The last segment of the national road 7 from the province of Kratie to the Cambodian-Laos border via the province of Stoeungtreng and a 1057 meter bridge over the Se Kong River are being built by the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) Shanghai Construction Company. Samdech Hun Sen and Her Excellency Ambassador of the PRC together with other senior Cambodian officials have recently visited the sties, where, in presence of the people of Stoeungtreng, Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen made some of the following selected comments on special relatiosn and friendship with the PRC, the Significance contributed by the Cambodian-Friendship Bridge to the ASEAN’s highway plan as well as Cambodian vision of a dragon with a lively moving body from head to tail.
Today I have a great pleasure to travel together with HE Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Cambodia as well as other senior Cambodian officials and Oknhas to see our people in the province Stoeungtreng after my participation in the groundbreaking ceremony of the road and bridge construction on November 18, 2004 at the Khla Stuh area in the province of Kratie. Today we meet here once again in a place where it is considered the most difficult road condition and there was a need to build a bridge that spans over one thousand meters. The bridge should be considered historic and great wealth of Cambodia. HE Ambassador of China and other diplomats already know that this size of construction for China or the Shanghai Consruction Company (SCC) may be small. The SCC has in all a consortium of about 300 private companies. For Cambodia, however, the project is great in wealth and efforts as the country has just emerged out of war.
May I take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation and thanks to the SCC for taking charge of building this segment of the national road 7 and the bridge, which, according to the report by HE Sun Chan Thol, Minister for Public Works and Transports, has already come to about 71% of completion already. During the visit of HE Prime MInister Wen Jiabao in Cambodia in early April this year there was a commitment to finish the construction by the end of 2008. As of now we have speeded the work to finish by the end of 2007 – one year before schedule. This has indeed reflected a great deal of effort exerted by engineers and technicians in their works.
I wish to express my sincere appreciation also the Ministry of Public Works and Transports, the Ministry of Economy and Finance as well as the local authorities together with the people in the area involving the project both in Kratie and Stoeungtreng provinces for the collaborative efforts in making this project possible. We have come to setting a standard to the work done in our country. I used to say it was hard to set an international standard on things as there is a standard that is accepted internationally only in sports. But now we have what I would call the Shanghai standard – and as you may now know that, Shanghai is the New York in Asia. In 1992, I visited Shanghai for the first time. There was a bridge that is about 12 to 14 kilometers. When I went there again in 2004, the construction image of Shanghai changed astonishingly.
At first there was a pondering issue as to why the road and bridge construction here used a lot of cement. There was a utilization rate of about 600 tons of cement per day. As far as I am explained, the Shanghai standard do not utilize the method of laying stone as basement and sub-base followed by asphalt but concrete and then asphalt. It is indeed a road with very strong basement and sub-base.
Maybe it is worth recalling a bit about how do we go about having this road segment and the bridge – a length in all about 200 kilometers – constructed? With the bridge’s length, the original road span of 186 kilometers and another six kilometers to be constructed in connection to the national road 13 on the Laotian side, the length would be about 200 kilometers. The longest bridge over the Se Kong river would be this 1057 meter bridge. I have worked with many Chinese Prime Ministers – HE Li Peng, HE Zhu Rongji and the current Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. I first proposed for the Chinese assistance in the construction of the said project in my visit to China in 1999 – or after the establishment of the second-term Royal Government on November 30, 1998. On December 2, 1998 there was this first Cabinet meeting of the second-term Royal Government and then I led a delegation to the PRC which I considered the priority in Cambodia’s foreign policy.
At that time I proposed to China to conduct a study if they could offer to build a road from Kratie to the border with Laos and I myself at that time did not even know how much it would cost to do so. The Chinese side did the study on mines and UXOs along the projected road site. It was understood that the area along the road surely has a lot of mines and UXOs as it was heated battle fields in the period between 1970 and 1975. I have followed it through. I even raised this issue again with HE President Jiang Zhemin during his visit to Cambodia in 2000, in 2001 with HE Li Peng, and through to 2002 with HE Prime Minister Zhu, during his official visit and partipation in the ASEAN + China and the first Mekong Sub-region meeting in Phnom Penh. He responded that China had made a decision to help the project already.
The Government of China provide four different forms of assistance to Cambodia – grant, non-interest loan, low-interest loan and commercial loan, which Cambodia did not use this one but the Chinese companies make use of this one to build electric power station in Kamchai for example. In my visit to the PRC in April 2004, while many countries were reluctant to offer assistance to Cambodia till after the establishment of the Royal Government (due to the fact that there was this protracted post-election conflict), the PRC made it clear that they know with whom they work in Cambodia. They not only sent HE Deputy Prime Minister Wu Yi to Cambodia in March 2004, but I was invited to return the visit officially in April 2004 of the same year. The have been 25 agreements signed in Phnom Penh and Beijing – which I would consider a greater achievement ever realized by a Cambodian Prime Minister during a visit to a foreign country.
It was in the course of the visit that the package of money for the construction of the road and the bridge is also included. During my visit to the China-ASEAN exhibition in Nanning, HE Deputy Prime Minister Wu Yi showed her concern that mines and UXOs along the projected road have to be double checked and offered another 60,000 USD for mines and UXOs clearing operation. According to the report by HE General Staff Ke Kim Yan the concern was correct. In the last operation for mine and UXO clearance, we have discovered even a B-52 bomb. We discovered in all 29267 pieces of UXOs, 457 mines, 9172 pieces of bombees… so I would send a message through HE Ambassador to HE Wu Yi that Cambodia has made a positive use of the donation. This is some of the aspects involved in the construction of the road and the bridge here. Along the road there are in all 13 bridges which is in all 1818 meter length.
I have here in front of me and I am showing to you the map that I have kept on my desk since 2001. I have marked in here different colors for road with and without financial capacity to make it happen. As is seen here from the part of Tonle Bet on the eastern side of Kompong Cham, there was just yet no money for building the road through to the Cambodian-Lao border. At the time I marked on this map we did not have fund for the construction the road between Siemreap and Poi Pet. I would also remind HE the Chinese Ambassador that the road segment between O Porng Moan to Ratanakiri is still free from any financial commitment. I also proposed the construction of the 148 kilometer road to Ratanakiri to HE Zhu Rongji whereas the part between the provincial town and the border would be built with the Vietnamese assistance. He said we should wait until after we finished the national road 7 before we could start the 78 one. As the SCC is already here, it should be given the task to go on.
We have used only 65 million dollars for the construction of about 200 kilometer road and 1818 meter bridges using the Shanghai standard, which to my understanding is cheap and of good quality. The road’s importance is not just for integration within the country’s boundary but a new connection in the region has emerged as said by HE Minister of Public Works and Transports – Sun Chan Thol. I have indeed written a lyric of a song that is broadcasted already about the Great Se Kong Bridge. People in Stoeungtreng could not receive the broadcast because of distance from the wave length. But the road will link up the region and for the first step with Laos, and then with Vietnam and on to China’s Kunming or Quangxi. As you can see four countries are connected to one another by this road. HE the Chinese Ambassador said that once the road is done she would like to travel back to China by this road. The road also provides Laos with access via the national road 7 of Cambodia down to the Seaport of Sihanoukville. Cambodia would also benefit from making use the Laos’s national road 13 to the seaport in Vietnam too.
By coming to this point I would say that my analogy of Cambodia as a wakening dragon is coming true. I have compared Cambodia to having its head in Sihanoukville, its body and front legs in Phnom Penh and the central part, while the back legs and tail in the northeastern part of Cambodia – Prea Vihear, Stoeungtreng, Ratanakiri and Mundulkiri. By saying that if Cambodia could connect this part to its central part and head, or the tail part of the dragon is waving, Cambodia’s economy would jump up and I would predict that in 2015 and 2025 or 2020 and 2030, the northeast area of the country could become another economic pole in addition to the existing three poles in Cambodia – because of the potential mineral resources of iron, coal mines, etc. and its potentiality in agro-industry. That is why it is important to get infrastructural development into the area.
Take for instance in the whole province of Stoeungtreng we have a population of less than ten thousand people and the infrastructural inaccessibility is to bear the blame for that. When we have roads coming into this area, there is this anarchic deforestation and HE Loy Sophat has been posted here as Governor not for simple reason. Those with problems should withdraw themselves and now is the time for no more talking. I warn against those with intention of making road access for own forest and-or land benefit. As soon as we have better infrastructure, I hope we will have more people coming to reside in the provinces of Stoeungtreng, Preah Vihear, Ratanakiri and Mundulkiri. Let’s look at the concentration of population in the area along the rivers and/or the central part of the country. The population growth has exceeded the land capacity for residence and for production. If we were to suggest that there are about 20,000 new households a year, and one fourth of them build new housing, then 50,000 houses would be recorded. If each one uses 200 square meters, it would consume a lot of land when we multiply them with 50,000.
Take for instance, the area along the national road 7 from Khnar to to Suong, there were no houses before, but there is no free space now. People without access to land in the central part of the country would be beneficiaries of our social concession land project. To fulfill this we have to first have a road built into the area. We before had to travel two full days – sleeping two nights on board the engine boat for traveling from Kratie to Phnom Penh but we do not need even half a day for that by car. That is why I repeat the dragon with its tail lies in this area is about to wake up now. Having come to this may I ask HE the Chinese Ambassador to convey on behalf of the people of Cambodia and on my behalf our gratefulness to the former Prime Ministers of PRC, HE Wen Jiabao, the current one, and HE the President of China – Hu Jintao for helping us addressing this need. Again it resolves not only issue of communication but a great deal of changes in the country where internal integration and external one would take place. I would suggest that the inauguration of this segment of the national road 7 and the bridge is to be held in January 2008.
It is important to note that the national road seven was built under the raign of former King Samdech Preah Norodom, though it was only 4.2 meters in width. Despite its small size but by the time it was built, the road was so useful and a great achievement. Another point to note is that it was built at the time when countries around were in wars. The war in 1970s completely destroyed the road and bridges. You may note that I have all the military information written on the map but not anymore now. One could see on this map that I have all the information about which road is to be discussed with whom for assistance. Cambodia would not go to China for weapons but for construction materials – Bailey bridges, etc. We have more than enough weapons and we have destroyed more than 20,000 rifles already.
As far as issue with Laos is concerned, according to what we have discussed with the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Laos, Cambodia will build a road to connect with the national road 13 on the Lao side and Laos would build a road to connect to the national road 7 on the Cambodian side – which we called this a reconciliatory approach. However, as long as the ASEAN highway is concerned, the connection will be between the national road 7 on Cambodian side and the national road 13 on the Lao side. I would urge the SCC to speed up the current project as Cambodia would have the national road 78 to build as soon as the Chinese Government approves our request. The Chinese applies to everyone’s visual that it implements a policy of speaking least but doing most. There have been exchanges of visits of leaders of the two countries – which in early 2006 provide Cambodia close to 600 million dollars, from which the Komchai electric power station takes about 400 million USD already. China provides a sum of 200 million USD for other bridge projects. In addition to this we have the Office of the Council of Ministers to be built, and with this inclusion, over a period of two years, Cambodia received in all about 700 million USD from China. The Komchai electricity project is the first biggest investment project that Cambodia ever has from foreign country.
China does not demand Cambodia to do this or that but working with the Cambodian Government in announcing their financial assistance through only diplomatic note. They do little talk but big help and never impose a condition upfront. On July 27, 2006 I will meet with the SCC President and we have another 200 million USD to be spent and have been urged to spent in a timely manner. We have more projects to be done with the Chinese financial assistance – first the construction of 117-kilometer national road 8 running from the district of Khsach Kandal to Anlong Chrey on the border with Vietnam crossing the Prey Veng’s national road 11 (64 kilometers to NR 11 and another 53 kilometers to Anlong Chrey). The road needs to be connected by a huge bridge over the Mekong at Prek Ta Meak – 1270 meters, about ten meters longer than the Kizuna Bridge in Kompong Cham. Another bridge to be built is at Prek Kdam, over the Tonle Saab River, which is 1180 meters long. The Chinese Government has provided its approval through HE the Ambassador already.
In the course of implementing all this work, if we were to have any money left, we would use it to asphalt the national road 76 at the length of 132 kilometers. I am saying this because if we were to calculate on the basis of current expenses and road length, we would need only 65 million USD. According to the plan, we will celebrate the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of Prek T Meak Bridge and the National Road 8 in January 2007, and the Prek Kdam Bridge in February 2007 too. I would urge speedy study by the SCC of the above projects so that we could launch the ceremony according to plan. If we were to have any money left still, we would use that to build another bridge to divert traffic jam in the city with its eastern suburb at Ta Khmao or anywhere the study deemed to be technically and economically proper. The national road 78 – according to HE Ke Kim Yan – has been cleared of mines and UXOs already and so I would request HE the Chinese Ambassador to inform the Chinese Government that the road is free of mines and UXOs now and we are ready to start anytime in the construction.
I request the Chinese Ambassador to inform Prime Minister of China HE Wen Jiabao about these progresses. This is the first Chinese assisted and built- bridge over the Mekong River and it definitely, I hope, is not the last one but there would be more over the Mekong, the Bassac, Se Kong and Tonle Saab. I would suggest that we name all the bridges built with the Chinese assistance as the Cambodian-Chinese Friendship Se Kong Bridge, Cambodian-Chinese Friendship Prek Ta Meak Bridge and Cambodian-Chinese Friendship Prek Kdam Bridge. Of course it has to have approval from the Government of China too. I have transformed myself from a pagoda boy, who begs for food with the Buddhist monks, to become a real beggar – for the benefit of the people and country’s development. I also urge our people to take good care of these hard-to-achieve structures for the whole country’s interest – as it is our property.
Samdech Hun Sen during that joyful occasion offered to build a 24-km road for the people in the district of Se Saan, a school building of six classrooms for the Primary School of Svay Rieng in the district of Se Saan, a school building of six classrooms for the Secondary School of Thala Borivaat, a Common Hall for the College of Stoeungtreng-Hun Sen.