It is indeed a great pleasure that I have the opportunity to be here with all of our people to officiate the construction of the Sino-Cambodia Friendship Prek Kadam Bridge over the river of Tonle Sap, which is to be a new achievement in the cooperation between Cambodia and China. Five days ago we officiated the construction of the Prek Tamak Bridge which links Punnhealoeu district on one side of the Mekong River to Khsach Kandal district of Kandal province which is on the other side. Witnessing this progress I would like to takethis opportune moment to thank the Ministry of Public Works and Transports, the Ministry of Economy and Finance as well as related Cambodian institutions, the Chinese Embassy and all concerned companies for expediting the project in such a timely manner.
In just over one year, projects taking the amount of 200 million US dollars have started and they include the National Road 8, the bridge of Prek Tamak, and the bridge of Prek Kadam. It is indeed splendidly and satisfactorily fast and responding to instructions by the two Governments, Cambodia and China – because HE Wen Jiabao and I have agreed that the 200 million US dollars loan has to be made use quickly. I have informed you all before that a part of the loan has also been used for the re-construction of the NR 76 from the district of Snuol to Sen Monorom of Mondulkiri.
We are today celebrating the construction on the island of Koh Chen (China) and I also doubted why in the history this land is named after China. We all know about the arrival of Chui Ta Kuan to Cambodia in his trip to see Angkor Wat in 1297 – about 800 years ago. In Siemreap province, if you noticed, some villages have Chinese features, while here in Prek Kadam, we also have this island of China or Chen. Historically, because of internal strife and war of oppression by foreign powers, the Chinese have fled their country to resettle peacefully in our country. This has illustrated our two countries’ long-term relationship lasting hundreds of years.
Having said so we also have to be clear with the efforts made by Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk to maintain and strengthen a long-term relation between Cambodia and China in the past as well as in the present. It is indeed impressive to have learned in the speech of HE Ambassador of China on its efforts to help developing countries whereby President of the PRC, HE Hu Jintao and leaders of the G-8 nations have agreed in speeding up globalization in a way that developing countries will benefit the most. It is indeed important to see that globalization that leads to loss of the developing nations’ interest is an unreasonable way. Though HE Hu Jintao said so in the name of China, but its importance covers also interest of the developing nations and as I see it envisages the win-win policy in the stage of globalization.
Assistance provided by the People’s Republic of China to developing countries, Cambodia also included, in all forms – grant, non-interest loan and soft-loan – we also have assistance in the form of human resource development, whereby our human resources have a chance to share their experiences, which also include the “early harvest” program for low-developed nations in ASEAN for their accesses to about 400 items to be exported to the PRC with quota and tariff free. The problem is we do not have those items to export to China.
Taking this opportunity I would like to express through Madame Ambassador and all Chinese friends our greatest thanks and appreciations to the Government and people of China for their generous and continuous assistances for our country’s development aimed at alleviating poverty among the Cambodian people. As its neighbor, we have always respected and been joyous to see China’s economic growth and emergence in the past recent years making China a potential economic house where many countries in the world would have a chance to benefit from the biggest market. Take for instance Cambodia’s exportation of two million tons of rice, if we were to be able to do so, would not be sufficient to feed even a province of China. I was once asked by a journalist if I were worried of China’s accession to the World Trade Organization. My response was “are we happy to receive Chinese refugees or Chinese tourists?” Let’s look in the history when the Chinese fled their country because of internal strife and foreign oppression. On the contrary, if China were to have a better living condition and from one to two million of them could come as tourists to our country, we then would be able to benefit from that too.
China’s economic gain has been attained at the rate of 8% per year, and about 10% in the recent years. HE Hu Jintao and HE Wen Jiabao stated in Bandung last year that China reserved a sum of 10 billion US dollars for developing countries, in which five billion US dollars is for the countries in Southeast Asia. Taking this into consideration, China has started to conduct a rail study at its expense from Battambang to Bat Doeung, to Phnom Penh, to Snuol and to Loc Ninh of Vietnam. Once the study completes, there would be a greater share to be contributed by China in its construction, whereby its provinces of Guangxi and Yunnan would be linked up with ASEAN.
As far as this bridge is concerned I remember that in 1968, I first crossed this river in a ferry with my Buddhist mentor venerable Chreng to the pagoda of Andoung Por in the province of Kompong Thom. I was then a pagoda boy. Today we officiate the construction of the Bridge and it would take fifty months because it is a deep river bridge and also a big one too. Basing on our common sense, since the bridge’s length is shorter than the one for Prek Tamak, it would perhaps take a shorter time to build. Rural infrastructure will give benefit to rural area and this is what we call re-distribution of opportunity and fruit of economic growth to rural people. Everywhere in our country is getting near as traveling takes ten hours before from one point to another, it takes only half or less now.
The world is small now and I would take a few days away to conduct an official visit to Japan and my purpose is to request Japan for the Bridge of Neak Loeung over the Mekong River. This bridge is indeed a critical point of connections of five roads – the one to Kompong Chhanang, to Phnom Penh, to NR 6A, Kompong Cham Province and to Kompong Thom provinces. Aside from that people from eastern side of the river go to Kompong Som do not have to go via Phnom Penh but crossing this bridge here and take the NR 51.
I was mentioning a few days ago in Takeo about the price of land. It is indeed depends on the correct leadership that the price of land has gone up or it would be priceless if we chose an incorrect one. Take for instance, along the NR 7 before 1970 there were widespread activities to grow plants of coffee, durian, etc. The land price went to nil when war broke out land in Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia … were on the high prices. After 1979, no one would want a piece of land if there were any. The present embassy of North Korea is indeed the house in which HM was born and it is sharing a fence with mine. I have maintained the house for HM to return and now it is not wrong. In case of insecurity no one would bother investing anymore they would pack their belongings and flee.
Let me take this time to make clear in front of Hakem and Tuan of Islam here today in my capacity as head of Government in relation to what has irresponsibly been said by the Thai military spokesperson that Cambodian Muslims crossed the border to join the Thai Muslims in the South of Thailand in their secession movement. I already instructed HE Minister for Information and Minister for Foreign Affairs to deliver our reactions and I demand Prime Minister Surayuth Chulanant to correct what has been said as it was a serious remark on the Cambodian Muslims.
Maybe I should recall a few events before I make my position in this matter. At the time we celebrated the International New Year, there were explosions of bombs in Bangkok and they said they had discovered the identity of the offender. But because it was just a piece of news I did not react to that. But I was thinking that because they failed to perform their duty they blamed us. I think they should not make any complaints because it would be a discrediting act for their incompetency. If it were true that the bomb was taken from Cambodia, it would mean that Thai authority has been incompetent that they could not prevent those who bring explosives into Bangkok. They should first blame their police and military bosses before pointing finger at others.
Secondly claims of involvement by our Muslims have been a long one but we never thought that they would increase their attack so far as to say that Cambodia is a training ground for JI terrorist group. I am not happy with what they have linked our Muslims to what happens in the South of Thailand. Our Muslims would prefer nothing else but peaceful life and Cambodia is a harmonious place between religions. It is indeed true to say that harmony among religions has indeed been a positive heritage from former Kings of Cambodia for our nation. Last year I told a Thai General that the Muslims in Cambodia would not be fooled to serve as separatist forces in the South of Thailand and it would be wrong to have a confrontation with Muslims in the South, while seeking for one more in Cambodia.
Today I would make clear my position. Firstly, Cambodia respects Thai independence and sovereignty. Whatever happens in Thailand, the coup, and the south issue are Thai internal matter. Secondly, I told HE Prime Minister Surayuth already during his trip to Cambodia on this matter. Cambodia always regards Thai sovereignty when Thai Constitutional Court dissolved Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai Party and banned its executives from political activities. We did not say it is an abuse of democracy value or anything at all. I would urge the Thai Government and military not to internationalize its internal problem. Thirdly, Cambodia is prepared to conduct any level of negotiation with a constructive manner so as to prevent this from happening again. I would assure you that if there is any JI in Cambodia, we would not let them go to Thailand. They would be crushed in our country right away.
I would urge any matters in this regard should not be communicated through the press but through our established channel. We could not accept or stand by before such an accusation. I would also urge our people, Khmers or Khmer Muslims, should know places where their presence would or would not be harmed. I would seek Bangkok’s understanding of the situation as we cannot stand to be accused in an increasing manner like that. They should at least think that if necessary Cambodia could also participate in peace making in Thailand as when Thailand was doing help for Cambodia before. Cambodia could be a place for Thais to discuss their differences too.
I also clarify to Muslims that we do not mean to harm you or to hold your actions suspicious but we would act in conformity of the law no matter who the person maybe. Take for instance here is a good example that land in the South of Thailand may not go sky high because of the war there. I am sure that Thais have their wisdom to solve their problems but they should not drag Cambodia into their problem. I would urge us all to continue to strengthen relations with Thailand irrespective of personal judgment by that military spokesperson. I hope they would correct their comments. I would also stress that we are not seeking any situation like in 2003 since our relations have been well improved now.
On that occasion Samdech Hun Sen offered 20 million Riels for the Buddhist monks and parishioners of the Koh Chen Pagoda, a six classrooms school building, computers and accessories, photocopier, generator to the Junior College of Hun Sen-Koh Chen, a six classrooms school building to the Junior College of Chery Luah, a director’s office of three rooms to the Junior College of Kompong Hluong, and the bailey Bridge of Prek Tapeo as demanded by elderly people./.