It is indeed a great pleasure that I came back again to the district of Snuol to join you all in the construction ceremony of the127-kilometer NR 76 that connects the district of Snuol and the capital of Mondultiri Sen Monorom under the concessional loan from the People’s Republic of China and the counterpart fund from the Royal Government of Cambodia. Taking this opportune moment I wish to express my sincere appreciation to the Ministry of Public Works and Transports and the Ministry of Finance – both of which have actively worked in accordance with my recommendation and those of the Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Wen Jiabao to expedite the use of the 200 million US dollar loan.
Aside from this project, the 127 – kilometer road from Snuol to Sen Monorom, we have other projects that are being implemented under this 200 million US dollar loan. We will launch the construction of the NR 8, which is a new road that was initiated recent years ago and the constructions of two bridges over the Mekong River at Prek Tameak and another over the Tonle Sap River at Prek Kdam. The fact that we have come to achieve this much in just one year means that the Chinese Ambassador and related institutions and companies have been working hard.
Let me take this time to tell you a little about the background of this project. We have under the Japanese assistance renovated the NR & from Phnom Penh to Kompong Cham, from Kompong Cham crossing the Mekong River by the Kizuna bridge to Thnol Totoeung. We have renovated the part between Thnol Totoeung and Mehmot in 2000 – shortly after the flood. Another project had been put into implementation from Kratie to Mehmot using the funds provided by ADB and OPEC. From Kratie to the border with Laos a new bridge over the Sekong River and more at the total length of 2000 meters and 200 kilometer road are being built with the fund provided by China, and they are almost complete now. We might have the inauguration ceremony to launch in early 2008.
It was an opportune moment that the PRC’s Government declared at the ASEAN Summit with China and the East Asian Summit in Kualar Lumpur in 2005 that it was prepared to offer 5 billion US dollars as loan to developing countries at a concessional interest rate or export credit. PRC has made it clear in the following visit of the Prime Minister of China to Cambodia that PRC is setting aside 200 million out of 5 billion US dollar for Cambodia. I said to my colleagues that all of the money will be used for nothing else but bridges and roads.
As HE Prime Minister of PRC said it I pointed on the map right away that so and so amount will go to so and so projects – NR 8, the Prek Ta Meak Bridge, the Prek Kdam Bridge, etc. PRC has made further promises during the visit of the Cambodian delegation to the PRC and because of this generous understanding we are able to get the project started today. We learned that 200 million US dollars is far less than enough as these projects have cost 195 million US dollars already and we feel the need for one more bridge to be built at Ta Khmao town of Kandal.
I raised this matter to HE Prime Minister Wen Jiabao when I attended the Sino-Asean Summit in Nanning and I could recall that HE Wen Jiabao said to HE Ambassador to Cambodia that “you are Ambassador for Cambodia and not for China.” I told him that 200 million US dollars is not up to what we need yet. I requested for another 200 million US dollars which will will be used to build the NR 10 which has now become the NR 57 from Battambang to Pailin and through to the border with Thailand, another 28 kilometer road from Sen Monorom to the border with Vietnam, the part that connect the NR 8 to the NR 7 which is about 27 kilometers, and a bridge at Ta Khmao over the Bassac River. He took my request and promised that he would give it a consideration.
In the ASEAN + China Summit in Cebu of the Philippines early this year HE Prime Minister of PRC Wen Jiabao told me that the PRC agreed to my request for another 100 million US dollar loan. I just talked to HE Ambassador of PRC that we would have to address these projects as a package of 300 million US dollar loan. As for the construction company here, if the negotiation permits they will have to go on building the next 28 kilometer part between Sen Monosrom to Dak Dam on the border with Vietnam. The Shanghai Company which will take the construction of the NR 8 would be given the project of connecting the road to Punhea Krek district of Kompong Cham on consideration that they have their construction machines and materials already in place. We also have to look for a company to build the NR 10, and a company to build the bridge over Bassac at Ta Khmao.
The project we celebrated its opening today is one part of the whole package of 300 million US dollar loan on communication and transport infrastructural development. The military engineering team (MET) had fulfilled its mission at a critical stage for the Royal Government in improving the laterite road between Snuol and Sen Monorom and we had inaugurated it once in 2003. MET was sent to work here for the fact that this area was full of UXOs left from war times. Especially as Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk had gone into jungle in this area, bombardments had been intense. HE Soey Keo led a battalion in defence of Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk – who at the time was the head of the Front against the US – from this area through to Siemreap.
Bombardments of Ho Chi Minh trail had led to exposures of UXOs – bombs of various types. The area of 2142400 square meters has been cleared and 692 pieces of unexploded ordnances had been destroyed. In this regard thanks go to MET and its principal financial officer for disbursing fund so that the clearing work is fully performed. In the course of doing we have used only our fund and all of our funding have come to assisting bridges and roads construction. This is one way of redistributing fund from the economic growth. Some countries have expressed their concerns and we accepted it as good advice but we are not that stupid to divert funding for roads and infrastructural development to purchasing new cars, etc.
Redistribution of benefit from economic growth has been serious or otherwise we could not generate a two digit growth. Thanks to the fact that we have peace and national reconciliation that we could generate social and economic development as we have today. Nothing could be done when war persists. Therefore peace and national reconciliation that we have brought about should not be disturbed by whoever it may be and they should not be forgiven at all. No one could talk about human rights when bombs kill people everyday. As long as people have no lives how could they claim their rights to life, to have a political party, to talk about democracy?
We have come to this stage because we have a correct leadership and the efforts made by our people. The two factors could not be separated. Average economic growth between 1999 and 2006 was 8.9% after the country secured a complete peace through the win-win policy in 1998. In between 1999 and 2003, average growth was recorded at 4.5% and in 2004, 10% while 2005, 13.4%. In 2006 we have achieved 10.4% and the rate will be readjusted because we will have to make an evaluation once again in May and again in August and we will see that it will not back down but go up. Where have they come from? The two digit growth is achieved because we have a better state of infrastructure which is benefiting the rural area as well. Would one leave rural infrastructure out of criteria to be considered an equal redistribution of economic growth? The amount of money spent for upgrading living conditions in the rural area is large but some people are making false remark against us.
Yesterday I read an article that Cambodia by early 2009 might have doubled its current revenue from oil while Hun Sen and his Government would not listen anymore to the West. So they say the West is giving Cambodia’s their advice. The article also mentioned about competition between China and the US in search for oil interest in Cambodia. Cambodia would only ask for equal rights among partners as we did with China. China is a big country with its population of 1300 million but it has performed as equal partner with countries of any size. Take for instance, as providing 200 or 300 million US dollars China never tells Cambodia for which roads or bridges to be built.
Integrating rural and urban areas is important as one could not integrate politics and administration while neglecting such a gap between rural and urban. People in rural area would consider the central Government gives no care for them and this would in the end lead to insurgency or/and even secession. Demand for autonomy in some countries has appears to be taking this course. Here, we will have what I call “Pancha Road or Road of Five Directions” from Snuol to Kratie, Mehmot, Chhlong, Mondulkiri, and the border with Vietnam. Cambodia is working on a request to Vietnam to asphalt the road from its border with Cambodia to Snuol as well, and also to provide electric transmission to Snuol. The people in Snuol and Mehmot will have better and cheap electricity than in Phnom Penh. Some people raised issue of gender in Cambodian Government. Look during the visit of the President of Switzerland we saw that all her assistants are men and take Chancellor Merkel of Germany as an example, how many women are in her cabinet? Why is it a big fuss in Cambodia about gender issue? We support women but we disagree with the idea of installing them to important position when they do not have the required qualifications.
I used to mention that a country would develop on the basis of four factors – water, road, electricity and human resources. The four factors are still relevant today. Eventually, building new concrete bridges in place of Bailey bridges we will have to relocate them to place where there is a need for them. I would suggest to the construction companies to adopt the Shanghai standard with three guarantees – that is 1) good quality 2) good price and 3) shorter time to build. The Shanghai Company will work on the NR 8 while this road will be built by China’s Road Construction Company. They should compete for a better quality and if Cambodia got more loans they will have to come to work again.
I am surprised at the report by HE Sun Chan Thol that the NR 7 between Snuol and Kratie has already been asphalted, while 25 bridges – small and large, short ones and long ones, have all been completed. We still need a bridge at Prek Chhlong and it is 140 meters long. Currently it is a 4 meter Bailey bridge but in bad condition and I recommend from here that it be built with an enlargement to 14 meters. With regard to the Chhlong bridge I have something to recall.
In the event of the coup on March 18, 1970, on March 23 Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk appealed on Radio Beijing to his children to go into marquis. On April 4 I contacted with the resistant forces and I have numerous choices at that time. I could stay still, or join the marquis or go to Lon Nol. But as I realized that there was this foreign invasion and toppling of the throne, I decided to go to resistance forces. I have three brothers and three sisters and I decided that I join the marquis and no one learned about my decision only my father. He also taught me some practices for those living in the forest. After a ten days training I was sent with my unit to fight Snuol battle.
After the event I was promoted to head 36 soldiers. I stationed in the rubber plant area and at that time I noticed that about 70% of the rubber workers were Vietnamese while our rubber workers today are all Khmer. In May the US and South Vietnamese forces attacked Cambodia. The market was on fire because of bombardment and the new recruits of 36 in my team fled and I had with me only 16 of them. We ran across the forest to a village called Anhchanh and all houses in the village raised white banners to ensure that the US would not bomb their houses. We had lunch offered by the villagers. As of now I have approved a request for building a road to the village of Anchanh. Not long after the US plane bombarded the bridge of Chhlong as I traveled to and from across the Chhlong River frequently – twice a day. It would be excellent if the US build this bridge for us in return.
As far as the US forces are concerned it was a good thing that no matter who you are as long as you raised your two fingers in a V shape they dropped you cigarettes, sardines, etc. Wherever the US forces occupied the villagers had many clothes when the US soldiers left. The US forces brought water by plane and the soldiers undressed themselves and bathed in the water sprayed down from the plane. The US Spent alot of money to make war in Cambodia and most of the bridges were damaged by the US bombardments. The commune of Choeung Thnu or now called Pi Thnou (December 2) was the place where we establish the Front to fight against the Pol Pot regime.
Samdech Hun Sen on that occasion offered two school buildings of twelve classrooms, a director’s office of two rooms, a sewing training building, school fence, computers and accessories to the Hun Sen – Snuol High School, a school building of six classrooms to the Primary School of Snuol, a school building of five classrooms to the High School of Cham Kar Kao Su, a school building of six classrooms to the Primary School of Mean Chey, a school building of six classrooms to High School of Svay Chrus, a 14 kilometer road between the villages of Ta Ngan and Anhchanh.