Once again, with Mr Helmut Kutin, the Head of the SOS Children Village, I am here to put into use officially the Children Village in Battambang province. It is indeed a new achievement for our nation, especially in response to the need of orphans, abandoned ones as well as those from poor families who are actually waiting for assistance to be provided from the Royal Government and those from charitable persons. As is said by HE Ith Samheng, Minister for Social Affairs, we already have the Children Village in Phnom Penh, in Siemreap and today in Battambang. Taking this joyous occasion I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation and thanks to Mr. Helmut Kutin as well as others from Norway, the United States of America for their sharing efforts in making these achievements possible for Cambodia.
I wish to also thank the Ministry for Social and Veteran Affairs and Youth Rehabilitation for having resolved all problems related, especially land area, for the project to take place. I wish to also give the appreciation and thanks to the authority of Battambang for taking part in making this achievement realized according to plan. I may ask Mr. Helmut Kutin for his understanding on the fact that it has been late in resolving land issue here. As we all know previously the project wishes to have a different plot of land but due to the fact that that piece of land is engaged with another Cambodian-Japan project, the Royal Government has instead decided to provide a sum of 140,000 US dollars to purchase the plot on which we celebrate the SOS Children Village today.
As we can see here that the building is a long lasting facility and the cost of building has amounted to 1.5 million US dollars. The same is true for the case of Phnom Penh where Mr. Helmut Kutin requested for a piece of land to build a school, for which we have taken quite some time before the issue is resolved and HE Deputy Prime Minister has on my behalf officiated the groundbreaking ceremony recently. As for the area behind this platform where it used to be a warehouse of weapons and ammunition, which blasted last year, I wish to declare to MR. Helmut Kutin and other generous fellows that this plot of land is to be given to you for the purpose of building a school. It will be a benefit for those children in the Village as well as those from the area around.
It is indeed a pity for those children whose parents have passed away then become orphans. It is indeed the Royal Government’s wish for them to be well taken care off throughout the country, in SOS Children Village as well as in other types of assistance centre. As of now the Royal Government and non-governmental organizations have collaborated in providing such care and assistance for about 9000 orphans and/or abandoned children and we have more to count because some are still living with their grandparents or supervisors in difficult condition. We have in the last years children whose parents died of HIV/AIDS, who are left with and without HIV continue to be living in their grandparents’ or relatives’ supervisions.
As far as I know the SOS Children Village has globalized its assistance in 132 countries already and as I said earlier Cambodia has enjoyed three of its assistance already. I wish that this influential organization is increasing its efforts to add more centers of this kind in Cambodia take for instance to the province of Prey Veng, Kompong Cham, Kompot, etc. HE Sar Kheng heads the (CPP) working group in Battambang as well as in Prey Veng. The SOS Children Village in Battambang could offer help to Pailin, Banteay Mean Chey and Pursat. While in Prey Veng, SOS Children Village could offer hep to Prey Veng, Svay Rieng and a part of Kompong Cham. I wish that Deputy Prime Minister HE Sar Kheng take the lead in finding a plot of land there for them.
I wish to have your attention that no one will help us if we do not help ourselves. Mr. Helmut Kutin is not doing these efforts for his children to study here but for the Cambodian children themselves. Once again as a token of our gratefulness, on behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodian, the Cambodia orphans and abandoned ones as well as those from other causes, I would like to express once again my sincere appreciation and thank to the SOS Children Village, especially for the generous fellows who have contributed for the Village to take place.
In 1979, after the fall of the Pol Pot’s genocide regime we had so many orphans and we were able to save them from death and to provide them with care and education and some of them are now in their 30’s. They have now become husbands and wives and some of them have now children of ten years and below. We thought that the problem of orphans left from the genocide was over but it was not true as we came to face another cause of orphans – HIV/AIDS. In fact it has been more dangerous as it left us more orphans than the war did. After 1979, the war continued for sometime but less children died or maimed by the war than the explosion of HIV/AIDS in the recent years. I therefore would like to take this opportune moment to re-appeal our people not to take risk with HIV/AIDS as any risk in this front would lead to a loss of family’s livelihood and one’s own action causes vulnerability for everyone in the family. At last it would become a tragedy for the whole nation.
A few weeks ago I met with the former President of the United States of America Mr. Bill Clinton. We signed an Agreement to seek cooperation on issue related to HIV/AIDS – life extension is also an issue included. It is just extension and not full recovering from the disease itself. There is no cure for this. We have to go on doing more campaigns irrespective of HIV/AIDS patients or non HIV or AIDS patients.
In Battambang there is one point I wish to make my impression. Since 1986, I came along the market from the Airport I noticed houses with their windows made from weed sheets. As of today there are many good houses and along the roads there were more hotels and guesthouses. It was indeed a positive sign of the issue of land ownership and entitlement given to the people. As of this year in Battambang they have registered 81,416 tourists within the first nine months of this year. We are facing a situation that the nubmer of tourists are on the increase whereas there are only 684 rooms in 16 hotels and 200 rooms in 12 guesthouses. Pailin and Battambang – which used to be battle fields – are no longer fighting fronts as we have said earlier that the weapons and ammunition warehouse is to be given for school construction. The win-win policy would leave no one in losing situation and no one is to be the sole winner. At last the people of Cambodia become the only winner.
This is high time for construction of the country. We have demolished about 200,000 rifles. We built more is better than we built less and to build less is better than to built none. To help one child is better than to help none. It is an action to be taken by all. Again, with HIV/AIDS I warn you there is no one to win but to lose only. As of now according to HE Prach Chan, the Governor of Battambang, people have harvested a sum of 70% of their rice cultivation. They harvest their rainy season rice (high-land rice) while the dry season rice (low-land rice) is to start. Battambang, as the biggest rice pocket of Cambodia, people cultivated 102.52% of plan or exceeding the plan. Almost all provinces throughout the country, we are likely to have no food problem. There are families and regions where rice is cultivated in excess of plan or according to plan.
It is indeed difficult to understand some parliamentarians who seem to be unpredictable. Farmers want their rice to have a high price. When the farmers are happy with their rice’s price, those living in the city are unhappy because rice’s price is high. They said because the Royal Government is incompetent that the price of rice is high. They instigate people for demonstration. When the rice’s price went down, the opposition returns to their reversal tactic of instigating farmers. I have raised this issue with Prime Minister of Vietnam who was on an official tour to Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. I proposed to him, to convey my message to other rice producing countries along the Mekong River to set up an Organization of Rice Exporting Countries (OREC) like OPEC (oil producing and export countries).
Vietnam exported between 4 and 5 million metric tons of (milled) rice per annum, while Thailand exported between 5 and 6 million metric tons per year. Cambodia exported between 1.5 and 2 million metric tons last year. Laos and Myanmar each exported a sum of one million ton. The five countries together exported between 10 and 13 million metric tons of rice or about 50% of rice in the world market. It is not worthwhile for each of the five countries or all of them to compete with one another for price which leads to a fall of price altogether after all. When we purchase oil from OPEC, the price of oil is high as OPEC has a strong cooperation that no one member is to subsidize the price. But OREC would be a counterbalance force when OPEC needs rice from us. We could negotiate rice for oil at a reasonable compromising price. It was the Cambodian initiative to Vietnam and HE the Prime Minister of Vietnam agreed on it.
Let me take this opportunity to express my appreciation to the working team in Battambang and the Governor of the province and I told them that I have given my instruction on their requests for two bridges in Battambang to the Minister of Public Works and Transports already as I think it is now time to do so. I have instructed for the construction to commence in 2007, early or later in the year, which will depend on our budget. I would urge one of the two bridges or both of them to commence before the arrival of flood season. As you can see that everyone has been working hard to get our country back on its feet./.