It is indeed a great pleasure that I have the chance to participate with our people here in celebrating the inauguration of the national road 78, 70 kilometers from Baan Lung city to O Yadao at the border with Vietnam, with the presence of the Deputy Prime Minister HE Truong Vinh Trong of Vietnam, after our presence here together in 2007 to celebrate the groundbreaking event. This road serves as the most important access, as is expressed by the Minister of Transports and Public Works, HE Tram Iv Toeuk and His Excellency the Deputy Prime Minister of Vietnam, between Cambodia and Vietnam for the two countries’ bilateral relations. And my stress is that it serves a unique role in Cambodian integration.
I would like to express my sincere thanks and appreciation to the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, though it has yet become a developed nation and is a country that is still asking for ODA and financial assistance from donors, but giving importance on the significance and aspect that the road is in fact connecting the two countries – Cambodia and Vietnam, the Government of Vietnam has decided to provide a credit of almost 26 million US dollars for the construction of the road.
Let me go back to when and how this road is happening. In 1999, I have proposed an initiative to create what is called triangular development region for Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. I got a strong backing from HE Pham Van Khai, then Prime Minister of Vietnam and the former Prime Minister of Laos, HE Sisovath Keobunphan. The first meeting was held in Laos and the second meeting was in Vietnam. Our vision has been clear that until the road 78 is built, Cambodia could not connect itself to the triangular development zone. This has prompted us to seek for financial assistance for cooperation in the said region.
We have this forum specially set up for Prime Ministers of the three countries Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos with Prime Minister of Japan. Since 2004, Japan has become the main support for the initiative. This road segment is indeed important that I have to overcome all sorts of difficulties to get it constructed because as long as Cambodia is not internally integrated, Cambodia could not fully benefit from regional integration. After we have achieved peace and launched fully political internal integration of the former Khmer Rouge forces in some areas in 1996, I have put out my vision that political and administrative integrations are not adequate but there is a need for an all-out integration.
Infrastructure for communication and transports is a necessity as the second, third and fourth terms Royal Government have scored great success in connecting and integrating internally and with friendly nations. In 1988, if I may recall, I came to celebrate the 7 January ninth anniversary here. In the whole city there had been only one concrete building, which has been proposed now to be the library of Hun Sen. 28 years later, as is said by many it is hard to recognize the city as it has developed from its simplicity where there are now more asphalted roads around and the O Jum Hydropower Plant.
I also would like to express my sincere thanks to HE Bou Thang, member of the permanent committee of the Central Committee of the Cambodian People’s Party, who, when he was Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for National Defense, led the north-east development team and is still leading it now. His vision at the time has brought about a master plan in which there are mains roads in the province of Ratanakiri, which I might say in the whole nation, Ratanakiri province has reserved larger space for roads. And if I am not mistaken I have noticed that the province of Uddar Meanjei is also following this track. I would say that this road we inaugurated today is in fact like his child.
I have persuaded Vietnam to the point that HE Pham Van Khai had to admit to my argument that there would not be any connectivity if this road were not to be constructed. It used to take us between one and two days to go from here to Vietnam and vice versa. Only if you help me out with that then our two nations are well connected here. Cambodia may need to send its produce to the port at Qui Nhon and you also have difficulty to access Stoeung Treng of Cambodia too.
To make a long story short, the vision to build this road started in 1990. As we are now in 2010, it has taken us twenty years to get it fulfilled. We already fulfilled a road line which is connected from Phnom Penh to Kompong Cham, to Kratie, to Stoeung Treng and on to the border with Laos via a bridge over the Sekong River. As for the NR 78, a juncture of NR 7 at O Pong Moan of Stroung Trengt to the border with Vietnam at O Yadao, today we have a part of 70 kilometers inaugurated between Baan Lung and O Yadao, while 123 kilometers between Baan Lung city to O Pong Moan is under construction, starting in November 2009. I am sure by 2012, the road will complete.
I would say such integration characterizes local and regional integration all together within the framework of Greater Mekong Sub-region and especially the triangular development zone – Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. I used to compare this part of our country to the tail of a dragon, whereas its head lies down at Sihanoukville and its body lies in the central plain of the country. With this road achievement we have the dragon’s head and tail well connected together now. We also have a road junction 76 that links Sen Monorom of Mondulkiri province to the NR 7 too. Because of its setup, where there are larger roads, etc, I would say Ratanakiri is on track to make its miracle that I have foreseen it to be the fourth economic pole for the country after 2015.
As you know we already have three major economic poles – Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville and Siemrap provinces. I would invite diplomats from friendly countries who are present here – Singapore, Myanmar, Cuba and others – to see with your eyes that this part of Cambodia is a fertile area, where there are also various mine deposits such as bauxite and iron, and hydropower potential as one of Cambodia’s battery. Will it not be a potentially fourth economic pole of Cambodia? Cambodia is now importing electricity from Laos and Vietnam for use. But Cambodia has the potential to produce for local use and sell a part of it to Vietnam.
I would like to take this opportune moment to express my sincere thanks to the Government and people of Vietnam for providing Cambodia a chance to realize this road which is in fact facilitating its effort to resolve issues relating to production and supply for this remote province. It is a potential province but a remote and difficult one too.
HE Tram Iv Toeuk, Minister for Transports and Public Works has now registered into the plan for 2011 budget, the asphalting of the road from Baan Lung to the Hydropower station of O Jum. The best way to equally distribute the economic benefit is to build up infrastructure, which should be in the purpose of narrowing down the gap between the rural and urban, alleviating poverty, and therefore reducing people’s difficulties.
Because we have a meeting going on between Foreign Ministers of Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos, and Ratanakiri is playing its role as a host, I would say a few more things about triangular development zone. Vietnam has planned for five of its provinces to be part of the triangular development zone, whereas Laos would have four of its provinces. Cambodia also has proposed four of its provinces Stoeung Treng, Kratie, Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri. So the NR 78 plays a strategic role not only for the development on the part of Cambodia but also for other neighboring nations. I would also suggest that we are continuing the NR 76, which has come from Snuol to Dak Dam but also from Mondolkiri to Ratanakiri too.
In 2009, we have asphalted some three roads of 365 kilometers, are asphalting some 12 roads of 1,213 kilometers and for the period between 2010 and 2011, a study is being conducted for another 779 kilometers. We soon will have the NR 8 connected to Vietnam as well. I would like to thank HE Kep Chuktema, governor of Phnom Penh for building Ratanakiri province a theatre hall which is now being used as a venue for ministerial meeting on triangular development project.
It would not be difficult to increase two-way trade to a size of two billion US dollars in 2010 as is said by HE Truong Tan Trong. As I have noticed the current momentum of trade we have gone beyond that point already. More than that border trade has never gone into bookkeeping for example a lot of rice sold from Cambodia to Vietnam and fertilizer, cement, steel, etc. are being sold from Vietnam to Cambodia. That is why I am sure that trade between our two countries is fact more than two billion US dollars.
On March 18, 1970 or forty years ago today, the war broke out in Cambodia after the Lon Nol group ousted Samdech Sihanouk, the legitimate head of state, from power. About two million tons of bombs had been dropped in Cambodia under the pretext of fighting Vietnam from another prong. The war spilled out from Vietnam and bombardments started in 1969. There had also been war in Laos. However, the whole Indochina was at war on March 18, 1970, the time when Cambodia evolved from an island of peace into war and destruction zone. There had been many casualties. It should also be noted as a starting point for Cambodia to be fallen into genocide, after the victory in 1975 was plundered from Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk.
It is a part of history that needs to be remembered. The fact that I have chosen this date as the day for the inauguration of the roads is not by chance. My intention has been to show to the world and local public opinions of the fact that the situations in Cambodia forty years ago and today are totally different development.
I also wanted to send a message to the Cambodian and international communities that it was forty years ago today that war broke out and brought about devastation for Cambodia, and a starting point for Cambodia to move into genocide in between 1975 and 1979.
However, in the last forty years, Cambodia has stood firm and survived, while rising from ashes and with bare hands, we liberated and defended this country with our lives. We have gradually changed the country to a completely new face, from a not less-than two divided rules to a unified country that has not been recorded in the country’s contemporary history.
Cambodia used to be divided and was under so many different rulers. Until 1998, with the participatory approach by our people in implementing my win-win policy, Cambodia has unified and opportunity for us to build and develop our nation is within our reach. We have also had a chance to integrate internal politics and administrations, while setting out integration of communication and other sectors.
Today is also the fortieth anniversary that at the age of 18 years old I asked myself where to go and what to do. It was indeed the time that I decided to go into politics. Forty years now, Hun Sen has proven to be Prime Minister for 25 years and 31 years’ work in Government. It has also proven that those who betrayed and destroyed the country on our people’s blood could not survive any longer, take for instance, the coup leader Lon Nol.
In the here and now, Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk and Samdech Mae (Monineath Sihanouk), though retired they have been, are still with us in their greatest titles as the Heroic King Father and the Heroic Queen Mother of the Khmer nation. Those who performed ill-actions died and those who have performed merit for the country survive.
His Majesty King Norodom Sihanoni is now on the throne of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Only a few days ago, His Majesty has been presented with the title of member of the French Republic Academy and it is the first King in the world has ever had such honor to become a member of this academy. The fact that the Cambodian monarchy revives after 23 years is quite unique. The Cambodian monarchy had been destroyed in 1970 and has revived in 1993. We had spent twenty three years in order to unite our territory, putting a complete end to the political and military organization of Pol Pot.
Having said so, please allow me, on behalf of the Royal Government and people of Cambodia, to express my heartfelt thanks for the voluntary army of the Government and people of Vietnam for offering help in liberating the people of Cambodia from the Pol Pot genocide. It was true that Cambodia was building a troop of its own then but the size of army we had at that time could not shoulder the task of liberating the country in a short time at all. It was in that urgent mission that we requested for the presence of the Vietnamese voluntary armed forces to help us end the genocidal rule to save our people the soonest we could. That was not a strange thing to do.
In 1970s the US army and the South Vietnamese troops invaded Cambodia in absence of such a necessity to be there. At the request of the National United Front of Kampuchea, Vietnam sent its forces in to help us deal with foreign invaders at the time. That is why history of the three Indochinese countries – Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos – has been the closest ones and they have fought shoulder to shoulder against foreign invasions and also against the regime of genocide of Pol Pot. I would like to also inform our people here that the trial of Duch, former Head of Khmer Rouge’s Tuol Sleng prison, has completed and waited for the final court’s decision only. The case 0001 has come to a close and the new case of 0002 will proceed according to the rule of court.
If there were no Pol Pot and his genocide regime, would there be necessary a struggle by HE Bou Thang, Hun Sen, Chea Sim, Heng Samrin, Say Phou Thang, and other leaders? It would not be so and there would not be a need for requesting help from Vietnam and its forces. But because there was this genocide it required for a struggle to liberate our territory from Pol Pot, while Vietnam, because it helped Cambodia had had to suffer economic embargo too. Cambodia needs to be liberated while Vietnam needs to develop its country. I had made repeated request for Vietnam to help Cambodia but my requests were all turned down. September 27, 1977, if one goes back and looks at it, one will see that Vietnam does not have intention to come into our help.
In sum, if there not to be March 18, 1970, there would not be 17 April, 1975 (Phnom Penh felt to Khmer Rouge’s Pol Pot) and more so the January 7. So this is how all events are inter-related. Millions of tons of bombs fell on whose heads in those days. Had they then thought of human rights in our country?
To make a simple statement, if these events did not happen in such a way I would not have lost one of my eyes and injured five times at all …◉