National Road 41 – Kompong Speu to Kompot
After my visit to inaugurate the Kunkru (Mentor’s) Bridge in 2008, it is indeed a great pleasure that I have the chance to be here and meet our people again. The construction of the national road (NR) 41 is to connect the national road 4 in Kompopng Speu province through to Dang Tung district of Kompot province. I am so happy that the vision (for this area) we have is being realized and a road itself will be ready in 2014. However, the construction is now starting thanks partly to own resources but also capital help from the People’s Republic of China.
The NR 41 was considered before as a strategic link between the Udong (former capital of Cambnodia) to the sea port of the country then. It was called the Ang Duong Road, because it was built under the reign of HM the King Ang Duong, who then stayed at the old palace, where we have the Old Palace Pagoda in Udong (Kandal province). The NR 41 was a part of the road link from Udong to the sea, as one other part is now called the NR 51, which runs from Udong of Kandal and meets with the NR 41 at Thnol Totoeng. It was a strategic road born out of vision of our King in those days and we have made efforts to improve it to serve our people better.
Let me elaborate on the vision that starts from the Kunkru Bridge. I learned from the media about hardships and difficulties of people living in and/or travelling through the river of Prek Thnaot in absence of the bridge. There was at the time what was called the Bridge of Kompong Tram. I travelled through the bridge once in 1991 and I noticed the flood from the western part of Phnom Penh city that destroyed infrastructures along with livelihoods of our people.
By the year 2001, with the state of hardship our people endured in the area in mind, both in rainy and dry seasons, I ordered General Kvan Siem, commander of the military engineering team to restore the bridge, while I covered ferry expense for people who travelled across the river. We then built a bridge of 4.2 meters in width and 190 meters in length. It was HE Khi Taing Lim who was minister of Transports and Public Works.
However, because the road width is larger than that of the bridge, there was a discussion then between the Ministries of Finance and Economy and the military engineering team to build bridge poles in space that is able to accommodate later a larger bridge up to 7.2 meters in width. Thanks to this we were able to build concrete bridge on the poles, if I remember well, on January 22, 2002, or prior to the first communal elections. The bridge was then inaugurated in 2008, also the year of the national elections. It was by that time that a politician stated that Hun Sen should not impose condition on political retirement by age.
I have declared that I will continue to serve our people as long as they need and support me. I will go on till people no longer vote for me. We won in 2008 as I came inaugurating the concrete bridge of Kunkru. (The CPP) has won 17 more seats too, from 73 to 90 seats in the National Assembly. Let me thank our people in Samraong Tong district, where some 76% of them voted the CPP in 2003 as well as in 2008.
We have now brought our people a reality. People that directly benefit from this road would be from four provinces – Kandal, Kompong Speu, Takeo and Kompot provinces. In Kompong Speu province, the bridge will serve people of Samraong Tong, Kong Pisey and Boset district. The bridge will serve also people of Tramkok district of Takeo province and Jum Kiri, Tchouk and Dang Tung districts of Kompot province. However, I know you agree with me that this road and bridge serve far more people than those.
As is said by HE Pan Guangxue, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China, the road will be of great benefit for transporting our famous durians and black pepper of from Kompot province for a wider distribution to national markets. He also said that the road will be a symbol of friendship, cooperation and development between the two countries. Let me add on that this road will also play very important role in our effort to widely distribute salt that is one of the main production from Kompot province.
I am so proud of the vision on four priorities that I issued 24 years ago, in 1987. They are water/irrigation, road, electricity/energy and human resources. As far as water/irrigation is concerned, the districts of Kong Pisey, Samraong Tong and Chba Mon of Kompong Speu province, the districts of Angsnuol, Kandal Stoeung and Dangkao of Kandal province have benefited from our western area (of Phnom Penh) development project as we have developed a canal that allows water to run from Kompong Speu through to Kandal and Phnom Penh and on to a part in Takeo.
The PRC has been providing assistance in these prioritized areas ranging from irrigation to road, to electricity and to human resource development.
Despite the fact that so much has been accomplished you and I may conclude that these achievements have not been sufficient yet to address our people’s needs. I have instructed Senior Minister, HE Sun Chanthol, to bring up a study of a long-term plan to build another road from NR 4 at Treng Troyoeung (NR 43) through to the NR 3. Another study has been conducted for the construction of a new road that links NR 3 to Kompong Trach on the border with Vietnam. It is an economic zone and the road will serve as a corridor to this part of the country. We also are in search of financial assistance to build the NR 2 and the NR 21.
Since I am a son of a peasant family, it is indeed my knowledge and experience about a situation where human has to carry bicycle instead of riding it. It is not exceptional, of course as far as the people who travelled through here before the construction of the Kunkru Bridge are concerned.
No one could have imagined of development in absence of infrastructure and transportation. It was for many reasons and benefits that we are putting so much resources and energy into building transportation networks. Take for instance, some people could have died of simple sickness just because they could not get to hospital in a timely manner from where they live because of no road access or lack of bridges. In the case of Prek Thnaot, in absence of the bridge of Kunkru, sick people could not travel speedily to hospital because they had to wait for ferry, which could delay their journey between one or two hours.
People’s lives which could have been saved were lost for these reasons. There are many more benefits one can think of. In order to address the infrastructural development, we have saved money we earned to invest in building bridges, roads, water canals and other needs for people. It was also a bad feeling when we think about a condition in which our people could not send their products to the market for similar reasons. I am sure with the road in place, traders will come to people for their products, like water melons in the farm of the Sendei commune.
With all I have said and anticipated about the project of building the road, I would like to express my sincere thanks to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), its government and people, for tremendous financial assistance for Cambodia to embolden its rise while addressing the need for infrastructure development and encouraging a large number of investors to come to the Kingdom of Cambodia.
It is quite fortunate for the world that in time of financial crisis and economic downturn, when counties in America, Europe and Asia encountered problem, PRC has not fallen into the crisis. It has retained its growth at around 8% and 9%. The PRC is standing firm and saving the world. It should be noted that the PRC, in time of crisis, did not reduce assistance or financial help to the Kingdom of Cambodia at all. China has maintained its commitment even when the country was affected by deadly Sichuan earthquake which caused destruction no less than that of the Tsunami in Japan months ago.
During my visit to Sichuan, I remember that there was a policewoman not only breastfed her child but also to orphans whose parents died of the quake. I have sent through the Party Secretary of Sichuan province my respect and appreciation to her. Again I thank PRC for its unfaltering help to Cambodia, even at that very sad and bad time, to expedite its investment in development of the four prioritized areas. With its financial assistance provided, I am sure the diplomatic mission of the Chinese Ambassador Pan Guangxue would be one of the Chinese busiest diplomats to Cambodia.
HE Pan Guangxue has joined me seven times already to inaugurate the (1) Prek Tamak concrete bridge on January 24, 2011, and to launch the constructions of (2) the Russieijrum Kraom hydropower on December 28, 2010, (3) the Tatai electric dam on January 1, 2011, (4) the national road 59 on February 15, (5) the Phnom Penh container port on March 9, (6) the national road 57B on March 21, and (7) the national road 41. According to our schedule we will be celebrating two more events to build the Takhmao Bridge on July 1, 2011 and the Jroi Janva Bridge after the water festival.
I would like to take this opportune moment to express my sincere appreciation for efforts made by the Ministry of Transport and Public Works, the Ministry of Economy and Finance, and all institutions concerned in negotiating the project with the Chinese counterparts so that the project could commence today and will be ready by 2014. It should be noted that this road will cost 46 million USD, which will be deducted from the package of financial loan of 400 million USD approved by HE Xi Jinping, Vice President of the PRC, during the visit to Cambodia in early December 2009.
I also thank local authorities concerned and the armed forces for making efforts to help facilitating the project and I am calling for continuing cooperation from them. I also thank our people living in the area to join with the project as they would be the ones to really benefit from it. Equal thanks go to the de-mining team, which, according to the report of HE Keat Chhon, Minister for Economy and Finance, has spent 461,476 USD. The Ministry of Economy and Finance also share 1.5 million USD to mitigate impacts from the project.
After the Chinese New Year, the Year of Rabbit, in my rest in to Kompong Som, we had a fight at the Preah Vihear temple. After the Khmer New Year, the Year of Rabbit too, there was another fight for twelve days at the Tamoan and Ta Korbei temples. In fact I would not want to bring it out before our Chinese friends because they said that Thailand and Cambodia are both friends to China. I told the Chinese Ambassador plainly one day that though both are friends of China the both should be distinguished between who is good and who is naughty.
I would urge other countries like Vietnam or Laos to do the same. It would be undiplomatic but our friends should be aware as to who has harm to whom. Some would find it hard to make a straightforward decision because of relevant interests. Take for instance, according to the news, Vietnam and Thailand are preparing for joint naval exercise. It is also true in the case of Laos. It is now clear that Cambodia could not depend on anyone but on itself and the way to do it is to embrace peaceful means, not war.
Some politicians in the opposition have always made it a fuss as to why the Royal Government of Cambodia does not bring the issue to the UN Security Council or call for the convening of the Paris Conference. Have they ever looked through the conference papers if anywhere in them that a border conflict between Cambodia and Thailand can be solved? I hope they would learn more about the role of the UN Security Council and study all relevant papers from the Paris Peace Agreement.
There is only one option left. That is to propose to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to interpret its decision. As for the conflicts at the Ta Moan and Ta Krobei temples, if no solution could be reached, after the Thai elections, we would challenge them to go to court. I think that is the best way to deal with the issue. I told Prime Minister Abhisit in Indonesia that we should use the court to resolve the matter. Going to court is indeed not a particular way for Cambodia and Thailand to go to but a practice performed by many in the world. When Cambodia cannot proceed and Thai would not budge too, ICJ would be the best way and a solution provided would carry weight for both sides to explain it to the people. Otherwise, fighting would not end.
We have now come to a situation in which both sides stay where they are waiting for a peaceful solution by means of negotiation. We do not intrude on them and they would not do on us too. Cambodia is in need for money to build roads, bridges, canals, schools, and hospitals. Cambodia does not want to waste money on rifles and ammo at all. However, being forced by the other side, we must have what we need to defend our country. About 50,000 shells of 105 mm and 130 mm fired on us was not a simple matter. With our artillery responses, the Thai side called for negotiation.
Let me have the attention of Myanmar and Laos, who are Thai neighbors, that if the region were to allow Thailand to succeed in what they wanted to do on Cambodia, other neighboring countries would not be safe either. This is my message that if they succeed in crashing Cambodia, they would be bold to do the same on others. In my conversation with HE Thien Sein of Myanmar, I learned of similar problem that Myanmar has with Thailand too. With Thailand, Myanmar has got an area of some 100 square kilometers to resolve and Laos has got this issue of Xayaburi that has not yet been solved since 1987-88.
Thailand had fights with Myanmar, Malaysia and Laos. Now they fight Cambodia. I would urge our friends to look at Cambodia and our other neighbors like Vietnam and Laos. We do not have border problems with each other because our borders have been made ones of peace, friendship and cooperation. We also want to achieve that with Thailand. I hope that any Thai Government born out of the forthcoming July 3 elections could resolve internal rifts, and would not export conflict to outside the country and refrain from being in conflict with other countries./.