Local Financial and Human Resource
My wife and I are so happy to be able to join all of you in this inauguration ceremony of the Stoeng Meanjei overpasses, the third site in the city where we build overpasses to improve traffic. I am so pleased to have been here in a space of one year in between – on 26 November 2013 to review the construction and today for the inauguration. I was here that time to put into official use parts of the overpasses for the demand of traffic and that were not hindering the remaining construction. At the time, there was news that I already ran out of the country. Many of the press people here could have remembered that Hun Sen was standing right here. Today, with all of the Buddhist monks, followers, Excellencies, Ladies and our compatriots, we put into official use this major achievement.
HE Pa Socheatvong, mayor of Phnom Penh, just made his report on progress of the construction, investment capital and some technical aspects of the project. I would like to take this opportune moment to express my sincere thanks and appreciation to efforts made by the Phnom Penh Municipality, the three Khans and Sangkats (districts and communes) – Khan Meanjei, Khan Chmakar Mon and Khan Tuol Kork as far as this overpasses project is concerned. I wish to express my sincere thank to people living in this area for their endurances on difficulties caused by the construction over the past more than two years. However, after this ceremony is coming to closing the normal and better traffic life will resume.
I wish to relay same message to people in places where are constructions going on. They have concern and put up with disturbance caused in relation to construction of roads or bridges. Especially in dry season, detour of traffics from the construction site send dusts into their homes. Please be patient as the area will be a better place to live after the construction is over. I thank those people, especially in this construction place, for keeping up with ongoing disturbance day and night and being patient with problems arising from the project implementation. I thank the Cambodian expatriate company (OCIC) for such devoted investment. I have here the engineering team whom I met some of them last year. For this project, we do not have foreign engineers or technical assistants. We have built three overpasses already.
We use the financial resource jointly provided by the Municipality of Phnom Penh and a local company together with local technical assistance. The Phnom Penh Municipality provides the technical inspection. This has showed that Cambodia has a capacity to handle a rather high-level expertise building. We have taken challenges in accordance to our ability. Some has asked me about the Peace Building at the Council of Ministers if we had used any foreign architects or experts. I told them it is purely Cambodian from architectural design to financial resources. No foreign expertise involved in the building of this one.
Our ancestors built Angkor Wat and thousands of temples in the past, why are we not able to build such a building? It is true that we do not have the ability yet to build some sophisticated buildings. It was all because we went through the regime of Pol Pot that brought to deaths many of our knowledgeable people. We are rebuilding them. We will go on with construction projects for eventual improvement of traffic flow in Phnom Penh. When I put into official use the first overpass at Kbal Thnal, and also later at the inauguration of the overpass 7 January, I said that while we have one built, there will be two, three and on. By putting the third overpass complex into official use, it is true that we will have the fourth one as is proposed by Phnom Penh Mayor.
As we have now put into use this overpass complex at the Stoeng Meanjei intersection, I am sure that traffic will be better. People will have better days as traffic jams will be a thing in the past. Let me ask our people living in the area to extend their understanding a little more that, for the inauguration ceremony, the authority has had to close down traffic for the time being.
Everything Starts from Empty City
Our situation has changed completely. We have different sorts of hardship and facilities. When we started building the country after the liberation on 7 January 1979, the city of Phnom Penh was one with homes without dwellers and roads with no traffics. We did not hear then traffic accident. In some place, one can settle down in the road for a week without fear of traffic accident because there was no car. People could claim a few houses. I came and took over the former Ministry of Foreign Affairs (currently Ministry of Religious Affairs and Cult). I oversaw the area along the Mekong River starting from the area before the Royal Palace. We gave home to every family in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They were scared to occupy those homes alone. Please note that we did not have running water, electricity, school or hospital. Phnom Penh was a ghost city. The Phnom Penh city that I knew was not the same and fearful.
As I returned to Phnom Penh city, about ten years in between when I was in 1970 and 1979 that I came back, it was unrecognizable. My wife and I met again on 24 February 1979 after the separation on 20 June 1977 when I took to the resistant movement for national liberation. With the elder son in her arms, we sat in front of the house and there were nothing in the street. Then I have only one son. Now, I have seventeen grandchildren. We then had to fetch water from the river for our consumption. There were just a few cars. We had Volga, Lada and Moskvich model vehicles. We treated like a Roll Royce, Mercedes or BMW. Car model does not concern me as long as it brings me to my office and takes me home safely.
In-depth Development of Phnom Penh City
As of now, there are more than one million people living in Phnom Penh. Coupled with those coming in for short-term or long-term stay and those who pass by through the city in one day, the figure rises to about two millions. We have now about 74 new satellite cities the Phnom Penh city has stretched from formerly 300 square kilometers to almost 700 square Kilometers. The development goes not only horizontally but also vertically.
With the said number of population, we also have over 300,000 vehicles and over one million motorcycles constantly trafficking in Phnom Penh. They have created a difficult situation as far as traffic is concerned. We have more problems to deal with. Aside from insufficient roads and spaces, there is also this problem of abiding by no traffic law and drunk driving. While in the bathroom, I heard the news on TV “there was a car that ran into the street divider.” The TV news presenter then said only after hitting the concrete divider of the street that the driver seemed to have recollected himself from drunkenness.
Aside from lacking roads and spaces and issue of growing number of transport means, there is this incident of drivers respect no traffic rules and drunk driving. The issue does not seem to go away despite how much we have said. The efficiency seems to be low. As far as road accidents that happened at night, there is a high percentage that drunk driving is the cause. I do not mean the victim is a drunkard. I am appealing to our people to at least respect their own lives and those of others and refrain from drunk driving. Some have even suggested that those shops or restaurants should be fined for allowing drunkards to take the traffic. Doing that would have many shops in trouble.
Phnom Penh City Bus
The other day HE Pa Socheatvong came to see me to seek my advice on city bus issue. I brought up this issue with him that there had been news that so and so company started bus service on a trial basis. People were happily welcome the news and service. Then the company ceased their trial and stopped. I have advised to establish the internal revenue office of public transports (IROPT). Now that IROPT is functional, it has imported some 43 buses. We cannot afford to let so and so company to just try and then leave us without a viable bus service. Now that HE Pa Socheatvong is 57 years old, he has three more years before his retirement. As this use has started from the former mayor HE Kep Chuktema, I think he could try to make this a success in his career.
From its side, the Royal Government provides support for the Phnom Penh Municipality to import free tax passenger buses. However, let me make it clear here that the tax exemption provided is for passenger buses and not for anyone to do so for Mercedes, Lexus, etc. There is a reserved capital now. We have, if we need, to apply this method of using income from other sources as subsidy for the loss of the operation. We already do that for electricity, when the price of oil went high, so that people can pay a lower price for their energy consumption. We have applied this method to ensure stable prices for energy and water consumption. As for public bus service, if it operates at loss, we could complement with income from the management of the Central market, for example. However, I warn IROPT, because of my expressed support and possible subsidy, not to just report losses for that favor.
I told him already when he came to my house the other day that it has to be the city bus service’s policy to provide free service for disabled and Buddhist monks. As far as students are concerned, with their student-IDs presented, and their school is along the bus route, they also can use the service free of charge. Doing that we will be able to relieve traffic as parents would otherwise take their children to school themselves with own transport mean. This also ensures safety in commuting too. This is calling for a creation of policy logbook. We must make it a successful story. We are now waiting for the arrival of the imported buses.
For Better Traffic Movement and Healthcare
Having instructed these policies, I hope that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would not overstate them to be contradictory to the market economy principles. We have followed their advice allowing private company to take the lead. However, it proves to be ineffective and unsuccessful here. The bus service came and went, the city got worse with traffic jam. Well, now that we are willing to choose some state’s income loss, we will allow people to benefit from their use of public service in commuting. As we will have the Takhmao bridge ready soon, with regard to the Phnom Penh Municipality policy for transport, we will be able to improve traffic jam caused by trucks entering the city at night as those heavy trucks will be diverted to the southern aisle of Phnom Penh via the Takhmao bridge. It will relieve traffic jams at night in Phnom Penh too.
HE Pa Socheatvong has just requested to turn the space under the overpasses into place for leisure. I would advice to deal with the sewage system first if the city would like to go on that path. Secondly, we transform the area into place for exercise. I approve the request. People in the area of Stoeng Meanjei do not have to travel to the riverfront for exercise. As the floor underneath the overpasses tiled, I warn people from occupying it as their permanent residences. The fact that we have here the presence of HE Jean-François Cautain, the Ambassador of the European Union to the Kingdom of Cambodia I would remind that the practice of permanent occupation of public place based on this slogan “winning right to occupy, one gains land, losing it one get cash” would not be allowed. I would seek HE Jean-François Cautain to be our witness. You may take photos as archive. If anything happen otherwise later, we could use the material.
I would recommend the sewage cover not as long as the bridge area. I am talking of a couple of hundred meters on either side. I would like to see green grass. As it is going to be a place where people come to exercise, I am sure HE Pung Khieu Se understands, they would seek for the smell of flowers not sewage. As we have many foreign ambassadors here I may remind that there had been incident in Cambodia that people occupies public place in two days and claimed they had occupied the place since 1989 or 1990. It is not difficult to tell the difference. If they had lived in one place about five years, you would notice they could have planted lemongrass, parsley, bananas, mango, etc. I just wished those who come to Cambodia to work with us understand Khmer.
The Techno Flyover and Underground Roads
I am taking this opportune moment today to declare that I have approved the construction of the fourteen million USD overpass at the intersection where the Cambodian Institute of Technology stands. The Oversea Cambodia Investment Company (OCIC) will take up the task of constructing this overpass. The fourth overpass also comprises of underground pass. The intersection has had traffic congestion for a long time now. People in the area of Tuol Kork of Phnom Penh are having a hard time with it. We have to get one overpass at a time. Some said when we just built the first overpass that we had talked too much about it. I responded because it was our first one that we had a pride about it. If we were to have more than a dozen or so, we would have no need to talk about it. It would have been part of our daily life already.
I have notice the development in Shanghai, when I was there for a meeting, travelling was mostly on flyovers. The young generation of Cambodia would handle that in the future. I also note that the construction engineer companies seem to be in good business. There are high demands for construction. We even lack labor in this field. We have now some 74 satellite cities – three in Khan Chamkar Mon, 12 in Khan Meanjei, 20 in Khan Po Senjei, 15 in Khan Russei Keo, two in Khan Dangkao and two in Khan Tuol Kork. Among them, some 386 buildings are between five to forty floors.
We now have problem with parking space too. Some may scold Hun Sen for the death of their kids who die of traffic accidents. Some in the commune of Krang Yov, Kandal province, came to me asking for my compensation for the death of their pigs. I asked them what happened. They said the trucks ran over their pigs. I asked them where the dead pigs were and they said they already cooked them. I asked whose trucks ran over their pigs as I thought they may have problem with trucks from my bodyguards or hydrologic department. They said it was the truck of rice merchants. They said it did not matter anymore whose trucks they were. It was because you built us good roads that those trucks ran in high speed and over their pigs.
I just warn you not to blame me for making you able to afford cars, motorcycles, etc. and good roads make them lethal accidents. I am sure our people are not that sort. As I said already, there were no cars or motorbikes in this area. In Phnom Penh now, only 50% of the motorbikes and cars go into traffic at the same time, we have problem.
Flood Time Warnings
I would like to take this opportune moment to speak to our people living along the rivers of Mekong and Tonle Sap and other tributaries to prepare for the coming seasonal flooding. According to Minister of Water Resources and Meteorology, flash and seasonal flooding is coming for there have been so much rain in upper Mekong area – Nam Mun, Nam Chhit, Surin, Buriram, Sisaket, Mohanokor, etc. As of this morning, the level of water in the Mekong at the Stoeng Treng station is 10 meters while the warning level is 10.7 meters. The forecast for tomorrow is it will reach 10.65 meters, and the day after tomorrow, it would reach 10.85 meters and 21.95 meters for the day after.
The local authorities along the flood-affected areas must be prepared to evacuate people in case of necessity. As we have here HE Nhem Vanda, First Vice President of the National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM), my instruction is to remind the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology to issue a warning for people on flood level in a number of places such as the Sen River of Kompong Thom, and various other tributaries. HM the King and Samdech the Queen Mother have paid great attention to this issue. On behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia, the first appeal is for our people to take own precautionary measures with regard to the weather in addition to the news people get from radio and TV stations.
Let us all do everything to evade eventual dangers and accidents. With the media nowadays, we can provide them with so much information in a timely manner. As many have their Facebook and/or Twitter accounts, information can also reach them and their family fast./.