I have a great pleasure to be able to join with all of our people, monks and national and foreign guests in putting into use the bitumen national road 2 of the length of 56 kilometers that was financed partly by the counterpart fund provided by the Government of Japan and another by the Royal Government of Cambodia. We have addressed today once again the need that has been long awaited by our people in the district of Doun Keo, Treang, Koh Andet, and Kirivong who are main beneficiaries of the road. Perhaps I should talk a bit about the background in getting this part of the road constructed. Just now the Japanese Ambassador, HE Fumiaki Takahashi recalled of the late Prime Minister of Japan HE Keizo Obuchi, whose initial but critical contribution before his death for the achievement of this road must be appreciated fully.
I may recall that in 1999, there was a proposal from a private company for building this road on a BOT term of agreement. One day in the same year, I received a letter from the company requesting for tax exemption for materials and fuels needed for the construction of the road. I rejected the request as I had declared an end to the culture of tax exemption on December 2, 1998 in the first cabinet line-up in the Royal Government’s second term in office. It was at the same time that I put forward my policy of Triangular Strategy. I could indeed recall that the first term Royal Government had been a rough one as it was second to none in the world that an MP could import two tax free cars. It was a bad management. I was Prime Minister from 1979 to 1993, prior to the Paris Peace Agreement, no tax exemption was ever applied. But I was stunt to see that two cars allowed to be imported for free of tax. It was a bad antecedent for members of the Royal Government, the army and police generals, which in the end the whole country has become a tax free one. It was in that respect that I have been firm in rejecting any investment that seeks tax exemption.
It was a road with rough condition indeed when I traveled through here to the Kirivong district after my visit to the Buddhist pagoda of Phnom Khleng. I was once approached by the former Ambassador of Japan in preparation for the official visit of the late Prime Minister HE Keizo Obuchi in January 2000. HE Ambassador informed me of the Japanese intention of providing non-project grant, which we called counterpart fund of about 20 million US dollar. I quickly responded that I would ask HE Obuchi for permission to use the fund for the re-construction of the national road 2. It was unfortunate indeed after returning from his trip to Cambodia, in June 2000, HE the Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi passed away. I first met HE Obuchi when I visited Japan for a medical checkup in 1997. He was then the Minister of Foreign Affairs. After his death, HE Fuji Mauri took over the job and now it is HE Koizumi who is the Prime Minister of Japan.
In face of unexpected events in Japan, and in my intention to regenerate the wish to have the Japanese assistance in the form of non-project grant for the reconstruction of the national road 2, and in my 56 days mission to rescue and provide relief for our people during the time of abnormal flooding, I had HE the Ambassador of Japan Mr. Ogawa at my side on the national road 2, which he saw what the road could do to help the people, and for that instance, the Japanese side proposed the Cambodian side to start a feasibility study. On March 29, 2001, the Japanese approved the project and requested the Cambodian side to go in two stages – 1) to search for consultant and architecture and 2) to perform bidding. The Vietnamese company won the bidding. It was a little before the election campaign of 2003 that HE Ogawa and I flew here to preside over the groundbreaking ceremony for the road reconstruction.
We have indeed many forms of the Japanese assistance – in form of grants we have the Kizuna Bridge, parts of the national road 6 and national road 7. We have another form of assistance – non-project grant – which we have used in rebuilding the national road 2 that we are putting into official use today. The cost of rebuilding this part of the national road 2 has been 14.5 million US dollars – 12 million US dollars is the Japanese non-project grant, while the Royal Government of Cambodia covered the rest. We now have an enlarged road width from seven to eleven meters. Parts of the renovated road were raised at a level higher to flood in between one and four meters from the previous level. Still I do not approve transportation up to 70 ton load on it. The construction has been delayed because the project approval fell on the start of the rainy season when it was impossible to get hard soil for making the road basement. The project operated in full only from 2003 and 2004.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation to the companies involved in implementing this project – CIENCO I. I also wish to express the Cambodian peoples’ deep thanks to the late Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi of Japan and the Japanese people who have offered their money for the reconstruction of the road. Thanks also go to all the Japanese Prime Ministers involved. I would like to have your attention that in the first four months of this year I have presided over the inauguration and groundbreaking of six worksites – 1) two bridges along the national road 1 2) the water reservoir of Tropeang Thmor in Banteay Mean Chey province, 3) a clean water system in Siemreap, 4) the School of Medical Technology, 5) the Office of JICA and 6) the National Road 2.
As we now have a good road between the border with Vietnam and the provincial town of Takeo, we still have a part between Takeo and the Takhmao town of Kandal. This part has had a minor recondition. We need therefore try to find money to make the road similar condition from Takeo to Takhmao. In addition to this the Royal Government is conducting a study to figure out how to improve the traffic on the road out of Phnom Penh through Takhmao to the national road 2. We also have a good road between the national road 4 and national road 3 – where the part between Veal Rinh and Tonle Ropeo was constructed by the World Bank fund and the part between Tonle Ropeo and Kompot is being constructed with the financial assistance of the Republic of Korea. We still have a part between Kompot and Chaom Chao of Phnom Penh of 124 kilometers that has yet to be improved. We have to speed up the feasibility study and project proposal as we will have the official visit of the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea in June this year and the official visit of the President of RoK also in November.
We have more works to be done and since we have HE the French Ambassador here I think France can do something to help. When the Prime Minister of China Wen Jiabao was here on an official visit, the PRC offered Cambodia a sum of 200 million US dollars for the construction of two bridges – and I demand immediate and fast study of the two bridges at Prek Kdam and Prek Takmeak. May be the Ambassador of France here, HE Roé d’Albert could discuss possible assistance with the Prime Minister of France and the President of France so that perhaps one road could be built aside from projects so far that France has done to help Cambodia – in the area of hydrology, medicine, legal reform, etc.
As I said earlier and HE Fumiaki Takahashi has also said that building the road is a difficult task but maintaining it is another. I would recommend that all transport companies are requested to come for a meeting, those transporting soil and sand are included. I have instructed before that Governors and relevant institutions to look after issue of illegal checkpoints and I know that there are still checkpoints. I warn the Governors to take the matter seriously and do not remain idle and irrelevant at all. Once we have maintained a good road condition for long term use then we would generate more advantages as less money would go into reparation or reconstruction of the road. Our people have small means of transport so they are not the one who destroys the roads. Let’s get the real culprits.
The latest development of the weather condition here is that we have early rain, which is good and bad. It is bad because our people here cultivate dry season rice and rain would make their harvest difficult. I would suggest that the local authority and those Ministries with large workforce such as National Defense, Interior, Police, etc. should provide their labor to those who really need such as women, widows, handicapped people, etc. I wish the Minister for Agriculture monitors Takeo’s dry season rice harvest that is being inflicted with rains. I am glad to see that here we have signs of developments not only in terms of roads but also of schools where human resources could be developed. We will continue to prioritize four areas of investment – roads, irrigation, electricity and human resources. In the course of re-directing resources for the sake of health and national education, reduction has been done in the budget shares of defense and security. I am not wrong when we have to set a date as token of respect for the gratitude of teachers. We all have teachers and not only their living conditions but their values and cultures.
In that occasion Samdech offers a six-classroom building to the Primary School of Chrey Thom, a six-classroom building to the College of Andong Samreth, a dirt road covered with laterite to the people of the commune of Yudhaka (to be implemented in the budget year 2007).