… Let me make some comments on this point. First I would like to clarify that up to this moment Cambodia has not yet benefited from utilization of its mineral resources. We have started with bare hands by standing up out of ashes and economic embargos as well as protracted war. Mineral resources utilization has not yet been an option yet. However, from that state, we have lifted 70% of our population from under poverty line with growth in agriculture, tourism, garment and other sectors. That is why we have deemed it is necessary to expand economic growth base where a number of sectors will be its dependence.
Firstly, we depend on the expansion of agriculture, which still has a great potential, so that our economy no longer relies too much on export of garment products and tourism, which are being severely impacted by world financial crisis and economic downturn. Cambodia has got ample and untapped agricultural potential that our economic base expansion could be applied. Also applicable is our mineral resources. According to studies, we have had our precious stone resources depleted by extraction in the 1980s by cooperation between the former Khmer Rouge forces and a neighboring country, the return of which was for making war. What has caught our impression then and now is that such depletion has never been cursed or blamed by anyone. While whatever the government is doing, blame comes from various directions. This is what I called a clear double standard. No one has said a word about that. Inside the country then there had been activities here and there that our people extract soil in search for gold and gemstone. However, major spots for mineral resources have never been touched.
Secondly, the issue that has been repeatedly raised concerning income from mineral resources. It had been quite annoying a few years ago. After some brainwashing for some people, it has been a bit relaxing. I never understand what they want to go for while fish is still in water and they talk about what dish should the fish be served? I have the necessity to talk to a number of international institutions. The issue in point is such a way that the matter on how to spend the money should not be a concern yet. Let’s concern about how to make money first. And many conferences were organized to brainstorm the fact that mineral extractions in Cambodia could in fact be a curse or bonanza. It has recurred in the recent weeks too.
I wish to make a point that if the Cambodians are fools they would not have been able to build the Angkor Wat temple, maybe that could be a way to say it. Worse still they could not have brought Phnom Penh and the whole nation out of ashes. In face of this, they may not have to bother us with so many lessons. At the time that we are in short of money they teach us on how to spend it and they even go far as to blame us for corruption while there has not been a sign of money yet. Is it too much to say these people have been the ones who used to do all that themselves that they know full well about how to commit theft? Have they learned it from thief? Or have they been theft chieftain that this has given them the knowledge on how to steal? Let’s not have too many lessons for Cambodia on how to spend money.
I have said the same thing to representatives from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) when they came to see me that Cambodia has only one input and one output in the Cambodian national budget. Nothing has been set aside. Though in the framework of signing agreement for exploration, there has been signatory reward and social fund, the money has been placed in the national coffer too.
In the last few days a group of thief-minded people in London seem to have been making noise again. They asked to the Rural Development Bank where the money might have been placed. It seems there has been a connection between those thief-minded abroad and those inside. By social fund, here we place it in the national coffer and it is being used in line with the national budget.
I doubt it if foreign agencies who have been working here do not seem to have been bothered by the Global Witness’s discrediting the Royal Government, though some of you may be working with some of the thief-minded local contacts? It has been meant that the Phnom Penh Government is a thief so I have to return the favor that there has been cooperation between those abroad and those inside. How could they blame us to be thief when there has not been any money to steal? Have they forgotten that the majority of the Cambodian population voted more than two-thirds of the parliamentary seats to us?
If we were not that trustworthy, they would not give us this much and even lost the poll. I have to bring this matter between the Government and the Global Witness out to the public. Where did it start? It started from a sex scandal of its staff. Because of this fact and the cooperation it developed with thief-minded insiders. I do not mention names, they have put us in a bad karma situation. Maybe HE Ambassador of the UK could do something to help with these people.
Let me make it clear that there has not been any money from mineral extractions yet. I told many Ambassadors concerned that it is good if they could help us make money than to teach us on how to spend the money that we do not even have yet. It would be helpful if they could tell those companies conducting businesses here to give a bigger share of profit to Cambodia, which could be considered a way to help Cambodia make bigger money too.
So the country’s economic base could still be expandable in relation to agriculture and mineral resources. By mineral resources we mean more than just oil and gas but also include bauxite, gold, iron, etc. They could do a lot to help us with paper works, investment laws and managements so as to help us achieve sustainability, accountability and transparency. Has there been any country that establishes diplomatic relations with a failed or childish state? I should make it clear today because there are many foreign guests here who could ponder on this thought.
If Cambodian (People’s Party) Government is incapable they would not have won the absolute majority in the elections and what happened to those of you who have claimed yourselves to be the best among all? You should put a question on that. There has been nothing more to lecture against Hun Sen except corruption matter. If they have proof and constructive advice I would not hesitate to accept it but would reproach if they made it a wrong case. I must say everyone should not assign themselves as teachers to Cambodia.
Cambodia has put its divisive past behind because of the win-win policy and who in the whole wide world could claim to be its master? We put out the flame of war and united the country using no single bullet. We have reunited the four divided factions of the nation all by the win-win policy, which has now put the country in peace and stability for 12 years already. It is the Cambodians who have done it by themselves, whereby they have created a situation that all are on the winning side. If they could do that why spending money is that difficult? We have so many projects – to build bridges, roads, etc. that are waiting for money.
I wish to make some comments in relation to this so as to relieve our people’s concern on impact on environment if this is to proceed. I have seen people expressing their concerns on the national TV program too. It is clearly important that our thought has to be thorough and if we were to find out any oil reservoirs in the Tonle Sap area, we may not abandon them. But how to do it in a way that the Tonle Sap Lake would not suffer from negative impacts would be a serious concern. The Government is of the opinion that we will balance economic interest from mineral resources with impacts to be challenged on environment before any such decision for extraction and exploitation would be made.
That is why I have to confirm once again that this is the stage of preliminary study with a focus on impacts to be incurred on environment. Though we may have some rare mineral resources here and there and our people may have had extracted some from the uppermost surface of our land, but it is still a major issue for us to come to a conclusion if there is potential of such mineral resources in the lower deposit whereby extraction and exploitation could be operational. One company, with its expertise and experience, perhaps says mineral resources of so and so in this particular area could be measured up to this much with this long exploitation but for the same resources and places, perhaps other companies with different expertise, experience and resources could say it otherwise.
I may assure you that before making decision on extractive operation the Royal Government would thoroughly assess its economic, social and environmental impacts. Because of lacking of information together with agitation by some ill intent people, our people have been so stressfully concerned.
With environment friendly technology, finding and extracting resources in a particular area does not necessarily harm the whole flora and region. Having said so I wish to express my pleasure to share your concerns and would assure that effort will be made to get the best done for our people and country in this regard … ◉