It is indeed a great pleasure for me to join you all in inauguration a huge building on a former rice field in the centre of Phnom Penh. I would like to take this opportune moment through H.E. Shin Hyun-Suk, the Ambassador of the Republic of Korea (RoK) who is present here to express my sincere appreciation and thanks to the Government of the Republic of Korea and the fraternal Korean people for such a grant aid to this national pediatric hospital a huge and modern building for the sake of poverty alleviation and development in Cambodia.
Ambassador Shin Hyun-Suk of the Rok concluded just now that the building is the result of the renewed relations between the Kingdom of Cambodia and the Republic of Korea in a period over ten years. H.E. Shin Hyun-Suk said that the decision to re-establish this diplomatic relations has been a farsighted and courageous one. Therefore I wish to make a short recall of the process of getting the relations re-established.
In 2005 in the ASEAN + RoK in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, I said that if there were no effort for such a relationship back in those days, we would have no ASEAN + RoK today or there would be an ASEAN member without diplomatic relations with RoK – and it would be the Kingdom of Cambodia. Everyone knows that Korea has been split into two parts since 1950s to be South Korea and North Korea. I had in the past made efforts to overcome the situation in which Cambodia has diplomatic relations with one Korea and not the other.
I brought this issue up in 1991 after Cambodia, under the Supreme National Council of Cambodia, occupied its seat at the United Nations where there are two Koreas there. I once again push for it in 1992 in Phnom Penh but could not get a breakthrough. I suggested to the RoK Ambassador in Bangkok that there should be relation at the level of a mission of representation of Korea because of historic reality. I am grateful that the Government of the Republic of Korea accepted my suggestion though the two Koreas are fully members of the United Nations and their representations in Cambodia should both be at Ambassadorial level.
The negotiation was conducted at my house and the light went off. We continued to get the agreement ready at the house of my sister which is behind my residence. There were a lot of hindrances but we had made great efforts to get it undergoing. One year after the representative mission had been upgraded to Ambassadorial level. What we should see now is if that decision in those days was wrong or right. This hospital building is just a small token of example of what Cambodia has achieved from the RoK. I visited the RoK three times already – the first was in 1996, the second was in 2001 and the third in 2006.
In the course of these visits, we have reached an agreement on a number of loan agreements for information technology, the national road 3 from Kompot to Tropeang Ropeo at the cost of over 70 million US dollars. We also had this Project of Krang Punley reservoir to the north of Phnom Penh. There have also been return visits to the Kingdom of Cambodia by President Roh Mooh-hyun last November which is the first visit in the history of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The President stayed three nights and joined us in opening the Angkor-Goenju exhibition, which has turned out to be a great success.
We also have a project to develop an online system for use in management of land, human resources and vehicles of all kinds in the whole country. There are more to be mentioned but I still hold on to the request for the segment between Chaomcaho to Kompot on the NR 3 and it could be this year that we would get the project going and the road could be enlarged from 5 to 6 meters to eleven meter width. Tourists from Korea also are taking the lead and we have direct flight from Phnom Penh and Siemreap to Korea with one flight from each destination everyday. We could increase the number of flight in the future. These perhaps are what I should list out as achievements scored in the past ten years of relations between Cambodia and the Republic of Korea.
My judgment is that if we were to look at potential of the two sides in expanding investment size, trade area, cooperation in all fields, including human resources, the two countries have more to do for each other’s benefit. I will receive tomorrow the Minister for Labor from the Republic of Korea who is on a visit here and Cambodia will propose sending laborers to Korea – not just for salary but for being trained and taking back with them new technology for Cambodia’s need for development.
HE Nut Sokhom, Minister for Health, mentioned in his report just now that the building stands on a strong foundation and there is this possibility to add on to the current three floors with another three more floors. I told HE Ambassador to look into the possibility of going to floor 4, 5 and 6. The ground floors are made by Korea so further floors could not be anyone else.
HE Minister recalled the history of the National Pediatric Hospital which began from October 15, 1980 which was then called the Central Hospital for Children. There was one American working for World Vision before 1975 and after the Pol Pot regime he came back again. In his meeting with me in Kompong Cham, he cut himself and said no matter what complexion we have, while, black or yellow, we all have red blood. We had come to an agreement to get the hospital operating again thanks to the intervention of World Vision.
The beginning had been difficult and as I said we had to get born, to get survived, to get big and as Doctor Chhuor Ee Meng, Director of the Hospital said, we have to get strong as well. We will see the possibility to add further equipments and recruits more doctors. HE Minister Nut Sokhom said that this hospital is the first to provide nutrition in accordance with the rule of medicine.
There have been many attempts to get this place for different purpose, including the suggestion from UNTAC to get this place for their police. After UNTAC we had this demand to sell the land so as to build a hotel. I turned them all away. I went through some criticism that I left this field to grow rice in the heart of the city. Well 20 years later we have a nice hospital standing here. I wish to remind this because some people do not see our vision from ten years or twenty years ago at all. It is best not to judge things quickly.
Another incident which leads to the construction of the new building here is what happened in Batheay of Kompong Cham province. Patient’s parents were asked who they voted for prior to get the patients treated. The physicians left the patients unattended when their parents said they voted for CPP. The CPP work team learned about such incident and instructed for transferring the patient to the National Pediatric Hospital for treatment. The second incident happened to our people from Samraong Torng where patients were told to get an operation in the canal in response to their vote for CPP.
I would advise our medical staff no matter what level you might be you have to help patients. That is the ethical moral of a medical staff. I am a CPP member, member of the National Assembly and a Prime Minister from the CPP but I do not talk about Party in my work. I would hold those making such blunder to get reprimanded. No matter which party you belong to, as long as the person performs great he/she would get reward. I beg our medical staff to make no remark of personal inclination on political parties. Because of the above incidents that HE Deputy Prime Minister Hor Nam Hong negotiated with the RoK for this building.
According to the report from the Director of the Hospital, there have been 700 pediatric patients with HIV/AIDS and 400 of them received treatment against the disease. The tragedy from HIV/AIDS that we are facing today is even greater than those caused by war. I would request those NGOs working in all fields, democracy included, to add few words in their works about keeping oneself free of HIV/AIDS and those who are good at insulting the Royal Government should try to be good in telling people about HIV/AIDS too.
Once again I would urge Ambassador Shin Hyun-Suk to convey once again my sincere thanks and appreciation to the people and Government of the Republic of Korea for this assistance here and elsewhere and would urge KOICA to do speedy survey leading to approval of the Kraing Punley Reservoir and the Cham Chao – Kompot segment of the National Road 3./.