… I would like to share with you the joy of having this bridge Prek Tamak started building today. The 1,060 meter bridge that crossed the Mekong River on the northern part of Phnom Penh city is to be built by financial loans from the People’s Republic of China and with the in counterpart by the Royal Government of Cambodia as well. I wish to take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks to the Chinese Ambassador Mme Zhang Jin Feng and related institutions for their efforts in making such a big funding smoothly available.
Perhaps I should recall a bit in relation to the construction process of the bridge. In April, 2006, Prime Minister of the PRC, HE Wen Jiabao came to visit Cambodia. The PRC then decided to provide a financial package of 200 million US dollars for developing the infrastructure. I also made it clear to him that the money will be used to build the bridges of Prek Tamak and Prek Kadam and some other roads. HE Wen Jiabao urged us to make use of the fund the sooner the better. We have finally mobilized the fund for building two bridges – Prek Tamak and Prek Kadam, national road 8 from Prek Tamak to the border with Vietnam at Anlong Chrey and to Punhea Krek at Kompong Cham province and on to the national road 7. We also save fund for building the national road 76 from Snuol to Sen Monorom of Mondulkiri province.
After reviewing all projects we discovered that we are short of money if we were to get these projects implemented. In our meeting alongside the meeting in commemoration of the 15th anniversary of the Sino-ASEAN relations in Guangxi’s Nanning, I proposed for another 100 million US dollars loan so that we could add the national road 10 between Battambang and Pailin plus a new bridge at Takhmao town crossing the river of Basaac, which I think I will have to discuss with Mme Ambassador later. With the efforts made by HE Senior Minister Keat Chhon for Economy and Finance, HE Minister Sun Chan Thol for Public Works and Transports, the Chinese construction companies as well as related institutions, and HE Ambassador of PRC to Cambodia, we have come to a final conclusion for using an initial step of the 200 million US dollar loan.
As is reported by HE Keat Chhon, we have reserved a sum of close to one million US dollars for areas affected by the bridge construction on either side of the river. We have more to think about like area from where soil could be taken for upgrading the road foundation, mine clearance, tax etc. which makes our counterpart fund in all ten million US dollars. Present here today are four out of six Deputy Prime Ministers, members of Senate and National Assembly because we all wanted to give significance to this historic bridge as it is unprecedented in our history.
The Public Works and Transport Minister HE Sun Chan Thol just mentioned that the construction would take fifty months and I heard our people’s voice of our people in the crowd. I do not know if you have approved it to be short or long. But we all should remember that it is not by any chance a bridge that crosses over a small river. But according to experience that the company has built a bridge for us over the Sekong River in Stoeung Treng of similar size and length, it took only 40 months. We have planned for a longer period in the event that it would be affected by any force majeure. We planned for a longer period and we could finish it ahead of schedule is better than we planned for a shorter period but take longer time to finish.
HE Zhang Jin Feng, the Ambassador of the PRC mentioned about conditions for providing assistance by the PRC and they are also principles for cooperation between our two countries. All assistance will be provided on the basis of concrete needs, and I would urge that Cambodia is in concrete need for money to build a road from O Pong Moan to Ratanakiri – a part between the national road 7 and the provincial town of Baan Lung. It is only 28 kilometers; without condition – with respect of independence, sovereignty, etc. Chinese assistance never comes with conditions. Take for instance we request their assistance in building the Prek Tamak Bridge, they do without telling us what has to be done in return from the Cambodian side at all; and cooperation – we collaborate on the basis of win-win principle.
The Bridge of Prek Tamak and the national road 8 that we are building are great significance because it connects Phnom Penh to the district of Khsach Kandal of Kandal province, to Pearang district of Prey Veng, to the NR 7 at Kompong Cham, and also an access to Phnom Penh for those in the provinces of Ratanakiri, Mondulkiri, Stoeungtreng, Kratie, Kompong Cham (eastern part) Prey Veng and Svay Rieng. People in Svay Rieng and Prey Veng have two road accesses to Phnom Penh now NR 1 and NR 8. This would definitely help increase economic life and livelihood for our people in accordance with strategy to reduce poverty.
We could ask a question that if we were to have no roads and bridges that we have built in recent years, could we achieve this rate of economic growth? We built hundreds of bridges including bigger ones like Kizuna Bridge, and this one. In the time of the Khmer New Year, Phnom Penh was so quiet because people went out of the city to their villages and they could do that because 1) there is good security 2) there is good infrastructure and 3) people have money for such a trip. This clearly shows our progress and I think this is a better way to distribute economic growth in equity.
Talking about oil resources I am so disturbed by what they talk about oil money. Everyone talks about spending oil money but none helps us making the most out of it. Maybe from now everyone should think about how to get the most from oil. Firstly, they should try and negotiate for a bigger share for Cambodia in any deal with the oil company. I am to review countries who expressed their concerns about oil money whether they could mobilize their companies (China, US, Japan, Australia, etc.) to give a better deal to Cambodia. Secondly, I am to study also those countries with concerns on oil money for their reactions to our law on tax on oil in our fiscal policy. I would be grateful if the US Ambassador could talk to Chevron to give a greater share to Cambodia like in East Timor, Australia offers it 90%. If Chevron could do like that for Cambodia, that would be great.
I remember one thing. At the time when the price of timbers was 14 US dollars for a cubic meter, I suggested to increase the price to 120 per cubic meter. Experts from (I do not want to disclose the institutions) financial institutions proposed us to bring the price down to 54 US dollar per cubic meters. I am waiting to see what will be proposed to us when we fix a high tax, will they propose us to lower our tax? I am sure they would say this is a private company so it is a private concern, there could not be any intervention in the state capacity.
Come back to our bridge here today, I would instruct that all bridges built with the Chinese assistance have to be named as the Cambodian-Chinese Friendship Bridge Prek Tamak, … Prek Kadam, etc. I hope that our elderly people here, Buddhists, Muslims or Christians would stay on to cross this bridge. One condition for the bridge construction would be domestic stability because the Chinese companies would not stay to finish their jobs in disturbances. At the time of Sangkum Reast Niyum, Samdech Preah Norodom (Sihanouk) our King-Father built a Chroy Changva bridge and it was blown up in the war time. If we were to get the ASEAN-Kunming rail plan implemented, we would have to build two more bridges for the train to pass over the Mekong and Tonle Saap.
Samdech Hun Sen offers on that occasion a school building of five classrooms to the Junior College of Bakheng, a school building of six classrooms for the Primary School of Prek Dambang, a school building of six classrooms to the Junior College of Prek Hluong./.