moment to share with you the result of my visit to Chendu of Sichuan of the People’s Republic of China, in which I conducted a negotiation with Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and he offered Cambodia Yuan 100 million to deal with the aftermath of the Ketsana after-effect. Again in my visit to Shanghai to participate in the World Expo event, HE Hu Jintao, the President of the PRC declared a grant of another USD 100 million, in which a part of the grant is in the form of 257 vehicles and clothing for 50,000 troops. I am going to ask for more for the police forces.
Last but not least I would recommend the Ministry of Land Management, Urbanization and Construction to figure out how to update information on the Cambodian map. As far as I know the map we have been using does not seem to be updated and by doing so I suggest that we have to send the updated version to concerned agencies, take for instance Google, who have been posting the Cambodian maps with either insufficient or not-up-to-date information … ◉