I have a few things to add to what I have just read from my prepared text. I wish to declare the Royal Government’s commitment to move forward on issue of combating illegal land encroachment. I think we do not have any further time for understanding on this matter. I hope the city and provincial authorities will help the Royal Government in claiming back lands that belong to the state, which have been illegally occupied by some people. You may have known already that the Governor of Ratanakiri together with the provincial military and police heads had all been stripped off their positions allowing for the charges being placed upon them as to the investigation that proves they have been involved in illegal logging. It is an example but definitely not the last one. This action applies to anyone – whoever s/he may be – for the illegal seizure of land.
As far as land registration is concerned, judging by the fact that the Ministry has been planning the timing of registration and issuance of land tenure, I wish to have your attention that we have to respect the reality that some of the people have occupied some of the lands for a specified period of time without any registration or proof of possession. They should not be affected from this process. I have few cases of land conflict almost everyday to solve and in fact this matter should not be forwarded me as lower authority could settle these cases. But our people feel it confident to bring the matter to Hun Sen’s attention. Land issues in Cambodia have been complicated especially after the abolition for a period of time private possession regime.
In my political life up to now, I can say that there have been objective mistakes which I have mentioned this many time already. First, the land reform front was not conducted in a timely manner. In fact land reform should be conducted in the early part of 1980s. The problem is that there was difficulty as how to determine ownership in face of previous ownership that was abolished by the Khmer Rouge and those re-established as a result of people’s displacement in the Khmer Rouge regime. It was impossible to implement reform on the basis of insufficient information on de-facto land title and ownership. For example, people had been displaced from their original province of Prey Veng to settle in Pursath, while lands that were once belonged to them were occupied by other people. They indeed also occupied lands that belonged to others who had been displaced elsewhere as well.
Second, I left the matter of illegal logging unattended for the period between 1993 and 1998. It was a serious issue and I am responsible for that. In time of the State of Cambodia we allowed for logging between 150,000 and 165,000 cubic meters per annum, and actual implementation never reached the plan. After 1993, we had this problem of anarchic logging and Cambodia benefited a cheap price from it. As of now I have ordered that logging be stopped and one should not worry about income from logging. We have taken back a size of about two million hectares of land under forest concession for an indefinite period of time. Some companies pointed out that while stopping logging activities Cambodia’s jobs has been reduced to a smaller number. I said it is acceptable because sooner or later we will have the number of jobs reduced because of the fact that the forest will become extinct as well. Attention should be paid on logging for domestic needs while the logs for export should be slashed.
Third, it is also a mistake to begin re-size the fishing lots rather late. The fact is that the fishing lots were defined in 1927, which have become silted and shallow over a period between then and the year 2000. The area now has become a shallow field, and the number of fish has reduced significantly. Thanks to many studies, we have been able to re-size the fishing lots to allow about 56% of the previously defined areas for our people’s accesses. Now that this has been fulfilled we have also observed the number of fish has again taken an increase. Another development that is worth noticing is that we have observed infrequent conflicts compared to before between fishermen and dry-season rice cultivators. The two have been in discontent of one another because fishing needs to dry water out while cultivating rice needs to keep water for irrigation. Indeed, today is the 8th lunar day by lunar calendar and it is time for our people to catch fish.
These are the three basic shortcomings that I have taken notice of in my leadership. It is a good thing now that we have involved communal leadership in speeding up the process of reform and our foreign friends to donate more financial assistance and means. It is also worth start thinking now of relocating our people – which is on the increase – to areas where rice could be cultivated and they should be accessible to land. We have these areas in between Battambang and Pursath where floating and dry-season rice could be grown. Officials assigned to look into those land accessibility should not act on their own interests or they will be reprimanded seriously. Some people possessed land almost in every province. I wonder what they are going to do when the law against corruption is put into practice as they would be required to declare their possessions. Everything should be placed under the people’s interest.
As far as issue of construction is concerned, we can put a question why sometimes the building is already completed and the architectural plan has yet to get approval. Now we have to exercise the module of considering-as approval if there are no responses in so and so days. I am sure if this option is to be approved quickly we will have more investment. I have requested for an inspection for issue of the special economic zone, for which I will chair a meeting on February 15. I think we should try to decide only the master plan while leaving factory plan for investors. Special economic zone needs competing potentials, and I think we have to smooth the way for such an investment to happen.
Well maybe I should disclose from my side the political story of what happened in the last 71 hours – 5:30 pm on Friday and 5:30 pm on Sunday. The process has developed free from the so-called international pressure. The political confrontation has been resolved at the participation from a journalist, Mr. Soy Sopheap, and Oknha Mr. Kith Meng, Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce of Cambodia, even without involvement of senior Government officials. All of this started from the request of HM the King through Samdech Kong Sam Ol – Minister for the Royal Palace – on January 15. HM the King put it in short whether there is a way to put out tension. In response to the request I have arranged for a number of scenarios and one of them was proceeding on January 17, the day that the United States of America inaugurated its new Embassy building in Phnom Penh, and some people said I was making concession because of international pressure. Mr. Kem Sokha asked Mr. Soy Sopheap, to probe my position. I told him I am ready to reconcile and I would take no one to be my enemy.
Talking on phone with Mr. Kem Sokha and HE Cheam Channy – who happened to be in the Prey Sar prison together – I told HE Cheam Channy to be hopeful and I have prepared a letter for the reduction of four years from his prison term. I told him that his wife and his lawyer had written good letters to me, which shows no sign of international pressure in there. I told him he was the victim of his colleagues’ remarks. Soy Sopheap did all the paper works and arrangements. Later Kem Sokha asked through him again if he could continue his plan of Dharma march. I said yes that is his work and he has to do it otherwise he and I would be under attack for closing the Public Forum. In the course of solving the problem, I made reports to HM the King and all the people concerned.
The case of Sam Rainsy is closely related with Mr. Soy Sopheap, but also it involves someone higher – and it was Oknha Kit Meng – after whose assurances, a letter was sent to me and I responded immediately without delay for I am sure any delay would worry them. I had a bad time in trying to get through to Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranaridh or Samdech Krom Khun Sereivudh, so it left me no other choice but to go ahead. I sent a letter urging him to resolve the remaining problem with Samdech Krom Preah, a copy of which I sent to Samdech Krom Preah as well. After talking with Samdech Krom Khun Sereivudh, I had confidence that Samdech Krom Preah would not disagree with the content of the letter I wrote to Sam Rainsy, I then called HE Sam Rainsy that according to the news I had from Samdech Krom Khun Sereivudh, HE Sam Rainsy should book a flight back. The case of Chea Poch is to be brought to Samdech Krom Preah for his attention as HE Chea Poch still has the rights to attend the parliamentary session.
The issue was not ending by the amnesty provided to HE Sam Rainsy and HE Cheam Channy but to re-instate their parliamentary immunities. It has been a whole process of resolving conflict the Khmer way. The conflict started when HE Sam Rainsy accused me to be behind the grenade attacks and the plan to assassinate opposition activists. Now that he accepted that it was his mistake in making those false accusations, and his letter is indeed a self-sentencing. This is his courage. He also acknowledges doing similar mistake in accusing Samdech Krom Preah to have been bribed by me. Why on earth should we be finding his faults? Some people in the opposition have been unhappy with what their leader do and some are putting their concerns whether Sam Rainsy will attract votes. I would say it is a coward remark for being afraid of someone who might get more votes. That is not Hun Sen’s style.
Some countries put opposition under house arrests or detentions and preventing them from establishing their own political parties. I want a strong competitor like a good boat to compete with. Aside from this I told Kem Sokha and Sam Rainsy that I also listen to their opinions and from other NGOs which could be considered a reflection of what the Royal Government is doing. Only refrain from defaming anyone. I am glad to see that Cambodians have proven to be able to resolve their differences by themselves. Every Cambodian people could not be overlooked for his/her role in political involvement for the sake of peaceful settlement of conflicts – in which no international pressure has been allowed. We have proven that we have done this already in the case of the Khmer Rouge.
I urged HE Sam Rainsy to come back soon as we are now in the season of catching big fish and he told me what he heard about a new rice variety – Sen Pidor that HE Chan Sarun put a great effort to produce when he was the director of the University of Agriculture – which is giving a great deal of yield. Cambodia now has moved from conflict to reconciliation, and from confrontation to negotiation. It is now a win-win situation, in which everyone wins and our young generation will benefit. Cambodia has been ruled by many factions in its history and after the implementation of the win-win policy Cambodia has become a united country and ruled by only one administration. We should benefit from the creation of more political parties, NGOs, free press – all of which should be in replacement of arms.