Welcome Thailand Representatives
It is indeed a pleasure for us all to gather here to put into use the NR 48 of 152 kilometers and four bridges from the NR 4 all the way to Koh Kong province. I would like to take this time to thank HE Samak Sundaravej the Prime Minister of Thailand to send the Deputy Prime Minsiter HE Somchai Wongsawat and Foreign Minister HE Noppadon Pattama as his high representatives in this inauguration ceremony.
How the Roads and Bridges Come to Existence
Please allow me to take this opportune moment to recall the past of how this road and bridges have come into existence. Over the past 23 years – from 1985 up to the present, HE Say Phuthong, who was before the vice president of the National Assembly and the President of the organizing committee of the Cambodian People’s Party, has always provided me with his support and advice. It is indeed a pride that he is also here present with us.
In the past our experience has brought us to the reality that Koh Kong is accessible twelve hours by boat, in case there is no storm and rain. There was in the past two major schools of opinions – one was to close contact entirely between Koh Kong and Thai people and the other was to open. I had to come to the province in 1985, again in 1996 and thereafter in 1987 and 1988. I then came to the conclusion that we should not close down the border trade at all.
The province was in fact closer to Thailand than to Sihanoukville. Fisheries were sold to Thailand as it took longer time for them to get them to Sihanokville or Sre Ambel. After the two countries are at peace, Cambodia is indeed disconnected in parts that I have to find the way to integrate the country not only in politics or administration but also infrastructure. Internal integration is primary before integration with neighboring countries.
We first had to track down the road here and the Thai Government also made a contribution of 2.7 million US dollars in the total cost of 7.7 million US dollars. I sent a personal letter to the former Prime Minister of Thailand HE Thaksin Sinawatra explaining him on one side the difficulties of the people in Koh Kong but mainly on the other to show him the necessity for the road to be built as it is going to serve as the corridor of ASEAN. Positive response from HE Thaksin made a world of difference to me, to the people of Koh Kong and also to the whole Cambodian people. The road has economic interactions regionally.
The ASEAN Corridor and Other Projects
This road indeed is gathering a huge economic impact as it has made an excellent connection between Thailand and Cambodia at this border point. This will be serving as a corridor that links Vietnam and Thailand via Cambodia. It will run from Koh Kong via the NR 48, NR 33 and leading to Ha Tien of Vietnam. Thailand also offers assistance in building the NR 68 as well.
Koh Kong as of now is importing electricity from Thailand but in the course of our efforts to develop the hydro-power of Me Toek River, we would in the future sell electricity to Thailand. This is my policy of creating a border of friendship, peace and cooperation. It could not happen in the past but it does happen now. The inauaguration here is indeed a good example of the cooperative relation between Thailand and Cambodia and I wish the ties to last eternally.
Best Suite in Koh Kong’s Five Star Hotel
Last night I spent the night in the five-star suite in a hotel which is only 300 meters from the border with Thailand. It is one of the very best. We never have it before. We have it in the 21 century. I have a chance to talk to many people along the way. People are happy to have the road and bridges in place. Some are so happy because they have less worry about their children when they have to school before by the boat. Koh Kong from now on is no longer isolated.
New Roads Inaugurated
In the past two weeks I have taken time to put into official use 400 kilometers of the national road and that would include 198 kilometers of NR 7; 32 kilometers of NR 3; 152 kilometers of NR 48) and 6 bridges over one thousand meters. The construction of over 800 kilometers that is underway are NR 78, NR 76, NR 8, NR 57 from Battambang to Pailin and to the border with Thailand, NR 62 from Siem Reap to Preah Vihear, NR 67 between Anlong Veng and Siem Reap and the NR 3 from Phnom Penh’s Cham Caho to Kompot town. We also have two bridges over the Mekong and the Tonle Sap./.