Bizarre Weather Pattern
Well as we all notice this year we seem to have a bizarre weather pattern. After off and on cool weather from October through to February, now the cool weather has returned along with some rains and also lightning. Besides rain and cool weather, we have this strong wind too. According to CTN weather forecast and recollection, there have been strong winds in Preah Vihear and Banteay Meanjei provinces. According to a radio talk show in which people from various places join the talk, everywhere in the country seem to have similar weather and of unanimous opinion that this year Cambodia experiences two cool seasons.
Efforts by NTTI and MLVT
It is indeed a great pleasure to have listened to the report by HE Vong Soth, Minister for Labor and Vocational Training, and Yaok Sothi, Director of the National Technical Training Institute (NTTI) in relation to efforts made and developments scored so far. I may have your attention that this is my third time to be here as my first presence was in 1996 and again in 2005. Aside from this I would like to express my sincere thanks and appreciation for MLVT and all 38 vocational training institutions under its supervision for making so much efforts in providing training for our people that is corresponding to market’s demand.
Particularly, according to the report by the NTTI’s Director, so far NTTI has graduated 2,465 of them who will be presented with diploma today. This has in fact contributed a great deal to the need for human resources in our country. Technicians, so to speak, are of necessary demand for the country’s development. To recall the past development, after the liberation of January 7, 1979, with the help of the former Soviet Union, 1962-established Institute of Technology of Cambodia (ITC) was put back into operation.
While longing for general development, since people seemed to have less interest in pursuing technological training as life career, there used to be this situation of less number of students applying for training in ITC. Lately, thanks to the country’s overall development, where market demands for skilled and trained laborers, ITC has again picked up its deemed status. In ITC we have been offering training for two sorts of students – (the Royal Government) scholarship ones, who have pursued trainings, some to be trainers, in agricultural machineries, metal engineering, general mechanics, electronics, electric appliances, auto mechanics, civil engineering, aquaculture, agronomy, veterinary, management, accounting, marketing and English language, and the fee paying students who mostly picked up only two career trainings – electricity and civil engineering.
It is true that every subject is equally important but I noted that fee-paying students are lining up for training in electricity and civil engineering because they could find a better chance for job in the market. I am so proud that according to the report some 73% of graduates have had a job, while some have been sent to work in vocational training schools in all 24 provinces/cities.
Forecasting Cambodian Economic Growth, Job Markets
The goal of training should be set according to market demand and economic growth. Take for example, in 2004/5, when the economy boomed till 2008, then the world financial and economic crisis hit the world, we noted a strong rise in construction sector as it contributed up to 13.03% to the national economy in 2005. That situation had continued around 10% through to 2007 before falling in 2008/9. According to recent survey, the construction sector seems to have picked up again.
In 2010, while we were expecting a growth rate of 5.9%, it has been finalized to be 6%. Days ago the World Bank has predicted Cambodian growth to be at 6.5% while our prediction planned in the national budget was set to be only at 5%, with effort to maintain inflation below 5% as well. Still, we have reassured our effort to bring the poverty rate by 1% further. Well if we could achieve higher result, I am sure it will be for the benefit of our country.
I am so glad that not only training has been provided but also job seeking and providing have been an endeavor by MLVT and training institutions under its supervision, as well as foreign organizations like JICA, KOICA, AOTS (the Association for Overseas Technical Scholarship) Japan, UNESCO-UNEVOC (International Network on Technical and Vocational Education Centre), IOF (International Outgoing Fellowships for Career Development) together with various companies like AmCo, KTC, K Cement, etc.
World Trends of Competition
It should be noted that where there is training, there must be job available so that once they graduate from these training institutions, our graduates could find something they know how to do it. More information awareness services and advertisement of jobs must be provided to students/graduates so that they would not miss a chance of being recruited to fill in the need of so and so institutions/companies. However, let’s not be stuck with the idea that once graduated, everyone will get a job automatically. Along with making efforts to seek for jobs, it is equally important that we also have to think of creating own job and/or self-employment. In order to do so we should try to figure out which area in the world that there has been strong competition in.
It should be noted that despite the fall of the former Soviet Union and end of the Cold War, the world arms races do not seem to go away. Look, lately every country is boasting about their military means and more resources have been put into producing weapons and/or purchasing weapons at own disposal. It is a sad development as the world is moving along the trend of acquiring power by military means. They are trying to get the best technology possible to best kill their opponents. In Libya, as everyone can see, conflict of opinion and interest has now evolved into a real warfare, in which all means are pursued so as to eliminate those with opposite opinions.
To make war in Afghanistan, the US spend somewhere like 100 billion USD per year. It is so wasteful. I am sure if the US is using the amount of money they spent in Afghanistan and Iraq for their people’s sake or for the sake of developing countries, they would get a great benefit from it. Well, they may have a different reason and interest to pursue. The world has now come to a state where every country is in pursuit of nuclear power and even of missile access and capability. It is a competition for so modern weapons for killing one another.
Also in the world trend is the competition to answer the demand for human consumption where there has been strong challenge in food production, quality and safety. In various restaurants, you may take Cambodia in this case too, owners imported beef from countries like Australia, the US, Japan, etc. They competed in animal husbandry technology so as to get the best quality meat. Like in Japan, they raise cattle for meat with techniques to massage them, for example. They do that not only for own consumption but also for export markets. Aside from beef, the world has been addicted with foie gras (product made of liver of duck or goose) and caviar that is best known to be from Russia. Another product is wine which there is a strong competition and France seems to be one of the best.
All these need of course technicians. In Cambodia, formerly we needed technicians in cigarette factory but now the world is under the launch of a no smoking world. We should look into what we have, though our resources and technology may not be up to competing standard, so as to gradually replace imports. We are looking to income from animal husbandry to the extent that they could address the need for consumption by hotels/restaurants as number of tourists to Cambodia is increasing. We would be able to retain as much as possible income from tourists by not buying products from other countries.
Clothing/Fashion is indeed one other trend that is quite popular and commercially viable too. If you have a chance to watch CNN, BBC or other TV channels, you may see that from time to time there has been this spot of fashion show. Some brands are very costly. Since Cambodia also exports clothes, I am sure those factories producing expensive brands would need highly skilled and trained laborers too. I think women would find this industry fit with their hobby and nature.
Another industry that has been commercial and acquires millions of dollars too is children toys. We should not overlook its importance and commercial viability. We may never know that maybe in the near future some toy factories might want to relocate to Cambodia, where again highly skilled and trained technicians are in demand. I may include in here also sports equipments such as golf, football, volleyball, basket ball, etc. So it is important that we are getting our human resources ready and oriented for these developments.
Training Pattern and Consequences
I would like to seek concerned authorities and institutions to ponder on the need for orientation in our training pattern so as to adapt to the market requirement and development. I noted that we used to set a goal of training engineers level while less, it seems, consideration has been placed on training more skilled workers. This gap would bring about a situation where there could be immigrant workers to come and challenge local workers with the jobs available. Look now in construction sites, supervisors are coming from foreign countries whereas our workers are mainly laborers handling lifting and carrying jobs.
I can give you another simple example. In medicine, if everyone is pursuing the goal of becoming a Doctor, who would then be medical assistants? Training of middle and primary medical assistants is indeed to be aligned with number of Doctors. So I would like to urge attention and consideration from the Minister Vong Soth not to overlook the necessity for small-scale training programs at all.
Let’s figure out how many tractors, pulled tractors, water pumps, etc. we have now in Cambodia. Engineers would not be doing the job of fixing these mechanical problems. But mechanical repair is a good source of money. People with this skill can also provide services on mechanical repair upon request or on mobility. Electronic repair, like mobile phone for instance, would be a good source of money too. In my report to HM the King on infrastructure and telecommunication, Cambodia has in all 10.8 million pieces of both mobile and stationary phones, and 10 million pieces are mobile. This figure indicates that one 75 persons out of one hundred have got their phones. Let’s not aim too high while neglecting many things that are more viable beneath it.
Cambodian Position Re-clarified
I have one thing to inform our people with regard to the border issue between Cambodia and Thailand, especially the forthcoming GBC and JBC meetings. As we have the presence of someone from the Thai Embassy here, I would like to clarify Cambodian position once again since there has been so much interpretation among media (on this topic). In his March-25 letter to HE Hor Namhong, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, HE Marty Natalegawa, Foreign Minister of Indonesia wrote in response to the March-16 letter of Cambodia and March-19 letter of Thailand, both of which were responding to the March 16 letter of the Indonesian foreign minister. Well there are no longer confidential anymore.
(… Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen reads the letter …)
As you can see now, in the letter, the foreign minister of Indonesia has acknowledged that Cambodia has accepted the term of reference and schedule set for the meeting, while Thailand is in consideration with concerned parties in the country. Here is the difference. In Thailand there are those who say Thailand will go to the meeting and those who deny. So this is not my problem. I would let this matter be handled by the ASEAN chair. In relation to what the media has written/publicized that Thai Defense Minister, HE Prawit Wongsuwan said he had written a letter to HE Tia Banh, Cambodian Defense Minister, I would like to clarify that the letter was written by the military attaché.
The letter was to seek for a meeting of (JBC) either in Cambodia or Thailand. Let me reaffirm Cambodian position that there will not be such meeting either in Thailand or Cambodia. Such meeting will take place only in the third country as has been called for by Indonesia. I would not do any otherwise to diminish the role of Indonesia. As chair of ASEAN, Indonesia has been recommended with this task by the United Nations Security Council. So it would not be appropriate for Cambodian and Thailand to meet without the Indonesian presence. I would not do that as it would be a kick on Indonesia and a gross violation of the ASEAN February 22 meeting. It would not be a slap on Indonesia alone but also the UNSC.
Cambodia has fulfilled its duty in responding to each of the three letters on term of reference in less than 24 hours, except there was a slight modification in which this phrase ‘exchange of letters’ has been omitted from the previous draft, and the phrase ‘to be signing by the three foreign ministers’ remains. Cambodia has fully accepted the TOR, and it is now up to Thailand to behave. Cambodia is ready to go to Bogor, and whether Thailand would do so or not is up to them. It has been a situation that Thai Prime Minister and Foreign Minister take a yes position and the military commander said no.
As of today ratification of the previous three minutes of the (Cambodian-Thai) foreign ministers’ meetings has not made any progress. Thai parliament has been in lack of quorum to discuss this matter and nobody would know when they are ratified. The yellow-shirt leaders – Sondhi Limthongkul, Chamlong Srimuong, Pantip, Thepmontri, etc. have assumed the role of a state when they claimed anyone raising hand to approve the minutes would be considered traitors with life sentence. Whether there will be ratification or not, in the face of threat from the Thai yellow shirt, Cambodia will go for the meeting as we have obtained some satellite photos on issue of searching for border demarcations.
Cambodian has maintained its unified position that the JBC meeting will have to be conducted in Indonesia and we deny any interpretation in contrary to this. I urge the media to make a clear statement on this.
Again, in absence of approval of the three minutes, Cambodia will go ahead to the meeting. If the previous three fail to be ratified, and if the forthcoming will produce another one, there will be four minutes to be ratified then by the Thai parliament.
To Be Raised in ASEAN Summit
On the verge of dissolution of the Thai parliament, one Thai politician suggested leaving the issue to be resolved by new government. I see there is no other choice left here. Last night I discussed with HE Hor Namhong and I told him to get everything ready for the forthcoming ASEAN Summit. If we could not sort it out now, by foreign ministers’ level, the issue will have to be brought for the attention of the ASEAN leaders. So the war problem between Thailand and Cambodia will be placed on table of the ASEAN Summit.
There has been a media report that the Foreign Minister of Indonesia said if the matter could not be resolved, it must be returned to the UNSC. I could not ascertain that this information is true yet. However, I think it is a good thing if the ASEAN mechanism, recommended by the UNSC to help solve the problem but could not do so, returns the matter to the UNSC. The UNSC has done its part of respecting the role of ASEAN.
On February 17, in a press conference, I have proposed for a ceasefire to be observed by a third party but I did not mention Indonesia. In a meeting at the ministry of foreign affairs of Thailand later on February 20 led by Prime Minister Abhisit, Kasit Phiromya declared accepting Indonesian ceasefire observers to come to Thailand and requested that Cambodia reciprocate in kind. Despite all these, now Cambodia has accepted the deal why there should be any obstacle? Cambodia has done its part preparing from vehicles, radio communication to hotels for the arrival of the Indonesian observers.
Again I stress that bilateral discussion would reject the role of ASEAN and Cambodia will not be part of doing so. If Indonesia could not implement this role, Indonesia (as chair of ASEAN) has had to report it to the United Nations Security Council.
It Is Peace Cambodia Wants
Cambodia will continue to show patience while creating a favorable atmosphere along the border. Let’s all stay where we are. I would like to express my sincere thanks to our soldiers and commanders at Preah Vihear and elsewhere for making efforts for national defense. They would not have a chance to enjoy the coming Khmer New Year and I would seek understanding from sisters and nieces, whose husbands, sons or fathers are performing their defense duties and cannot this year join them for the New Year festivity.
It is so encouraging though that various ministries have taken their time to visit our soldiers at the fronts and bring them food and supports. Defense is a work for all and all must take up defense. It is our national defense foundation and HM the King also wishes to relay through me to all of our people and soldiers his support for such a noble task of defending our territorial integrity.
I hope the Thai Embassy representative here will make a clear report to Bangkok. It has been quite usual that misinterpretation is the case for Thai media and this would therefore leads to misunderstanding and making wrong statement by politicians./.