Today, we all are meeting here again after our meeting last year at a place not far from here. Today’s meeting is to find out what has been accomplished so far. Last year on September 1, 2005, I came to Svay Rieng to inaugurate the tree nursery station and at that time the province cultivated just 14% of its rice cultivable land. It was indeed a very concerned matter as Cambodia’s five provinces were affected by natural calamity that slowed the cultivation speed. In response to that I ordered the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology to send in heavy pumps, with the intervention rendered by my bodyguard units, to help speed up the process of cultivation. Later I went off to attend the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York, but my contact with HE Lim Kean Hor helped updated me on the development in this regard, whereas the Twin Canals were initiated.
Before leaving for New York I also went to the district of Kong Pisey of Kompong Speu, and upon my return I went first to Kompong Speu and then to this area. I remembered that the land here was very dry and the Twin Canals did help bring in water for cultivation. Water access not only helps rice cultivation but also vegetable growing in this area. Take for instance a farmer here produced vegetable and sell in the market with an income of 1.6 million Riel and he said that he made four times the income that would be made from cultivating rice.
According to the report the province has indeed cultivated an area of 72.10% of the total cultivation land – 13 communes are water sufficient, 40 communes able to meet demand, 14 communes in-sufficient, and 13 communes drought affected. From this fact we could draw a conclusion that the weather is not on our side completely as there is rain in some places but not in others. Rainwater flooded the provinces of Kompot, Koh Kong, Sihanoukville, Kompong Speu, Kandal and a part of western side of Phnom Penh. Take Svay Rieng for instance, some part of the province has plenty of water but others have less or none.
My policy has been to leave no one to die of hunger or to leave rice destroyed when there could be sources of water has prompted swift actions and measures have been made in launching intervention in Kompong Speu and Svay Rieng. Though actions have been swift and forceful, the effect has been far from sufficient. After January 7, if I may, there has been no one die of hunger. I saw on TV the other day a program about situation in Sudan – where we have our troops stationed, children have been seriously affected by hunger.
The purpose of my visit here today is to observe the difference between prior and post canal construction. When I was here before, we were on a piece of land without crops and because we just had new canals perhaps our people do not have confidence in water accessibility the canals could provide. I noticed that the yield is still low compared to other places throughout the country. I am feeling that our people do not take the benefit from the water access provided by the canals. As for this reason, take into consideration various factors, we could be happy with this preliminary impact that a reasonably large number of people started transplanting and growing rice already.
I would urge the local authorities to figure out choices that would not only provide water for rice cultivation but also for higher productivity. I would urge HE Chan Sarun, Minister for Agriculture, to work on this issue of increasing production and productivity as it concerns immediately the Minsitry’s intervention. I wish to see that next year there will be a clearly drafted cultivation calendar and cultivation mapping. Take for instance we have to guarantee that the place where I symbolically transplanted rice just now with our people to produce rice every year. We now are in three different areas along the canals – 1) good transplanting rice, 2) good sown rice and 3) no cultivation land.
As this is the first year after we had the canals and we have transformed the area from no rice to rice-cultivation place. With increasing confidence in the canals I hope to see more cultivation in place. The Twin Canals linked itself with the River Vaiko where about 24 kilometers lies in Prey Veng province and another 5.5 kilometers in Svay Rieng. The canal is indeed branched with other major canals – M2 5655 meters, Daun Sar 10.750 kilometers, community canal 6000 meters or in all 22.400 kilometers. We have yet more works to do, take for instance the construction of various barrages – along the canala and the river Vaiko. The latter water level is gauging with the sea level so we could retain the water which surges into the system. We will therefore have more barrages and more canals to be built.
Because the Twin Canals – built with the state budget – takes water from Aak Ambok 1 canal – which is built with the state budget, and Aak Ambok 2 canal – which is built by Oknha Sok Kong’s SOKIMEX, I wish to seek more assistance by generous persons along with the state budget availability in continuing to provide this water access to our people. I would assure you that if we were to have problem with water supply from the Vaiko’s end, we have the other end of the canal which would take water from the River of Kompong Trabek – because the river never dries. In this option we would need to use only four heavy pumps that will bring water right to Svay Rieng in no time. I would guarantee that we will be able to have water year round, and if there were to have none I would be held responsible for that. How can our people not cultivate when we have water here?
It takes a lot of money to help with pumping water as the price of oil has gone high – the cost of a liter of oil we can buy four kg of rice, but why we have to pump the water, and why do we not buy rice right away. The war in the Middle East caused the oil price to hike and some oil producing countries also jacked up the prices. How could a country like Cambodia be lowering down the price of oil? The price of oil seems to bother but everyday there are more and more vehicles in the streets. Well once we have every infrastructure in place – take for instance rice fields along the canals should be able to produce more. This would make our people have more money.
It is important to provide our children with access to education and as a gentleman here has devoted to bring his children to and from Kraol Kor for their education. It is indeed a priority to have roads, water and school. But more also need to be done – take for instance hospital, etc. Before no one would dare come close to the PM but now children dare come close and beg for schools. It is my nature to be simple with our people and I could not give up it. I used to have an idea that Takeo and Svay Rieng should emulate in irrigation. Indeed Svay Rieng could not match with Takeo, but it should match with a stronger competitor because Svay Rieng would not be making progress if it matches with the one that is weaker. I mean here to emulate in providing water access to the people for agricultural purpose and not the beauty pageant.
I have told the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts about the Government’s position of not organizing any beauty pageant until Cambodia brings down its poverty rate to below 15% or the people’s income per annum exceeds 1500 US$. Some people said they are sorry that Cambodia missed its opportunity in revealing its national culture in the world stage. I urge them to take Angkor Wat and not the beauty pageant. One may remember that the contest in 1994 brought about the Bassac theatre hall on fire. The theatre had in fact survived the shelling in the war between 1970 and 1975 and the genocide. We have plenty items for presenting the world the Khmer culture not just the girl. I would not allow anyone to use the Cambodian flag, the national flag in this purpose. I would allow the beauty contest for the promotion of some products but not for the national level.
Beauty pageant would generate a huge spending and this amount of money would be useful for building irrigation canals. I disagree with the concept of beauty pageant in the first term Government and I still do. We should see that there are plenty of works that need to be done and we should try and figure out which is necessary and which is not. What I wish to see is that every Cambodian has plenty to eat and good food to eat. They should have good clothing and blanket, in addition to housing and transport means. We need to have schools for children and good teachers too. We also have the need to help our people with health service.
The Venerable Head Monk has agreed to let the monk vote as it is the eligible right of the people. Before there was this concern about violence, etc. that he disagreed with the idea of allowing the monks to exercise their rights to vote. The National Election Committee (NEC) appeals to the monks to register so that they can vote in the communal elections on April 1, 2007 and the general election in 2008. As it is more appropriate to think about the needs I have listed above, I think Svay Rieng should seek to emulate with Takeo as both provinces have got many ministers in the Royal Government whereas the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Water Resources are the ones to give the evaluative judgment. It is indeed important to generate statistics of rainy and dry season lands, etc. They should sign some kind of agreement for that matter whereas the Governors would do so with each other and the Head of the work teams should do the same. Places where there is plenty of water but the yield is low should be graded low in score, and places where water is insufficient water but the yield is high should be graded high in score.
I urge us all to work on agricultural development competition movement. Taking this opportunity I wish to inform our people that I would have to go abroad for a short while on September 8.
Samdech Hun Sen on that occasion offered to build a canal of 13.3900 meters for the people of Svay Yea, Svay Ang, Kraol Kor and Ang Taso Communes, the Water Pump Station Hun Sen 49 at Caho Phirun-Daun Sar, a six classroom building for the Primary School of Boeung Rai, a six classroom building for the Secondary School of Svay Pha Em, two five classroom buildings for the Primary School of Svay Chumrov.