Today I am so glad to have returned to the district of Kien Svai of Kandal province after only weeks ago that I came here for the groundbreaking ceremony to build a fertilizer factory with the investment from Vietnam. Today I am here with our people to put into official use the 42.88 kilometer road segment of the national road 1 from the market of Koki to Neak Loeuing, known as the second phase of the NR 1 rehabilitation project and to start the construction of over nine kilometers more between the Market of Koki back to Phnom Penh, which is specified as the third phase of the whole project.
To my knowledge the NR 1 project has been broken down into four phases, where the first phase was to put into use two major bridges, which started building on December 16, 2006, at Samraong Thom commune, Kien Svai district and at the commune of Kompong Phnom in the district of Loeuk Dek, with the Japanese assistance at the time of HE Fumiaki Takahashi as the Japanese Ambassador to Cambodia. According to the report by HE Tram Iv Toeuk, the places where we have the two bridges built were damaged by flood. It was true but what happened at that time was that I ordered for wide opening of the places for flood ways.
Normally, based on former infrastructural development setup here, there had been many waterways left for the sake of absorbing flood from the upper river area and let it go faster downstream. However, negligence and lack of technical feasibility study, especially under the Pol Pot time, waterways have been sealed off. Its consequence thereafter was that Phnom Penh, because of slow releasing of flood, had been under severe flood threat in 2000. The only flood dike Kob Srov, which was so fragile, was under constant flood pressure. My decision at the time was to cut open larger waterways for flood in downstream so as to relieve pressure at the upstream dike that protects the city.
We all could remember that the NR 1 and NR 11 were both subject to damage by flood because parts of the roads were under construction. So letting flood go faster downstream would relieve the two roads from being severely damaged. In fact in 2000 flood came from two directions, at the Mekong River and from the Prek Thnaot to the west of Phnom Penh city. I used to say that with experience we have in protecting the city from the two pronged flood situation, we would be able to take better measures for subsequent flood. It was a serious disaster where for 56 days the operation to save about half of the country was in full swing. I have to cut short my mission to the United Nations in New York and returned immediately to the country.
The flood from the west of Phnom Penh coming via the river of Prek Thnaot came right through into Phnom Penh. For similar outcome I ordered HE Lim Kien Hor to cut through and make it larger a waterway at Prek Ataing at around 2:30 am. Based on these experiences I would urge all infrastructural development projects to take into consideration issue of waterway maintenance and development and the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology has to be included for consultation on the projects.
At end of 2009 we put into official use the NR 5 and 6 from Siem Reap to Sisophon and Poi Pet at the border with Thailand. And today we put another road into use. HE Khi Taing Lim, former Minister of Transport and Public Works usually said that water is the enemy to the road. It may be so but in fact if we have waterways we would be able to keep the two friends with each other. That is why I would like to take this opportune moment to express my sincere thanks for the Japanese people and Government, whose assistance not only provides us with two big and beautiful bridges but also helps relieve flood by opening wider two more waterways.
In fact the segment of the road in phase II has been well done, where some parts of the road are up to 30 meters wide with culverts and parking areas at the cost of 41.5 million US dollars. I would like to take this chance to express my sincere thanks and appreciation for the assistance provided by the Japanese people and Government in building the NR 1. Though the construction has been done in many phases, I think you all agree with me that it is an important road, which has been built as a large road in the country.
Some politicians claim to our people that the Japanese assistance has been misappropriated and in some cases misused for corruption. Our people may want to ask the Japanese Ambassador here, or any Japanese diplomats and/or JICA in Cambodia if you could not have a chance to pose the same question to the Japanese Prime Minister. The Royal Government of Cambodia does not take hold of the Japanese financial assistance. The project was studied by the Japanese company and then there was bidding to be followed by building by Japanese companies, which means Japan is holding the money in the whole process. All I have done is to come and declare its official use.
There was a time, as I could remember, an opposition leader went to Tokyo, where there was this consultative group meeting, to demand to the Japanese side not to give assistance to Cambodia. Then foreign minister of Japan said to me ‘he does not want to hear anyone saying such thing.’ The person may not have information and knowledge as to how Japan spends its money and I think here it is important to share with you some stories.
I also would like to thank the role played by the Ministry of Economy and Finance as we have spent so much money too, about 8.5 million or 12% of the project, in the course of building this road. If we were to count in taxes and environmental impacts, the amount could go up to 15 million US dollars for the phase II project. The Phase III project, where over nine kilometers of NR 1 more will be built and finished by 2011 or in fifteen months, will cost us over 11 million US dollars.
There is a part of about four kilometers more to connect the road to the bridges of Monivong, which I would seek HE the Japanese Ambassador’s consent and note that I am seeking the Japanese assistance in building the last segment, making it the whole Japanese assisted project, and the segment will be a four lane road. The last segment will commence when the Phase III finishes. However, while waiting for Phase III to complete, and because the last segment is in the area of Phnom Penh Municipality’s responsibility, I may urge the Municipality to improve the road condition, I may say bitumen it, for our people to travel.
I would urge not only leaders of Kandal and Phnom Penh but provinces throughout the country to look into issue of road improvement and maintenance. They should not wait for instruction before going into action on this matter. You may remember when I led a Cabinet meeting in a bus from Phnom Penh in the direction of Neak Loeung on NR 1 to let the Cabinet’s members see how bad the road was. The matter is who will act. In my 30 years experience in the Government and 25 years as the Prime Minister, I have a good knowledge of how to get thing done.
Take for instance the NR 5 between Phnom Penh and Kompong Chhnang, if we were to wait for approval of financial assistance from the Asian Development Bank, we would not have the road ready for a Buddhist ritual procession. According to ADB, the project would commence in 2003, whereas for us, under the presidency of His Majesty the King, the Buddhist procession would have to take place in 2002. So as to get the road done, the military engineering team of the Ministry of National Defense, day and night, had fulfilled the mission to get the 90 kilometer road done.
We will celebrate January 7 victory anniversary in two days. About this time of the day on January 5, 1976, in black uniform with a scarf around our neck, the Polpotists read our biography in a wedding ceremony. As of now my wedding has been 34 years.
The NR 1 is a very important road, as is said by the Japanese Ambassador HE Kuroki, because it is an East-West Corridor, Southern corridor and ASEAN highway. It is indeed a way for growth. I wish to see the role of the NR 1 not only to be a means for transportation alone but also source of growth. Some areas around here will become special economic zones since there will be easy access transportations by water and land.
A new mechanism – Japan-Mekong Countries Forum, which is new and after some preparation sessions in Japan and Siem Reap (of Cambodia) with the participation of leaders of five member countries of the Mekong River – Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar – has scheduled to have its summit every three years, with yearly meeting on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit. Japan has promised to provides a financial package of 5 billion US dollars for a period of three years with priority given to the Cambodia-Vietnam-Laos development triangle (where the three countries’ borderlines meet).
There also has been a summit between Prime Minister of Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos with the Prime Minister of Japan at the side of the ASEAN Summit in 2004 at Vientiane too. In a separate meeting between Cambodia, led by myself and the Japanese delegation, led by HE Hatoyama, I have proposed to Japan to focus on providing Cambodia with more assistance in the form of ODA (overseas development assistance). I have requested that Japan should maintain similar amount of assistance, if it could not provide us with more. Japan has assured that it will augment its assistance some 40% more.
I would like to urge among our officials that Japanese assistance should be used for infrastructural development projects – roads, bridges, irrigations for agricultural development, etc. Because Cambodia is not experienced in using the Japanese money, I would seek the Japanese to prepare project proposal for its use. Cambodia in fact has some experiences in using the Chinese assistance. The Prime Minister of Laos once said to me he has no experience in using Chinese financial assistance. I said we have that experience, but not the one provided by Japan. So it is practical that the Japanese would send in their experts to help with the project.
As far as the Neak Loeung Bridge is concerned, the Prime Minister of Japan, HE Hatoyama, has affirmed that the study would be finished by end of November and early December last year and they are in the process of following relevant implementing stages in the project. The bridge feasibility study has taken a rather long time because of complexity and related technicality in consideration. We just had this issue that a bridge construction with the Japanese assistance in Vietnam collapsed, and this has brought Japan to consider more time to study the project’s technicality. Take for instance, ships to go under the bridge of Neak Loeung is different, because of its length and size, from those to go under the Kizuna Bridge of upstream the Mekong in Kompong Cham province. On top of that, the Neak Loeung Bridge will be about two kilometers long.
Not long ago, it was quite unfortunate that in the Cambodian National Assembly, an opposition parliamentarian took the chance to claim that the Japanese will not provide such an assistance to build the Neak Loeun Bridge because of so and so matter. Reaction from the Japanese diplomats to the press was not properly quoted while reading. I have followed the matter through and I just could not believe it that there is such a thing as a fib in the parliament. If s/he steps over the boundary and lies to the parliament, what else s/he would not do?
I would like to also thank the Japanese friend who, through HE Prime Minister Hatoyama, invited the Cambodian youth – my son Hun Manet also included, for a visit to Japan. As of now the relationships between our two countries have grown from strength to strength and generation to generation. Every year Japan hosted thousands from Cambodia and other countries in the Greater Mekong Subregion.
Japan has just issued a new type of concession loan with the lowest interest rate at 0.01% per annum for a total of forty year period with a grace period of ten years. We have prepared eleven new projects, five undergoing projects and ten grant-projects for Japan. Again I have your attention that focus must be given to irrigation for agricultural development. Cambodia is seeking for various mineral resources underground but now on the ground we have found our resources already. Our people are expanding rice cultivation, growing good quality rice and benefiting from high price.
Cambodia, unlike other countries where most land has turned for ethanol crop cultivation, still has large land for food production that can respond to the increasing demand of the population growth in the world. I have made it clear already that with appropriate irrigation system, Cambodia has the potential to increase its production to the same level of Vietnam, if not more. To feed some 80 million populations and to serve for export, the land in Vietnam has sustained three time cultivation a year for a rather long time already. Their yield has come to around five or six tons per hectare. Basing on these facts, if Cambodia could double its cultivation per annum at a yield that is twice of the current record (two tons per hectare), we would be able to match with Vietnam in terms of export already.
As of next year I think we should propose to the Parliament a draft that Cambodia could borrow a bigger amount from any foreign countries so that they will help fuel our jumpstart like a plane. And all borrowings must be administered or done by the Ministry of Economy and Finance so as to ensure our record keeping.
Thanks to the win-win policy now we are at peace. I would insist that peace and national reconciliation are essential for Cambodia. We have been a united country for just eleven years and we have had an experience of sharing and coexisting since 1993, we should know how to value peace and political stability for the country. It is an absurd situation that some politicians like to blame so and so for any matter they may want to, but would not accept it for oneself to be a cause of blame. When the issue is being brought to court, they accuse the judicial system for putting pressure on them.
They may look at some countries where the court not only punishes individual but has the power to disband the party, not only brings sentence on guilty persons but also outstrips political rights and prevents politicians from taking part in elections. Have all these been done by the court in Cambodia? Please do not misunderstand my intention for taking this Japanese assistance forum to talk about politics but as we start a new year, let’s unite and coexist in peace. Let’s wait and strive for support in 2013 and the opposition may start saving up their good works for the people. How on earth did they remove the border marker (at the Cambodian-Vietnam border)?
This time I will not give consent to any intervention seeking into court matter at all. There has been more than one time that I have been written to and requested for an apology. I do not know what the court would decide and I do not have the power to intervene too. You have come to a stage of ‘too much’ that I could not take it anymore. I just advise you to look again at the Constitution about which map and what scale to be a reference. The Constitution states clearly that we need to use the map of 1/100,000 scale which was printed by the Indochina Group in 1964. The Royal Government is seeing to get that done.
On the border with Thailand we will use the Convention of 1904, the Treaty of 1907 together with a MOU in 2000 as foundations for any settlements of border conflict. With Vietnam and Laos, we use the 1/100,000 scale map printed by the Indochina Group that has been deposited at the United Nations by Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk, then the Head of State of Cambodia. How could you go talk about who loses and who gains? Let me have your attention here there is no loss or gain. If Cambodia were to lose, then the Vietnamese were to gain, and vice versa. And the same is true for others sharing borderlines with Cambodia. What is their true intention? Was it to distract us from west to east?