Our survey of population has indeed involved not only counting of population but also related data many other areas. What remains to be concerned is whether this census result can be trusted. It is indeed a trusted one because the survey enjoyed cooperation from our people and the survey teams have had the support and leadership from HE Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng and HE Minister Chhai Than, and assistance rendered by UNFPA, JAICA and the Government of Germany.
It should be confirmed that this is a general survey, which means that there is no one in Cambodia that is not being identified or in local dialect “identity card of a deer” and the deer here is meant to be a person in hiding. After the 1998 win-win policy has been put into practice, the country’s situation has brought about a possibility that we can conduct census every where.
In some countries it is still impossible to do like this as war is still there. This is so important because no matter what you are talking about, peace and national unity have to be primary conditions before anything can start thereof. Could we do a survey at all after 1970? In those days we had no idea how many people were living in the forested areas. It was even far from knowing of how many would be Red Khmer, White or Blue? The country was divided into many factions under control of different groups, so who would provide any figures of their men?
In between 1979 and 1998, it was hard to conduct a survey, and which was aimed for major part to address our concern on issue of polio. I went to Kompot to give vaccination and I came up with unending questions how could we go about ensuring that every child is safe from polio while we had yet to bring to the national fold areas like Phnom Voar, Taken Koh Sla, etc.
Soon after my trip there was this incident of kidnapping and killing by the Khmer Rouge of three foreign nationals – a French, a British and an Australian. To the north of National Road 5, from Melai to Pailin, Amlot, Viel Veng, etc together with integration policy, HE Ee Chhien may have remembered, I brought with me a campaign to provide vaccination against polio to the areas.
Later by 2002, it was proclaimed that Cambodia is a polio free country. As of present, country like the Philippines, there is this Mindanao area which is under the Moro front and Islamist Abu Sayaf, could they in any way do the population survey there? Can they therefore tell the exact figure of their people?
Again I want to stress that no matter what you wanted to do you have to have peace and national unity. Our people have the freedom of mobility which they are free to go wherever they may wish to. Except this morning they could not travel on national road 4 as rain has flooded parts of it. In the old days fighting brought about disruption on the roads.
We sought consensus in trying the Pol Pot’s regime in the past. Not only that no one showed any interest in it but they supported the Khmer Rouge at the United Nations. But now trial is in process, they came out and said what it is we are doing is not enough.
Now look at the survey results, we have brought this country from zero motorcycle, bicycle, car, radio, TV, phone, etc to what we have at present. How could some people say that Cambodia is going from being poor to poorer?
Please give your understanding to the fact that the win-win policy has stayed at the core of this development. It is not easy to challenge Ee Chhien (former Khmer Rouge commander, currently Governor of Pailin) out from his lair. Reviewing the world history, no country could have ended a war without wasting a single bullet. Leaders of fighting factions were invited to the house of the leader of the Government.
Photos of our meeting at the time were under relentless attack and I rebuked that why I cannot receive those people at my house while the same people were given diplomatic visas to foreign countries and the United Nations.
In fact my reception of those leaders was for three basic reasons – 1) sending a message to the rest of the Khmer Rouge leaders that their top ranking leaders already surrendered; 2) assuring people with a message that Cambodia has ended the war; and 3) informing international community of the development and giving them a signal that Cambodia is now a target for investment and tourism.
Why else we do with the Khmer Rouge is wrong while in the process of peace settlement, you may look again at the documentation, people had been shaking hands with and smiling at them.
In context of a fragile peace if trial of the Khmer Rouge were to be conducted in negligence of national reconciliation and peace, and if another war were to take place, who would stand to be responsible?
Would some people who made comments so and so about this be staying and dying in Cambodia if such a war takes place? It was the opposition who had challenged many junior leaders of the Khmer Rouge that it would soon be their turn to get arrested at the time when their top leaders like Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan were taken into custody.
If they were to take to the forest, this time who is going to call them off? I have traded my life for this land. My mother and my aunt warned me of going into the Khmer Rouge controlled area as though I was not afraid of death.
I explained them if I were to die, only a few people died with me but if I were to survive, the whole country will get the land back and be united. I have done this with success.
I would not stand to let this land be destroyed or this people be brought to instability at all. The prize of peace is enormous, while justice is being sought for within a justifiable legal framework. I would warn them on one instance that they could not threaten Cambodia about being lack of funding or so and so. The legal agreement has pointed out clearly that if foreigners were to leave, Cambodia will replace them with local judges and prosecutors to bring the process to the end.
In Paris I demanded that the suitable place for the Khmer Rouge leaders was not in the Supreme National Council, but no one gave an ear to it.
HE Cham Prasidh and Khieu Kanharith, who were note takers at the Khemarin palace, may have remembered that Khieu Samphan at the time said “we offer our understanding that we have accepted to let the puppets to be included in the SNC …”
That was how far he went. I also returned my words to them “I am so grateful that the killers have offered to let us in.”
I think it is best to leave it to the Court. So I would ask for clarification from Mr Chhang Youk if he did mention to Kampuchea Thmei that if more senior Khmer Rouge leaders were to be accounted for, reason has to be brought up to Hun Sen.
I am to defend the country’s peace and to allow no one to destroy it. This is why we can do the survey at night to count our people. Let’s imagine, would it be possible if we were to be still at war?
Talking about the survey, I have noticed our concern on irregularity in people’s settlement. It has shown here that population density has increased from 74 to 75 per square kilometer. Density of people in the plain has been recorded to be 261 per square kilometer. That is our national pride.
I went in 1996 to integration area of Samlot and met with people who had just arrived from the central part of the country. In the latest years we have noticed our people’s migration, one part to find job in Phnom Penh and another to the northeast and north west to work in agricultural sector. This is a good thing that we need to promote further.
That is also what I have written twenty years ago in 1988. I have predicted that there would need to be a redistribution of labor aimed at serving socio-economic development purpose and for national defense. We were not able to do before but now we have more ability.
Firstly, we have peace throughout the country. Secondly, our people have a good solidarity and refrain from revenging and being regionalism, and thirdly, we have improved infrastructure.
We have now started to turn insecure areas into development zones, especially border areas of northwest and north, starting from distributing our people, first of all families of military staff.
We have over 11 million people in 1998. There are 13 million in 2008 and we should therefore expect to have 16 million in 2018. I have asked HE Deputy Prime Minister Keat Chhon to prepare for a policy package providing concession land to the armed forces members who would retire.
It is a new social safety net that guarantees that our staff after leaving the army, the police or the military police has one or two hectares of land for cultivation. They could not support their living with their pensions. They need something to be inherited to their children too.
I may have to stress this point clearly that we need to fulfill three objectives. Firstly, reform of the armed forces, whereby the number of troops would be reduced and the way to do that is by sending them into retirement.
By doing that we will make sure that if 100 soldiers are going into retirement, only ten perhaps would be recruited. Secondly, as a safety net measure, this will help prevent retired soldiers from being victimized in the poverty cycle. I feel the need to explain this otherwise some people might either misunderstand or misinterpret what I mean by that.
We should have a good understanding that soldier is nothing else but a citizen. Soldiers in Cambodia might have their wives, children, dogs or chicken with them at the front. So it is not wrong to provide them with land as they all are Cambodian people.
Thirdly, what we have done is to transfer non-productive to be productive forces. Take for instance we used to have 20,000 strong workforce in idleness, now we have 20,000 strong workforce in production and they could put about 30,000 to 40,000 hectares of land under cultivation, whose production would generate the economic capability of the country. I wish to reiterate that what we have been doing so far is for redistribution of labor forces aimed at serving socio-economic development and national defense.
Retired soldiers would then be automatically incorporated into agriculture. The first factor needed to consider here is indeed a provision of land. 15,000 soldiers had been laid off and though this option was proposed, there was a flat denial as funding for laying off soldiers was provided from outside. This time we do it our way and we do not care what they say.
Last Friday the Cabinet has decided to cease the land titling project partnering with World Bank that is to be ending at end of the year. They may take their money back. We should go on with our national financial capacity. I told HE Keat Chhon and HE Im Chhun Lim weeks ago about this but it seems it was pronounced by their end of the line. And in Cambodia Daily this morning it seems that the story has evolved the other way round. I would not allow them to trick others that they were the one to cease the project. I beg your understanding that I made some provocative remarks.
Assistance provision is one thing but the way work being performed is another. You have an obligation to provide assistance and as a recipient nation it is our duty to see that it is fairly done. HE Ambassador of the United States of America is here present and in addition to providing more assistance, the US seeks to get debt repayment from Cambodia. Maybe it is better to clear it of because so many bombs had been dropped on Cambodia.
Cambodia has come through so much difficulties before we could realize national unity. Everybody knows that the Cambodian history has been smeared with blood and tears …◉