Today I have a great pleasure to participate with our monks, people and officials in putting into use the new office of the Ministry of Relations with Parliament, the Senate and Inspection among various other achievements throughout the Kingdom of Cambodia. HE Men Sam An Minister for Affairs of Parliament, Senate and Inspection has reported about the process involved in the construction of the building already and I would like to express my sincere thanks to the municipality of Phnom Penh for its efforts in making this lot of land available for the construction of the Ministry.
Many new office buildings have grown up in this area along the river and we have already the building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the National Assembly, which according to HE Cheam Yiep, would complete in 2007. On the contrary, as the office of the Council of Ministers which has not been a target for expense so far, and now our Chinese friends have offered to help. If it were not to be helped by the Chinese friends, I would proudly sit in it rather than spending more money on it. I told foreign friends that because I sit in the old office, the Cambodian People’s Party with me as its Prime Minister has brought the vote of support to 60% in the parliament. But to leave the building in collapse causing casualties on our Government officials is also not a good thing.
The Ministry of Relations with Parliament, the Senate and Inspections is the one of the latest Ministries. If we were to leave aside the relations with parliament and the Senate, in the former People’s Republic of Kampuchea and the State of Cambodia, there was this Ministry of State Inspections that helped a lot with the negative actions of the Government officials. The building was then taken over by the Ministry of Environment because, in the first term Government, we did not have the Ministry for Relations with the Parliament and the Senate and Inspection. After the construction, three buildings on loan from the Municipality of Phnom Penh must be returned to its original holders. What remains to be seen is if the Ministry is going to be a strong hold for fight against corruption or not. We could not afford to have just officials in air condition at all.
Its embodied mission is to enforce the law against corruption, power abuse and other negative phenomena in public as well as in private sector. Fighting against corruption and law enforcement are important factors in the rectangular strategy for growth, employment, equity and efficiency, which is to 1) fight against corruption, 2) undergo legal and judicial reforms, 3) carry out public reform, and 4) reform of the armed forces. We have to concentrate our efforts in fighting at corruption that is on rampage. We should not wait for the approval of anti-corruption law to act but we have able mechanism to start with already. It should be complementary by the forthcoming law as to how to punish those involved in different stages of a corruption. With the current mechanism of the Royal Government, actions could be taken effectively.
We have made efforts to increase economic growth and we have said to be achieving 12% while we actually thought we did 7% only. IMF re-adjusted its calculation of the Cambodian economic growth from 9.5% to 13.8%, excluding that of agriculture. It is projected, again excluding agriculture, 9% growth for 2006. Cambodia should not be overjoyed because we in fact have to seek for real income – which is smaller compared to the size of growth. This is indeed a serious matter that we have to find out what has been our shortcoming. To make our Government officials to be sincere from the beginning is a good thing. We have just discovered a mean to avoid tax of import of oil by ferry boat of containers, under which they have the load full of tax-avoided oil.
This is an international issue now. Look we have this problem of oil for food in Iraq, in which many countries have become involved. Corruption plagues not only Cambodia but many country in the world, and that would include also the mechanism of the United Nations. We should look into this issue so as to gain insight into the process to fight effectively against corruption. What is better here is perhaps to educate our staff to refrain from doing it rather than fighting it when it starts already. The same is true for those crimes in chopping down trees and land grabbing issues. It is important to fight against illegal activities in this area, but it would be the most important thing to do is not to allow those crimes happening.
Land conflict has become a hot issue and a battle field for the Ministries of Land Management, Agriculture, Environment and the local authorities to become a mechanism of conflict resolution. From where should we start and where do we place our punch on? I have discussed this issue with HE Chan Sarun, Minister for Agriculture, on how to go about doing it. Some actions have been taken only small crimes at the village level but not with the powerful. This is the point that attention should be garnered. We have a bitter experience in mapping a concession forest. The forest of the whole country was mapped as concession forest. Before 1998, when I was not yet co-chairman of the Cambodia Development Council (CDC) a company with a concession of one million hectare forest swallowed the provincial town of Ratanakiri, etc. We had confiscated about three million hectares and frozen completely the forest concession.
We should base ourselves on the master plan of 2002 and visit the actual place. In some cases people lived and voted more than one time already and sometimes it was said to be a forest site in the map but in actuality there were no forest at all. The forest administration the other day sued in general on a place without making a delineation of where is forest and where is non forest area. Seeing that I told them if all the land belongs to the state, and if the land is stationed by the soldiers, the land should rest under the control of the soldiers and the same is to be done for the people living around. Where there are no people living there, we have to confiscate them back. We should do the right punishment in matter of land grabbing matter. Company whose concession given by the state covers an area of two thousand hectares but exploits an area of more than the stated size must be fined and their concession should be taken back.
As for land belongs to the people it is important to give a clear criterion as to whether there is any tree giving fruit already, whether there is a solid home. All the criterion set should be taken into consideration. All confiscated land could later be given to farmers who have no land which is based on a clear and proper judgment. As in the case happens for the map of Daun Sam printed in 1993, after the integration in 1996-1998, the one who mapped lived in Phnom Penh, while the land had already been transformed for production years already. If it was approved by the Royal Decree, one should issue another that annuls the effect of the previous one, for example. HE Minister Chan Sarun said that he is afraid that the foreign friends would make an outcry on our action. I told him no matter what they cry they could not deny the reality, only that we have to ensure a proper solution that benefits the poor.
HE Men Sam An is a female Minister and whether she could resolve this matter or not remains to be seen. It is time to use the power vested by the Royal Government and we could not afford anymore excuses. I have recently used the domino form of making decision. The court decides the case matter according to the decision made by the Deputy Governor of the province of Pursath for instance to give land to some one whose residence is in Phnom Penh. I issued a decision that revokes and annuls the decision of the Deputy Governor. I warn any Governor and Deputy Governor for issuing improper decisions that their decision could face invalidation by the Prime Minister. The Minsitry of Relations with the Parliament, the Senate and Inspection has the duty to collaborate with the Ministry of Land Management, Urbanization and Construction to investigate the case.
The Ministry of Justice also should reserve a group of law officials to set up a working group with HE Minister as its chairperson to oversee the court decision – if it is injustice, why? If the injustice comes from the provincial authority, the Prime Minister will have to annul the decision issued by the provincial authority. The same is to apply to various levels downwards by the Ministry of Interior. I have said that our primary need is to give land of two hectares for each of the 5000 families in need. We would need only ten thousand hectares and we still have another 100,000 hectares. Some people tricked the local people to clear the forest and they bought the cleared land later. This sort of land should not be given titles. There are ways to prohibit this but inspectors should not corrupt themselves. I used to see two examples – an inspector to Mondulkiri returned with a new Pajero vehical, an inspector to Kompong Som returns with report of no serious problem. I wish HE Men Sam An takes a strict review of her officials.
Now I am looking for whoever the journalists included has the will and power to help resolve the issue. The decision reached has been out of legal process – one case has been resolved in the conflict near TVK and one more in Banteay Mean Chey, after which I offered to build a road and a school building as well. There is nothing wrong for building road and school for people. I also take this opportune moment to seek HE Chan Sarun’s scrutiny of land requested on behalf of Associations which has encroached upon the people’s land. If they were to do development work for people, why don’t they give it out to people? They could set up centers, training schools on the land but they could not disguise themselves under the name of Associations and make exploitation from the land for own purposes. We should inspect this issue and take them back. It is ridiculous to see that an Association has requested for about 7000 hectares of land between Koh Kong and Kompong Speu provinces.
Officials who are members of the CPP have been requested for about ten years consecutively to refrain from committing mistakes in relation to land issue. In various party meetings, I have warned the party officials that on ground that we are the ruling party, severe punishment would be incurred if they are proven guilty. We could not let a cancer to eat the whole body. Let me warn them that this is no joking statement./.