It is a great pleasure today that we all are coming here in the presence of HE Pan Guangxia, the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China and the Chinese Embassy officials to Cambodia for this very important event to celebrate the groundbreaking construction ceremony for a second bridge at Jroy Jangva area (of Phnom Penh to cross over the Tonle Sap River), which is to be named “the Cambodia-China Friendship Bridge at Jroy Jangva.”
Please allow me to say a few things about why do we give the bridge this name. If I could recall, it was since the previous Ambassadors of the PRC – while we presided over the construction of the Bailey bridge imported from China and a number of schools – that we should look for something to be built together as iconic achievement between Cambodia and the PRC, which we will name as the Cambodia-China Friendship.
The first Cambodia-China Friendship Bridge was then built at Stoeng Treng province, which we name as the Cambodia-China Friendship Bridge at Sekong. From then on, we have the second Cambodia-Friendship Bridge at Prek Kadam, the third Cambodia-China Friendship Bridge at Prek Tamak, which have all been inaugurated. We just organized the construction ceremony for the fourth Cambodia-China Friendship Bridge at Takhmao city of Kandal province. Now this is the fifth Cambodia-China Friendship Bridge, which will stand alongside the Cambodia-Japan Friendship Bridge at Jroy Jangva.
We also anticipate one more Cambodia-China Friendship Bridge also at Stoeng Treng province, which will serve as a connection between the provincial cities of Stoeng Treng and Preah Vihear. It will be the sixth one. We are also working to convince our Chinese friend to consider one more Cambodia-China Friendship Bridge at Koh Thom, which will help link up the two sides of the River Bassac (a tributary of the Mekong River also flows down to Vietnam in the South before reaching to the sea). It will then be the seventh one in a row.
As you can see now that is how we call the all achievements that are born out of cooperation between Cambodia and the PRC. This clearly reflects the partnership for friendship and cooperation between Cambodia and the PRC. In addition to naming bridges like this, we also have offered name with similar definition to schools too. There is a Junior High School in my native village which is named the Cambodia-China Friendship School. Though it is yet to be inaugurated, classes have already begun in building. Also for your information, we have a Bailey bridge in Kompong Cham province that we name as Cambodia-China Friendship Bridge at Prek Sdao too.
It goes without saying that once the bridge is done we will have to keep one bridge for the entrance and another one for the exit of Phnom Penh. The Cambodia-China Friendship Bridge in this case could be the one for the entrance to Phnom Penh and the Cambodia-Japan Friendship Bridge would serve as the exit from Phnom Penh.
Having followed thoroughly the report by HE Tram Iv Toek, Minister for Transports and Public Works, as well as that of HE Pan Guangxia in relation to the traffic condition in the area, I could say that at least more than half of our population are well aware of the situation. The traffic has been impossible especially on weekends and holidays. We could not prolong the bottle-neck traffic situation as it causes difficulties for travelers as well as those residing along the congested routes.
It should be noted that traffic in/out of the city through this route comes from three main directions. The first traffic line is for those coming from the northern area of the country, namely Siemreap, Kompong Thom, etc. The second line is for those coming from the northeastern parts of the country – namely Ratanakiri, Mondulkiri, Stoeng Treng, Kratie and Kompong Jam provinces. The third line of traffic is for those coming from the National Road 8, which is also built with the Chinese financial assistance and connects Prey Veng province and a part of Svay Rieng to Phnom Penh too.
As you can see the three-pronged traffic has been served by the only one Cambodia-Japan Friendship Bridge so far and those who have travelled through this route might have known of how troublesome it was when they got stuck in a jammed traffic. To resolve the congestion, the Royal Government of Cambodia has delegated HE Keat Chhon, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Economy and Finance, who also was a former minister under the Sangkum Reastr Niyum of Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk in the 1960s to work with the Ministry of Transports and Public Works to take up the project.
We all are aware of the traffic situation these days. Over the Cambodia-Japan Friendship Bridge, from Friday evening through to Sunday evening, traffic has been unbelievably congested. According to a study, as we are now going to have a satellite city across the Tonle Sap River further up from Jroy Jangva, it is proposed that at the current fuel depot of Sokimex company (which is about a Kilometer or so from the current Cambodia-Japan Friendship Bridge at Jroy Jangva), abridge should be built so as to serve mainly traffic from the Phnom Penh to the satellite city which is across the Tonle Sap River.
I am sure this will work out as investors would have to put that into consideration and action as otherwise no one would come buy properties here for congested traffic. Having said so I have foreseen that in a few years to come there will be less or even no difference between those who reside either on the eastern side or western side of the River Tonle Sap. One thing I can be sure of is perhaps those who reside on the eastern side could benefit greatly for their health from better ecological environment.
As we are building the fifth Cambodia-China Friendship Bridge to resolve the traffic congestion that is caused by heavy three-pronged traffics as I said above, we are also looking at the issue of enlarging the National Road 6A – from the Cambodia-Japan Friendship and Cambodia-China Friendship Bridges through to the junction to the Cambodia-China Friendship Bridge at Prek Kadam – into a four lane one so that two lines of traffic could be conducted in one direction to and fro.
I have brought this project with me to the PRC to discuss with the Chinese Premier HE Wen Jiabao while I visited, about ten days ago, the 8th China-ASEAN Expo in Nanning, Guangxi province, on the 20th anniversary of the establishing dialogue between ASEAN and China. HE Pan Guangxia was also present. I presented the project to the Premier Wen Jiabao and sought his kind support for seven projects, which cost roughly 500 million USD, for the year 2012.
The four-lane road project from the Bridges to the junction above has gone into agreement already. We now wait for a suitable time to launch the construction. In addition to that we also need some 150 million USD more to enlarge the current road from the junction through to Siemreap province, which is 271 Kilometers. It has been suggested in the previous study to enlarge the road to a four-lane one through to Kompong Thom province.
In recent discussion with HE Tram Iv Toek and HE Aun Poan Munirath, Secretary of State for the Economy and Finance, I suggest that enlarging the National Road 6A to four lanes should be carried out as far as Kompong Cham’s district of Skun (not all the way to Siemreap). From Skun to Kompong Thom and on to Siemreap, we should enlarge the road to eleven meter width from the current 7 meters. We also plan a four-lane road from Phnom Penh to the Cambodia-China Friendship at Prek Kadam too. A commercial loan negotiation has been underway.
I wish to note that Phnom Penh has been developed and beautified from one stage to another. The overpass constructions impress me the most. You could imagine that without them, though we have one more bridge at Kbal Thnol (the bridge of Preah Munivong), traffic accident would not be less frequent. We should be satisfied now that we have had less accident since. It is also a happy moment that we will have the second overpass ready in the coming January, 2012, while we are preparing to have a third overpass at Stoeng Meanjei, in the southern part of Phnom Penh.
You may also notice that the park spaces have been enlarged and condition improved that people could go out and take exercise, and children could also get out to their playgrounds. Recently I took a car ride around the park at the river bank and I recommended the Phnom Penh Municipal develop further the park extension to the place where the Naga ship used to dock. We have more parks and each one has been adding on to the beauty of the whole city itself.
To add beauty to our city is not only to get ready to serve as host country to the forthcoming ASEAN Summits, but we have to devote to the whole idea of being a “clean city, an attractive tourist site and a great service.” You may be reminded that we have established a committee for “City Beauty Contest” to oversee the development and beautification not only for Phnom Penh but also all of our cities in the country.
Having said all that, I would like to also have your attention on the issue of traffic accident. After the Pjum Ben Day (fifteen days of Cambodian traditional Buddhist rite), the traffic police filed a report with a conclusion that there has been less traffic accidents compared to the previous years. I would seek their reconsideration as to why there were lesser accidents at this time. Have you considered how many motorcycles not in traffic because of flood? Those people living in flooded areas such as Prey Veng, Kompong Cham, Kratie, Stoeng Treng, Kandal, etc. did not use their bikes.
While filing report, it should be taken into consideration the subjective factor as such. It is not appropriate to say that there were lesser traffic accidents than the previous years in this instance. What would the situation be like if there were no flood and those home-parked motorcycles were out in traffic? I have discussed with the Mayor of Phnom Penh, HE Kep Chuk Tema and also HE Tram Iv Toek concerning drunken driving issue. We have appealed people to refrain from driving while being drunk and sleepy.
The issue has come to a point that if we shall forbid all alcohol advertisements or not? I would suggest that we should not be either extremely right or extremely left. You may note that the world’s biggest wine exporter is France. French wine is the best. Even if advertisement is not allowed, everyone knows that French wine is the best. People will continue to buy and drink French wine. More still, drivers are not getting drunk because they look at the advertisement signboards/posters.
In this instance I suggest a moderate approach to the issue. I call on all advertisers to add on their signboards or posters slogan that warns people about consequences and/or things not to do after taking alcohol like what we do with the cigarette advertisements. The advertisements may consist of statement like “do not take alcohol, while driving” or “while being drunk, do not drive.” These wine and alcohol importers sponsor many major events on TV or Radio, so if it is impossible to run a statement like that, audio statement could also be an option.
Just now HE Pan Guangxia mentioned about the fruitful negotiation that I had with Premier Wen Jiabao in Nanning. Thank you for recalling that. You all know that Cambodia has been looking to secure a loan of some 500 million USD to address its development need in 2012. Days ago, some people have come up with a figure that Cambodia has borrowed some six billion USD already from the PRC. Please allow me to bring the true figure to your attention. As of this moment, Cambodia has received from the PRC the grants, interest-free loans and concessional loans of over two billion USD.
Other (commercial) loans recorded were of private sectors for building hydropower stations, etc. They are not government’s debt. The only guarantee from the Royal Government of Cambodia in those instances is to purchase produced electric power. If we could not purchase them all, we would have to cover their losses. This is guaranteed by law. Among other things there has not been any one country on earth that is not in debt. Maybe China is because it has a lot of money. However, look at Europe, Greece for instance.
Everybody knows that Greece is a country with famous long civilization. Now everybody also knows that Greece is in bad debt situation and is looking for 50% debt slash. Banks that loaned to Greece would have to lose 50% of their lending and interest. Taking this situation into consideration, why do not we consider ourselves to be lucky while lenders are not that worried to give us loans? Why these people do not think that it is China, Japan and/or other bigger lending institutions that are to be worried about that?
You may look at one example – the French company that is investing in renovating, building and running the Phnom Penh International Airport, the Airports of Siemreap and Sihanoukville provinces has been taking loans from International Finance Corporation (IFC). In this case you may see that the Chinese companies are so lucky that they have been provided with capital to invest in our country, especially in the area of power generation that is in need for Cambodia. You may note that a sum of over one billion USD has been put in hydroelectric power.
Our sovereign debt-to-GDP ratio at this stage is recorded to be 27.7% or 28% which is lower than the 40% benchmark ratio. You may remember that when Prime Minister of Thailand Abhisit Vijjajiva left office, he declared the country’s public debt-to-GDP ratio of 40%, which means Thailand owes a debt of 40% of its GDP, while Cambodia owes only 28% of the GDP. More than that, countries that give us loans know full well that their recipients have got the potential to repay.
Even more interesting, it is the people who benefit from the infrastructural developments that are either constructed or under construction, whether from interest-free, concessional and/or commercial loans. Let me clarify that the People’s Republic of China has carried out four types of financial assistances – the grant, interest-free, concessional and commercial loans.
As far as commercial loan is concerned, the Royal Government of Cambodia has not yet made with any one country yet. It is the private sector that borrows this type of loan so far. Since there will be a National Assembly session tomorrow, I would give this as information because it is predictably possible that those in opposition will bring this issue up.
Take this opportune moment, on behalf of our people let me share with the Chinese people and Government the joy that a pair of robotic Chinese spacecraft docked in orbit for the first time ever. I wish the spacecraft successful mission and safe return to the ground. The Chinese success in space program is also a success of countries in its neighborhood, Cambodia is also included.
Premier Wen Jiabao has mentioned in Nanning that “having a good friend is better than having gold.” I agree no less. It is nonsense to have only gold but losing all friends around. In this note, as one of China’s neighbors, I would like to wish more successes to the Chinese space program and hope that the mission will be a key step toward China’s goal of building a space station and permanent manned presence in space, which is not only for China’s own research and development but also for the region and the world.
In the same instance, I would also hail the recent Congress of the Communist Party of China, which set out numerous reform measures, a major part of which is the development of peaceful foreign policy. It is a great feeling to note that Chinese development is no threat to anyone. I have noted in my speech on behalf of ASEAN that we are pleased to see our neighbor becomes a major power with so much progress. I also thank the PRC for its approval of assistance for Cambodia’s infrastructural development.
Concerning our efforts to deal with high flood this year, I would like to express my sincere thanks and appreciation to all national institutions in giving responses in a timely manner to manage and mitigate the flood-related critical situations. I would like to take this opportune moment to thank the provincial/city/local authorities for the efforts they have offered over the past two months.
According to the report of HE Nhem Vanda, First Deputy President of the National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM), as of 29 October 2011, relief kits have been dispatched and offered to some 230,000 families already. To include more relief efforts on 30 October 2011, and 01 November 2011, I think the figure could have reached 250,000 families. It is my encouragement that all concerned authorities need to go on with this momentum until we bring help to all those in need.
I am so proud that the mechanism established for dealing with flood situation this year is way better than that we had in the year 2000. Then, because we just had full peace and were not well informed of expecting flooding, our response mechanism experienced various interruptions before we could reach to a smooth flow. As we have in the past years established structures of mechanism to respond to the disaster at all national and sub-national levels, with Prime Minister staying as chairman of the commission, we have done a much better job.
It should be noted also that the Cambodian Red Cross (CRC) has been playing effectively its roleto assist the public authorities in the field of humanitarianism while integrating with local authorities, whose governors and deputy governors were also honorary presidents and vice presidents of the CRC at the provincial level, the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces also included, for such an effective and timely response to address the situation.
I have got a report already on the amount of rice distributed so far by the Ministry of Commerce, the Cambodian Red Cross, charitable persons, the CPP working groups, etc. We are grateful to our Japanese friends for providing us with 300,000 USD relief assistances, the PRC with close to 8 million USD in relief assistance, mainly medicaments, for the Ministry of Health to administer help for the people in affected areas. During my visit to Nanning, Premier Wen Jiabao offered 1.5 million USD in cash that I recommend it be used to purchase and stock rice.
Assistances also come from friends like Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Singapore, the United States of America, France, Australia and the United Nations as well. I would like to thank HE Pan Guangxia for joining the trip with HE Hor Namhong, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, to co-preside the distribution of relief kits to people in flood-hit areas. I also thanked HE Kuroki, the Japanese Ambassador, for being present together with HE Nhem Vanda, First President of NCDM, in providing timely response to those in need.
It is a pride that no one of our people has been left to die of hunger without our awareness and assistance, except over 250 persons who died of flood-related incidents such as snake-bite and boat-sink.
I also take this time to express my sincere thanks to Deputy Prime Minister HE Keat Chhon, who always adheres to an austere financial policy, for giving a certain amount of money to the Ministry of Commerce to purchase and stock rice, and to the Ministry of Agriculture to purchase and stock rice seed. It has paid well when we really need it in such short notice. We have rice for consumption and seed for re-cultivation in stocks.
According to HE Chan Sarun, Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, with whom I consulted yesterday, the flood has damaged over 220,000 hectares of rice in the field. This should be about 9% of the total 2.4 million hectares of rice cultivation. What has been our concern this year is that for every year as of this time our people complete about half of their flood recession/dry season rice cultivation already. This year the speed is slow because the water recedes at slow pace. Between yesterday and tomorrow, the River Mekong in front of the Royal Palace will be recording a difference between 9.52 meters and 9.43 meters only.
It is a good thing that we decided to cancel the boat-race from the water festival. As for the area around the Tonle Sap Lake, the flood level also recedes at slow pace, which would then prolong the inundation situation in provinces of Kompong Thom, Kompong Chhonang, Siemreap, Battambang, Purstah, etc. This has prompted me to check with HE Nhem Vanda to see where and how many people would have to prolong their stays on safety grounds. These people would need more assistance.
However, as of this moment, our people already start harvesting rice. Not to mention other crops like cassava, corn, bean and rubber, rice has been a major food crop to take into consideration. The flood has brought about four different groups of rice farmers. Firstly, those whose rice fields are not flooded and their rice are in good yield. These farmers are now harvesting their short-term rice. They then proceed to harvest their medium-term and then long-term rice. These are the happy group of rice farmers.
Secondly, those people who only cultivate dry-season and flood-recession rice. This group of farmers lost no rice from the flood but only fruit crops around their homesteads. This group of farmers also does not wait for our seed but start their cultivation wherever and whenever the water recedes. Thirdly, those farmers who cultivate rainy season rice and part of it damaged. These farmers are to a certain extent unhappy. However, this group of farmers could still recover some of their loss. Fourthly, those farmers whose rice completely devastated. This is the group of people that we need to concentrate our effort to provide help.
We should arrange help in form of food or rice for works but only for digging small canals as building roads like before would not be viable. However I recommend that the amount of rice in exchange for labor be more than the previous set as labor cost has now increased to some 15,000 (about 3.75 USD) Riel/day.
As people in the whole country, the Buddhist monks also included, are busy providing help to those in need, those in the opposition have sued us to the National Election Committee that we are buying votes from the people. This is quite unfortunate for our country and people. In time of disaster, the most urgent matter to take care of is to help save human life. Assistances poured in from all sources irrespective of political faith or tendency.
The CPP working groups who bring assistance to their party bases do not distinguish who fromwhom to give assistance. Our goal is for everyone to survive the disaster and to go on. There have been incidents that while the CPP working groups are out there giving helps, party officials of the opposition warned their members not to come to receive they consider this a dishonoring act to their party. This has only led to discontentment among their party members as they could not give them any help on the one hand but they urge them to ignore help on the other.
In one other instance, a commune assistant from one opposition party has been seen in a photo to come to collect the relief kit with others but claimed that all assistance has been provided only to CPP members. Officials of the opposition party once said at the district of Sen Sok, Phnom Penh, that despite flood relief efforts, the Royal Government’s provision of assistance has been too slow as it has reached only some 10% of the affected people. It was, however in the time that our people were running for safe grounds. Once settled, we have enlarged efforts and increased assistance provision speed. They then came out and accused us of vote buying.
Last October 23, the same sort of people said Hun Sen was to have similar fate as Gaddafi of Libya. What were they inferring to? Were they inferring to fighting (each other) because Gaddafi died from fighting. Do they want a fight? HE Nhek Bun Chhay already tried that once but was dealt with a blow breaking his backbone force. What can I understand you to be when you link my future to that of Gaddafi’s? As far as I understand, Gaddafi died in a war intervened by NATO bombs from the air and disguised ground force.
By saying this I take it that you want a fight. I may give you a warehouse of weapons for that. But here in Cambodia, we fought with elections every five years. Fighting is no longer an option for Cambodia. The country no longer needs weapons but elections to sort out differences. You may try to do better in the forthcoming 2013 elections. It is ridiculous, while the elections is until 2013, already they launched a campaign to seek the European Union’s disapproval of the 2013 elections.
My warning is that whatever they do, please do not jeopardize peace. Let’s refrain from violence. I do not want to play war with you. I also know that you do not have people to carry arms for you. There may only be clandestine group like the CFF if they are. In another instance at Koh Sotin district of Kompong Cham province, they said that if Hun Sen wins the elections in 2013 or if the CPP wins again, Hun Sen would have to be careful. Why? What would they do to me? Would they snipe to assassinate me?
I doubt if they know Hun Sen well enough. Hun Sen is still running around with a ball. Hun Sen does not have heart problem yet. The recent medical check in Singapore proves I am still healthy.
I would like to take this opportune moment to express my sincere thanks and appreciations to efforts made by the Ministry of Transports and Public Works, the Ministry of Economy and Finance, and concerned authorities, especially the Phnom Penh Municipal for making this event possible. I thank the China Road and Bridge Construction Company and the technical consultancy company for the job they have been doing for Cambodia.
I also am thankful to the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, among whom being a group of Chinese technical advisors, for their active roles in coordinating this job until we could reach a launching day today. I would like to express on behalf of the Cambodian people and Royal Government the greatest thanks through Ambassador Pan Guanxia to the Government and people of the PRC for providing Cambodia with loans for development, and the Cambodia-China Friendship Bridge is one of them.
I would urge all concerned institutions, especially the Phnom Penh Municipal as well as the Russeikeo Khan/district to provide favorable condition and facility necessary for the construction of the Cambodia-China Friendship Bridge at Jroy Jangva to proceed successfully as planned. It has been scheduled to complete in 2015 but according to experiences, they always completed before schedule. It would be a great achievement if the bridge is to be completed before 2013 so that all parties could travel while engaging in their electoral campaigns./.