I am so glad today to have come here again to do two things – 1) to confer 1,312 graduates with their diplomas and 2) to put into official use a new four-storey building with 22 classrooms under the name “Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen.” This is my 10th presence since the University operated in 1996, not to mention my visits when it was then the “School of Administration and Legal Cadres” which was established in 1982. I gave lectures a couple of times here at the time. One of my latest presences here was to put into official use the library building which is in the compound of Boeung Tra Bek High School and to confer also diplomas for RULES graduates.
Today’s celebration is being organized at a place, which was before inundated and unbeknown to me, a building as such could be built. It is a new achievement. On behalf of the Royal Government and my wife, I would like to share with all of you joy and success that you have made by your efforts. This should also be shared with your families, parents and/or superintendents whose efforts and hardships have contributed to your successes. This is a magnificent gesture as the graduation will indeed contribute to the development of human resources of our country as is mentioned clearly by HE Im Sethy, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports and HE Yuok Ngoy, Rector of the Royal University of Laws and Economics.
I would in this instance share with you my thought and appreciation on a remarkable aspect of private sector participation and investment in the field of education. Weeks ago I talked about private investment contribution for the development of the school and to offer fee-paying education opportunity. Today, conferring diplomas in a state university, where students are also allowed to pay for their studies, I wish to reiterate once again the wise management or organization for those students, who have finished their secondary school, to be able to continue their education as fee paying students.
Let me have your attention that, in all, the size of investment in the field of education has been quite big because aside from the amount covered from the state coffer, each family has also made its own contribution too. This has indeed augmented the meaning of education for all and all for education policy. The fee paid by students not only pays for teaching but also, as we have seen in front of us all today, for marvelous achievement that we have seen before us.
This is a special development and achievement that we have realized and come across. This has clearly demonstrated efforts by each individual and family which results in not only education achievement but also building and maintenance of school building as well. Once again in the name of the Royal Government of Cambodia and my own name, I would like to express my sincere appreciations and congratulations to all graduates and their families and from here place my hope on every one of you to make use of your works for family and society. I also encourage you to continue your study according to the possibility you may have so as to garner further knowledge.
Let me take this opportune moment to give a few remarks. As HE Yuok Ngoy reported, two students have finished their semi-final competition in international court consultation in the University of Las Vegas in the United States of America, for which participants came from 19 different countries. Five other students had competed in audience of International Court in Washington, also the United States of America organized by International Court of Justice, in which students from 80 countries took part. Our students had finished first round of competition.
They were competitions in artificial court and it was good that our students had stood the chance to compete with others. I have the great feeling and wish to praise for the efforts made by both students and the university. It has proven that the University has been recognized internationally. In addition to that we also have 13 foreign students who came to study here, whereas many graduates have now taken up their continuing higher level and professional education in universities abroad. This has also proven that there is this gradual trend of accreditation of university education in Cambodia because of the fact that those who have scored their bachelor’s degree in Cambodia could get acceptances to universities elsewhere.
I am sure you all still remember how hard our lives were after 1979. However those hard lives have now turned to be national pride and this is a success that is born out of hardship, and it is therefore so meaningful. It is not an artificial achievement. We must be proud that we all have united and started from scratch, which (Minister of Education, Youth and Sports) HE Im Sethi said those who know more taught those who know less, and those who know less taught those who do not know. This is where and how we started.
The country was under both political and economic embargo. We had been punished in all fields. We were saved from the Pol Pot’s genocide but we were going through this indirect killing until now the Pol Pot’s group is being brought to justice. It is after 30 years that the matter (genocide) is being formally admitted to have happened. However there does not seem to be any remorse from those who never before admitted what happened in Cambodia. It should indeed be a political and diplomatic shame.
Those of you who are born after 1979 may ask your parents or senior family members how lives under the regime of Pol Pot and in the time of war between 1970 and 1975 were like. After the fall of the Khmer Rouge (in 1979) war was going on in remote areas and there was still that threat of Pol Pot’s return under the so called tripartite coalition, who had been allowed to occupy the Cambodian seat at the United Nations.
A country that was under embargo, we could not get all sort of assistance ranging from chalk to book. Among those who had been the first to come to Cambodia were the International Red Cross and UNICEF. Having talked about this I may have your attention that on the forthcoming November 24, there will be a celebration of 30 years of partnership between the Royal Government of Cambodia and especially those foreign-based non-governmental organizations, who provided us a lot of help in those days.
In that very circumstance not only that our students were not accepted by foreign countries to further their education but me who was foreign minister and then Prime Minister, the person I could get permission to talk to was only the one at a rank of department director. I sometimes could not even get a handshake with them because they did not recognize us but the Pol Pot clique at the United Nations. Today we have here HE Ambassador of Australia and I may talk it in her consent that the first so called foreign minister of a western world with whom I shook hand was the former Australian foreign minister HE Bill Hiden. It was impossible to organize a meeting in Phnom Penh. Our first meeting had to be organized in Ho Chi Minh City.
The Australian Labor Party, which is back in power now, took a policy that gives no recognition to Pol Pot in between 1982 to 1983. Things started to change gradually. So Bill Hiden was the first western nation foreign minister to have reached out to us after then foreign minister of India Narasim Harao, who later became Prime Minister. I had a meeting yesterday with a former Minister for Posts of Japan, whom I met in Paris when he was a member of parliament. The meeting was not made known to his embassy because his Government did not recognize us. It was so sad an experience.
It has been great effort we made that gets us this far. In other countries, Prime Ministers seem to have no hardships when taking power because they have financial resources, infrastructure, etc. while in Cambodia there was nothing of that sort. The situation has now changed as everyone on a visit to Cambodia wishes to meet Hun Sen. We have succeeded in making us a person to talk business with. However, what done is done. The sad time has now passed. This illustrates that personal effort is a determined factor, while assistance from friends is essential.
The late (General) Lon Nol’s leadership has written Cambodia a debt to the United States for the bombardments throughout the country. We are in the process of solving it. But Lon Nol was incompetent and the USD seems to be assisting only the incompetent ones. They helped Nguyen Van Thieu after the overthrow of Ngo Dinh Diem only to bring the latter to an end. The US seemed to have picked a wrong horse. The one assisted by the US did not have a record of staying long. Take Lon Nol for example, he was placed behind the US interest as the US has other interests to take care of and not just those of Lon Nol’s and Saigon’s. Marcos in the Philippines was the one whom the US provided a lot of help. But when the US got to a point and a replacement had been found, it was time for him to go.
However, many Cambodian politicians seem to be fond of believing that they are the most important to the United States. History has indeed shown that the US always has its interest to defend. Well that was a history. This is said about the new generation President George Bush or Barak Obama and not those before them like Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. I may have your full attention here that people self determination is the most important. They have to be the ones that decide own destiny.
These arguments are for you to understand how difficult it was when we started rebuilding this country in those days. We were saved from Pol Pot but were not recognized while being punished. We did all we could to survive from scratch. It is indeed the nation’s pride that you have been able to participate with students from 80 and 19 other countries, which could be in fact considered as the recognition of Cambodia in the international arena.
I just returned from a visit to the most democratic countries in the world. I was invited by President of France for a visit on the occasion of the French National Day on July 14. After being as a French guest during this important event, I also went on to visit the United Kingdom, where my son graduated. Some people in France have been so talkative about Elysée Palace. HE Heng Vong Bun Chhat said to me in 2005 that he thanked me for the whole of his life for taking him with me to Elysée Palace. It was in Jacque Chirac’s time. HE Heng Vong Bun Chhat is a French national and Pundit.
Yesterday I met with former Minister of Post from Japan and we talked about our past stories. While the Japanese policy was not in favor for Phnom Penh Government at the time of political negotiation, the Japanese foreign minister Mitsusaka seemed to have stared at me and when the meeting was adjourned he stayed to shake hand with me … the place where this happened has now been sold by the French Government. When we met in a party, again it took me a big surprise to see that the foreign minister of Japan approached and talked to me. In 1990 I went to Japan to sign an agreement to form the Supreme National Council (SNC), it was the same foreign minister who came by to chat with me. In 1997 he became minister for finance of the Hashimoto Government. In one of our meeting there after I asked him if he indeed had a staring eye on me in Paris. He told me a brief history of Japan that in the old time of divisions there was a young man who came out and united Japan and he took the man in that past to have been born in Cambodia and it must be me – the young fellow named Odano Bunaka and it was in 1580. So his approach to shake hands with me at that time was not politics or diplomatic but because of his sixth sense …
Our past with the genocide has been a great pain and unbearable. The trial of the top leaders of the regime, which is going on, has shown us how horrible the killings were. We came to a thought of how painful they were – those of our relatives who died under their rule. Some of our people could not even discover where their remains could be … As for me I do not even know where my first child was buried or thrown away. I was so sad and depressed that I was denied access to my dead child and I could not give him a proper burial as a father to son.
I was in great pain that one of my eyes was removed. But how much more would the pain be when our relatives were beaten to death. I just wish that every one of us remembers this. Some are against the January 7 victory. But to be realistic, how could they be alive till now if the victory was not happening? Only two more years, not 30 years, with the regime, the rest of our population might have been killed – if not by their torture, we would surely be dead because of hunger. They said it was the day when Vietnam invaded Cambodia. If it was not for Vietnam to help us, in that circumstance who would then be willing to do so?
To be realistic, it was not the first time that Vietnam came to Cambodia. In between 1970-1975 there was also this incident of Vietnamese presence in Cambodia – both the US-supported army and the Vietnamese liberation front army. Who then had created such an incident? It was started from the US-led coup. While the Vietnamese presence in 1979 was for a unique reason to save lives of the Cambodian people, and they left Cambodia after they finished their mission. Why the US was in Cambodia in 1970? Many of their soldiers have been missing in action (MIA) and some are still unaccounted for. Why the US keep their troops in South Korea and in Japan?
In those days the US also maintained its troops in the Philippines and Thailand. Why that is not being said? They were afraid to talk the truth. Well it is not at all easy to talk the historical fact. How come everyday they (the opposition) preach about Cambodian territory to the east being annexed by Vietnam and to the west by Thailand? What do they want to happen? Is it fighting that they want? It is understandable that they could not utter a single word that might give the Royal Government a praise, and because of this naïve politics that they could not be anything more than an opposition.
You have studied law here so you know that everyone is equal before law. Even if I am Prime Minister I have the rights to defend myself. I am also a citizen. They called a press conference and sued me which led to my legal counter-action. They have no chance to make themselves look like Aung San Sukyi. There is no hope for that. It is a fortune that such a provocation was not rebuffed by power or force but by court. If I were to be a dictator, in just two hours the whole city would be blocked. There would be no chance for escape. But my reaction is why they recognize only the rights of the opposition and not the legitimate rights of those in power.
They have to recognize me as a citizen. I want all foreign forces to consider their disengagement and come to terms with the fact that rights in Cambodia has been flourishingly rich. At the moment of speaking, a radio station scorned the Royal Government even I never bother them. However, Hun Sen has been well known and re-elected because their disparagement and opposition. Our support base has been increased to 64, then 73 and the latest to 90 seats in the parliament. By 2013, we may have more seats or retain the same number of seats or some minor loss. But even if we are to lose ten more seats, we will still be retaining 80 seats, which is enough to win. Even ten more to lose in the 2018 elections, we will still be the winner.
Based on this our opposition will have to reconsider their position with regard to their ages. I would not agree to a suggested scenario that so and so would leave the opposition leader position and Hun Sen would have to be no longer Prime Minister. That will not be acceptable.
Today I have been requested that this building in front of us be named after Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Hun Sen. I have no other choice but to agree with the suggestion. They may want to change later if need be but I see that there is very slim chance for that even after 2023. I have planned to stay on till 2023, not 2018.
Furthermore I would like to express my sincere appreciation and praise to efforts made by Rector and Deputy Rectors, Management Committee as well as professors and staff of RULE who have been putting into effective practice of making use of university’s ability to sponsor their actions. As we can see here this method has been practiced not just in private educational institutions but also in the state universities, and the example in this university is the construction of a more than one million US dollar school building that they have achieved without even bothering to ask for help.
Phnom Penh is expanding twice its size if we compare it to 1979. The city boundary has now reached Ang Snuol, Kandal Stoung, Punnhea Loeu districts. One in every four Cambodians is now a student or 3.5 million out of over 13 million people. I would like to take this forum to seek once again our people’s understanding on issue of traffic. Concerning this matter I would take this chance to declare that all motorcycles, which never pay tax properly before, to be accepted to pay taxes. I have already instructed HE Deputy Prime Minister Keat Chhon and customs officers there under the Ministry of Economy and Finance to take this matter into action. Cyclists must put on helmets to protect themselves …◉