My wife and I are so happy to be able to participate with all of our people here to put into official use the bridge of Techo Morokot which connects the mainland city of Sihanoukville to the island of Koh Puos. In the second week of July, the city and province of Sihanoukville have witnessed two major events. Yesterday we celebrated the event of having our 440 km coastline, running through four provinces of Koh Kong, Sihanoukville, Kompot and Kep, listed as a member of the Club of the Most Beautiful Bays of the World.
The second great event today is that we are here to put into official use the bridge of Techo Morokot (in local term – the Koh Puos Bridge) financed by the Koh Puos (Cambodia) Investment Group, KPIG, represented by Alexey Chepa, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Financial Group. I am so happy that the bridge has come into reality. Though it has taken a while longer than expected but it is here now. My theory is it is better late than never.
Mr. Chepa said that because the word Puos (or snake) conveys a scary message to people, he then suggested a name – the bridge Techo Morokot. However, locals may call it after any name they may wish to – Techo Morokot or Koh Puos Bridge. It has been our people’s way to name places, perhaps a general practice in the world, by looking to shape and size while giving name according to what they believe it comparatively looks like. I am sure toponymists would have plenty to tell us why is being called Koh Puos, like the river of Vai Ko of Svay Rieng, the province of Kompong Chhonang, etc. In whatever sense, let’s all accept his proposed name for the bridge – Techo Morokot.
Facts about the Bridge Techo Morokot
Maybe I should give you some backgrounds about the bridge itself. In fact there were two companies prior to KPIG who proposed development plans to the Royal Government of Cambodia. However, I never bought their arguments for investment that would build only electric cable car to travel from mainland to the island. KPIG came with this idea of building a bridge as part of the whole project. I have ordered my colleagues to keep an eye on the project and provide the developer with all necessary assistance should they need any. Now that the bridge is now in place, we have set a runway for full development of the island itself.
Responding to my request for the bridge to remain open for travelers to cross to/from the mainland and Koh Puos Island, Mr. Chepa assures me the bridge will remain open all the time. According to what I have heard from Mr. Chepa, after spending some thirty million USD for the bridge construction, KPIG is going to spend somewhere between 30 to 40 million USD more on infrastructures on the island that would include roads, drainage system, and the latest technology available, according to him, to reduce or eliminate pollutants prior to release into the natural system. This will be a pre-condition for KPIG to look at before moving into the third phase of building condominiums or hotels.
Having seen this, I wholeheartedly thank KPIG for having trust in the Royal Government of Cambodia, and related institutions such as the Ministry of Urban Planning, Land Management, and Construction as well as the authority of Sihanoukville, who provided KPIG with facilities needed to achieve this magnificent symbol of the Sihanoukville city and province. Let me also thank the Sinohydro Corporation of the People’s Republic of China who is a contractor not only at Komjai hydroelectric dam but also at the bridge construction here.
I am so grateful for efforts involved in making such achievement possible. The city of Sihanoukville will soon become what I have likened the head of a dragon concept of development for Cambodia. I will talk about it later. Yesterday I talked a lot about how we restarted port activity here in the city of Sihanoukville as I worked out the plan and oversaw the action of our dock workers in decongesting aid that were coming in suddenly and exceeding the port facilities from former Soviet Union, Vietnam and India.
It has been the case that people have forgotten Cambodia but remembered more of Pol Pot. It has been particularly so because the country underwent so many changes of name and flag. The country has evolved from being called the Kingdom of Cambodia, the Khmer Republic, the Democratic Kampuchea, the People’s Republic of Kampuchea and then to the State of Cambodia. Throughout that time the country was divided and ruled by two parties with two different flags too. As of now there is no such problem of confusing anyone with flags or country names anymore.
However, I must say that the 1979 situation is completely different from what we have today. More tourists, local and foreign, are coming to see and enjoy the beach of Sihanoukville. I would draw your attention that local tourists could also be resourceful as those foreign ones. Cambodian tourists can also pay to stay in five star hotels here. I may bring you an example of tourist attraction from the Oita province of Japan. As I was there, I learnt that people of Oita wanted to have more local tourists than foreign ones. One critical fact was because both local and foreign would spend more or less similar amount of money.
The same is true that local tourists to Siem Riep or Sihanoukville also stay in hotels and/or guesthouses like foreign tourists do too. You may have noticed that people now have made a row of visits to three provinces at a time like they come to this part of the country starting with one day Koh Kong, one day in Sihanoukville and one day in Kep, for example. This has been possible because we have already connected from one province to another already. Here in the city of Sihanouk, we have 45 hotels with 1,952 rooms, where 1,433 staff are working. There are also 115 guesthouses of 1972 rooms, where 484 staff are working. It seems we need more hotels because we have more guests than the said capacity every time we have national holidays.
Attracting tourists to your hotels, guesthouses and/or restaurants is hard but it is more important and harder to get them to come back again. It has been said that merchants have increased prices of whatever they sell to tourists in the big time, which is normal everywhere. However, price jacking to a certain level would scare buyers away and it is a trick only to lose your potential customers. Advertisement for tourists on prestigious TV Channel such as CNN is one thing but it is more practical to sell your service at a reasonable price so that these tourists feel respected and not to be cheated. That is one of the tricks to get them to come back again and/or to tell good stories about visiting Cambodia. Could you expect how many of tourists that one person can mobilize?
Tourism in Sihanoukville is increasingly taking the lead in tourism. In order to attain more success in this sector we have more tasks to fulfill in connecting transportation on land, water and by air. First of all we need to connect between Sihanoukville and Siem Riep, Phnom Penh but also connecting flights from other destinations in the region. Only if this is fulfilled that efforts for development of Koh Puos and the like would bear fruits. It is indeed a relief now that the water supplying service of the city of Sihanoukville could now provide clean water which is coming from the water fall of Kbal Chhay. The service can now extend to the Koh Puos Island, where, upon meeting with me in 2009, Mr. Chepa hinted using water from underground. Effort to electrify the island is also under progress.
According to plan, KPIG plans to develop not only the Koh Puos Island but also beaches of (Cambodian) Hawaii where development has been planned to augment to some 300 million Euro or more. There is one thing to consider though, as we already have a law for foreigners to buy and own flat from the second story and up. As for this project, the company not only builds flats but also villas. We should try to find a solution so that foreigners can buy and own villas in the project. KPIG will rely on buyers to accumulate fund from outside for development. Every country is open and attracting capital, where Cambodia is a part of this movement. We should attract foreign capital for national development.
All of these are possible only when the country has peace and political stability. As we have them now, it is important that we all are keeping them for the sake of developing our country. Without peace and political stability, the country would not be able to develop. It is also true that without development, one may not be able to guarantee peace and political stability too. These threes are complimentary to one another.
I wish to inform you all that yesterday Mr. Chepa of KPIG discussed with my daughter Hun Mana on their intentions to jointly build a pediatric hospital Sihanoukville. From KPIG’s point of view represented by Mr. Chepa, because KPIG’s investment in Sihanoukville, he wanted to build a whole new hospital for children here. As for me I am of the opinion that to build a separate hospital for children though is good idea, to maintain its service and provide for its operation would be costly and burdensome.
It is in this thought that I asked HE Sok Chenda, the General Secretary of the Cambodia Development Council, to discuss with HE Sbaong Sarath, Governor of Sihanoukville about the project site. Just now HE Mam Bunheng, Minister of Health, also agreed with my concept and the site to be. It has been suggested that Mr. Chepa build a children hospital building within the compound of the current hospital, which is five hectares in size. It is a great thought and effort that Mr. Chepa’s KPIG kindly provides social and health benefits for the country.
I would urge Mr. Chepa to closely cooperate with local authority of the province of Sihanoukville and the Ministry of Health to develop plan and to build complete children hospital building within the said compound of the general hospital of Sihanoukville. It should be noted also the social project that KPIG contributes for the development of the Handicapped Soldier Centre at Siem Riep province, which would be inaugurated on the coming July 31 too.
On behalf of my wife and the Cambodian Red Cross, I would like to express my sincere thanks for Mr. Alexey Chepa and KPIG for their financial contributions to the Cambodian Red Cross. I would say that this Koh Puos project has been one of the biggest projects administered by the Russians. I am sure that there are more companies from Russia that are capable of making big investments and we should attract them to make investment in Cambodia.
Now let me say a few things about the Naga concept development. I have said on several occasions about a development plan in Cambodia that is imitating the shape of a dragon. In the concept, the province of Sihanoukville is noted to be the dragon’s head. You may ask where in Cambodia is the dragon’s tail then. The anatomy of my dragon concept development has been Sihanoukville as its head, Phnom Penh and surrounding provinces are the dragon’s body, whereas its tail is Cambodia’s provinces that are bordering with Laos and Vietnam.
Sihanoukville province, head of the dragon concept development, is one of the three economic poles of Cambodia. We have designed Cambodia into three main poles – Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville and Siem Riep provinces. I have a vision that by 2015 or 2020, we will make Cambodia’s northeastern parts the fourth economic poles, where agro-industry and mineral resources will serve as its backbones. Now I am talking about the dragon’s head. What do we expect from this economic pole?
The primary benefit is that it serves as unique deep seaport transportation for the country, in addition to various ports that are not equally deep in Koh Kong (Keo Phos) and in Kompot provinces. We also have two special economic zones under construction, one in the area of Prey Nub district, which is underway with some factories functioning already, and another behind the Port of Sihanoukville financed by Japan, where we anticipate more Japanese investors to come in.
Also, at twelve o’clock, on December 12, 2012, we will have our first extracted oil according to prior planning. Though we could not assure that it would go exactly as planned, we hope to have oil on the said time and date. Now we have a bonus from the Club of the Most Beautiful Bays in the World, we can augment our energy in the service sector by invigorating tourist potential. In addition to this I also believe that areas along the National Road 4 from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville, especially between Phnom Penh and Kompong Speu, where more factories have been built, will turn into a corridor of economic growth. I should wish for the same in the district of Prey Nub.
As you can see now that this is the corridor of growth that links between the first economic pole and the second economic pole, which encompasses transportation on land, water and by air. Again this includes also special economic zones, agro-industry plus potential of tourist services.
As I said earlier we have connected related dots on the corridor along the coastline already from Koh Kong by National Road 48 to National Road 4 and to National Road 3. It looks like a resemblance of a rising dragon from head through body to tail. The dragon’s tail is beginning to shake as we have now built the National Road 7, National Roads 78 and 76 for the connectivity to Stoeung Treng, Kratie, Ratanakiri, and Mondulkiri, perhaps we should also include Preah Vihear, provinces. By definition, the dragon is awake from head to tail.
This has brought my vision of another economic pole, with a much longer period than expected, to be realized after 2020. I am more certain that it would be a reality before the said timeframe. By then, we will certainly add one more economic pole to the primary three./.