I would like to take this chance to share with all of our staff and leaders of the Ministry of Tourism who have been joining hands together to make this achievement possible. It is magnificent and hopeful that it will be a professional setup for work for a long time to come.
HE Thong Khon, Minister of Tourism has already briefed us all about how the Ministry of Tourism is being formed and developed. First of all we had a small Office of Tourism in Phnom Penh and Siemreap but we had no supervising authorities. We later initiated the set up of a General Directorate of Tourism, which the late HE Preab Pijei, Vice Minister of the Council of Ministers, had been given additional task of supervising the new directorate.
When HE Preab Pijei passed away, HE Cheam Yiep was given the task to take over the supervision of tourism. Then we have come to the creation in 1993 of the Ministry of Tourism. We have made many dignitaries ministers in various stages later. HE Eng Roland, in the period of provisional Government from 1993, was then appointed minister.
There is a misconception of the Paris Peace Agreement, as far as this matter of provisional Government is concerned. The Agreement stipulates no provisional government only that there was going to be an election that will eventually set up the constitutional assembly, who, after adopting the Constitution, would become the National Assembly. But for the sake of reconciliation, the former State of Cambodia agreed to dissolve itself and to become a member of a provisional Government with two Prime Ministers, two Ministers for National Defense and two Ministers for Interior.
If there were to be any disagreements, could we achieve a Constitution for the nation as there required an approval from a two-third majority in the Constitutional Assembly? What the Paris Peace Agreement wanted to achieve but UNTAC (United Nations Transitional Authority for Cambodia) could not fulfill was that peace did not prevail in Cambodia.
UNTAC mission pulled out scandalously leaving Cambodia a country with two Governments and two areas under separate controls – which meant one side was the Government in Phnom Penh that consisted of the SoC, Funcinpec, the Khmer People National Liberation Front (KPNLF), under one Constitution, one National Assembly, HM the King and the Government.
Another was a Government at the border with a full Cabinet, a radio station and its own currency that was affixed thereupon with the signature of Khieu Samphan. In 1994 I went to Pyongyang for a political negotiation at Chang Su’un palace between the Royal Government of Phnom Penh and the outcast Government at the border. There were many of us – Samdech Chea Sim and Samdech Krom Preah were also present. The Buddhist Patriarchs – Samdech Tep Vong, Samdech Bou Kri, Samdech Um Sum, etc – were also present. Samdech Chea Sim and Samdech Krom Preah gave me the task to negotiate with Khieu Samphan.
Khieu Samphan was there with Son Sen, obviously who was killed by Pol Pot in 1997. Khieu Samphan proposed the formation of what he called a “minimum political program”…
I asked him right away was it what he wanted to replace the Constitution? He said it meant we would suspend the Constitution for a while. This has brought us to a scenario now that whether the trial of the Khmer Rouge would be possible if the Khmer Rouge was not dissolved politically and militarily? Simply ask, who would do the job?
In 1992, UNTAC’s leader Yasushi Akashi and his Commander General J. Sanderson visited the Khmer Rouge stronghold at Pailin. Two Khmer Rouge underage soldiers placed a bamboo stick across the road as checkpoint. They withdrew. I asked Ee Chhien later to find the two so I could give them my praise. That was how weak UNTAC was.
All UNTAC leaders, as far as I could remember, left Cambodia at night. Finally Cambodian issue has been resolved by the win-win policy. All I am saying is not for us to forget what good UNTAC had done to our country at all. But we should not go to far in placing ourselves under foreign influence. If we were to fulfill no win-win policy, a question could be asked if there would be any peace, end of war and a chance to have about two million tourists or so coming to our country.
It was the win-win policy that allows us to bring about peace in the whole country, whereby we could expand tourism to a certain development level. The Government of the first and second legislatures of the National Assembly appointed HE Veng Sereivuth as Minister of Tourism and in the third legislature of the National Assembly, over half of the term, HE Lay Prohas, was appointed Minister, and then followed by HE Thong Khon. If he is doing the job well, he would go all the way to the end of the fourth legislature of the National Assembly Royal Government’s term and would be there in the fifth too.
I would like to see that the new Ministry building will conform to the need and proposition for development of tourism. We have here a nice building but what would be more important is perhaps work efficiency.
Talking about this you may have seen that we have been working in the former Council of Ministers building until recently that our Chinese friend offered to build us a new one. And our work efficiency has been noticed then.
We are now building a new permanent international conference hall, whereby we will host all major international and regional events in Cambodia. There will be two buildings of the Council of Ministers, one is built by the Chinese assistance and the other by the Cambodian, and one of which is for international meetings. I have an intention to host the ASEM meeting in our country so that I could invite European counterparts for a visit to Cambodia.
Tourism has been affected by world economic downturn but we have developed this sector quite well. We have brought about a new figure of two million tourists visiting Cambodia, despite impacts from external factor, which is world financial crisis and economic downturn. However, we are trying to expand our economic growth by way of broadening agriculture so as to reduce our dependency on tourism and garment export, which are easily affected by external factors. Customers have had problem of losing their income would eventually bring about fall in their demands for new or expensive clothes. They also would opt for canceling trips for a visit to Cambodian tourist destinations.
In the first six months of this year, we noticed that there was a sharp fall in tourist number who visited Cambodia. However, starting from June, we have noticed a recurrence of arrival of regional tourists to Cambodia. We have not seen yet arrival of non-regional tourists, except a slight increase in the same period last year of tourists from the United States of America, Germany, France, and Britain. But starkly contrasting to this, increase has been noticed about tourists coming from countries in the region such as Vietnam and Laos. There have been in this period about 30,000 tourists coming from Laos.
If we were to compare the number of tourists this year to that of last year, we seem to have more or less the same figure. However, we noticed that there has been less money spent by regional tourists. These tourists do not need to stay in high class hotels at all. Some of our big hotels in this case have had difficulties.
There is an issue that I wanted Minister of Information and Minister of Culture to jointly discuss ways to deal with it. It is the problem of OK condom spot. I have suggested all TV stations to provisionally suspend the spot from broadcasting and the two ministries should take a look at it. My point about the spot is whether the main idea of the spot is just to sell well condom and not to provide education on HIV/AIDS to viewers.
Some of the spots have been broadcast even I have warned them already of their downgrading effect on the Cambodian cultural value. I would not give my judgment on that particular spot that was on last night as I suggested the two ministries to work on it.
HE Hong Sun Huot, when he was Minister for Health, I told him I doubt the effect of a huge advertisement board about OK condom and he said to me they did that in Europe. Well don’t you agree that this is Cambodia and we should have our way of doing it. Don’t take me wrong. I have nothing against condom but we have to preserve our social and cultural values while trying to adapt to new situation. Advertising fact but protecting the Cambodian women dignity while keeping youngsters off negative social impact activities.
Peace and security have been critically basic issue for development of tourism. They have been vital to the industry as well as other related fields. Peace, political stability and social order have been important that I would take this opportunity to express my appreciation and thanks for local authority of all levels and the armed forces that have made great efforts in making this country a peaceful and politically stable destination. We have established police to help protect tourists and they have done a good job. I wish they continue to uphold this value.
The country is in its effort to advance the concept of what is called “Kingdom of Wonder” whereas cities are in competition for being singled out as the best performer in process of keeping clean, attracting and providing best services. In fact what the Ministry of Tourism has done will give fruits to our people who will actually benefit from growth in this industry, whereas its result would help reduce poverty among our people.
Therefore I demand that all cities and authorities must take actions and perform their duties to get the best result in providing security, social order as well as measures related aimed at attracting tourists to our destinations. Banteay Meanjei’s Tropeang Thmor water reservoir for example has become a destination for local tourists. Romlich (water resrvoir) in Kompot has also been a source of major attraction too. First our people who have made themselves local tourists to all destinations and then foreign tourists will follow.
Phnom Penh in this case has become a nice capital that I must give my consent and appreciation to. As the city is getting cleaner we should increase our efforts to ask our people to participate more actively in cleaning our cities. A long-term plan needs to be developed and ready for action. Developing our cities as tourist destinations would involve putting in place infrastructure, providing high level services, identifying and developing new destinations, reserving areas where cultivation and animal husbandry could be catering sources for tourist services. They all are inter-related elements in the process of tourist development.
HE Thong Khon is also head of Poi Pet entrance-exit at the border between Cambodia and Thailand. I seem to have doubt why there have been so many problems there. I have had reports of cart moving people being asked to pay. I am asking governor of the province of Banteay Meanjei to take a look at those who forced people who move carts to pay at the bridge there. Again, I warn all of you anything that happens and relating to the people, no matter how small it is, is not that simple. They carried fruits across the border in carts. How awful to see that they were forced to pay from their mean income for that matter.
There is one other committee that the state has decided to provide 20% of tax evasion collection for their efforts. And why has not that been enough and opting to perform such activities that are social detestation. I would recommend you to take an immediate look and fix. I thank our people in Poi Pet and also the CTN TV station for getting this to our viewers in the last few days. I do not have agents who could provide me facts whther they are true. But this morning there has been a live broadcast from Poi Pet and I doubt if you have not had a chance to look at it. There seemed to be too many problems – from fighting for guests, for second-hand clothes, and now for pressuring people to pay for their life feeding activities.
These are no new outfits but because you (local authorities) are in negligence that they tend to recur and this issue that I have just mentioned is in fact lying within the responsibility of the Deputy Police Chief. Would he be taking responsible actions? Or would he be colluding with his men? As faithful servants to our people’s interest you all have to take initiative in taking actions and should not be waiting for order from Prime Minister. I know you have the ability to get things done but the problem is whether and when you do it.
In relation to this matter I would offer my appreciation and thank to the press that is providing information both inside and outside the country, both good and bad too. Cambodia is observing freedom of expression. In France it seems former Prime Minister and President are in legal discomfort with one another and they said it is the French rule of law. So it is not a separate matter in Cambodia that a parliamentarian has been stripped off immunity.
Let’s talk more about off-the-record checkpoints which I think there are numerous. HE Sar Kheng has already mentioned and given instruction on this matter already. We have proclaimed and invited people to give their respect to traffic law, while on the contrary they placed more checkpoints. This is what I call providing a contrary service for people.
Recently we have new economic predictions provided by International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank (WB), and Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Cambodia. My position here is that whatever they say would not concern me at all. What concerns me is the people’s living condition. We have to make sure if we have sufficient water in canals for them to irrigate their rice cultivation and if they are food shortage. People’s everyday life is what we care about. We must observe if Cambodia is facing a situation that people die of hunger or not.
The Royal Government has in fact provided financial assistance in training and re-training services for those who have been discharged from works in industries that are being affected by world financial crisis and economic downturn. In addition to that we also have this issue of natural calamity causing by storms. Usually, flood would recede after the Cambodian traditional ritual of Projum Ben. As Ketsana is now bearing on Vietnam, we must expect that it will also come to Cambodia, which eventually river level is not predictable. I would take this opportunity to thank our armed forces for protecting our people during the celebration of Projum Ben.
In the last few days there was this incident of land erosion in Kompong Chnang which caused damages to about over 90 houses. There expects few smaller storms coming. I would take this opportunity to give my regards to our armed forces at the border at Preah Vihear. It was our Projum Ben days that the Thai People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) movement came with instigation actions in the Preah Vihear’s area. From this forum I would like to thank the Thai armed forces and its authority of Si Sa Ket and the people there for doing everything they can to put a stop to the yellow shirt extremists who have nurtured their aggressive ambitions on Cambodian territory.
I would like to take this opportunity to re-affirm that claims made by the Thai Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister and other Ministers over the 4.6 square Kilometer area is not acceptable as it based on a unilaterally drawn map by Thai side. Cambodia recognizes no overlap or conflict area. It recognizes only the maps that are left by the convention and treaty between France and Siam in 1904 and 1907 and by The Hague in 1962 and the MOU in 2000 between Thailand and Cambodia. I would urge Thai leaders to use Preah Vihear no more for internal political ends. I seek no confrontation with them but as the Cambodian top leader in its executive power I have the duty to explain it to my people.
You have made so much explanation to your people in the parliament, the senate, by radio, TVs and press on the 4.6 square kilometer land. Cambodia resolutely grants no recognition to such a claim. HE Suthep declared that the road to access Preah Vihear temple that is built by Cambodia will be used jointly.
In this regard I must make clear that it is the road that Cambodia builds and therefore it is Cambodia and Cambodia only will use it. Cambodians at the borders, please be informed that the Cambodian territory has nothing to be concerned with what has been said by the Thai leaders. We recognized no maps that unilaterally drawn and presented by Thais. HE Pol Saroeun, Chief of General Staff tore such a map in a negotiation at Srah Keo and I would do no difference to that if it were to be brought to my attention.
Preah Vihear has been used as a core matter in toppling one another in Thailand. The Thai Government has been toppled and the minority has come to power. I do not want to exchange this with the Thai side but it is my obligation to reveal it to my people. I intend to raise none of this at ASEAN summit but if it continues to be provocative in such a way I would have to bring it to the Summit’s attention somehow.
I have confirmed with Prime Minister Abhisit that the issue would not be raised to multilateral forum and we would keep it for bilateral resolution.
At that time I was under constant attack from Sien Peng Se’s group in France who demanded that the Royal Government to bring the issue to the attention of Paris Peace Agreement Co-Chairmen. I even rebuked them that they had been naïve as the Paris Peace Agreement is not a mechanism that can solve this matter and because they have been so naïve that they always failed. In 1990, there was a former general who came to me and assured me that it would need to regroup former Lon Nol soldiers to fight the Khmer Rouge to its end. I asked in return, you had all you wanted then why did you not win in 1975.
Back to that Thai provocation, I would reaffirm to all our soldiers at the border, whoever — soldiers or civilians — cross the border to enter Cambodia illegally must be brought to action. We will not allow the previous situation to take place. I have ordered to take back dogs and police who had been sent to take care of the situation. They are not for that kind of job. They are for ensuring law and order inside Cambodia only. At the border we have no use for that. I would make clear to the Thais that if ever they wish to occupy Preah Vihear temple, it would not be like when the yellow shirt roamed and occupied the Thai Government House in Bangkok or Don Moeung and Sovannaphum Airports at all. That will not be happening.
If ever you have been misled in the Thai history it would then be up to you but you should not be misled yourselves in the Cambodian history. It is a history of my country. Since when have you come live in the 4.6 square kilometer area? They should not repeat what was happening last year. Cambodia was in middle of its elections or you might find already what happened on October 15, then April 3 and 4. If you intend to come again, then again we will give you what we had given before.
It is the Prime Minister who led this intention of annexing Cambodian land and declared his sovereignty over other country’s land. I would tell you I may see no need to take part in the ASEAN summit. They have abused us but failed militarily, and then civilian trick and now by public opinion. I have the need to see those tricks smashed. I have ordered my commanders in case of infiltration the first explosion has to happen in the Cambodian territory. I am ready to go to Thailand and they have mobilized a demonstration against me. If you are the most civilized nation, please take it to Hua Hin. If they do that the whole ASEAN will fall apart. It is in fact Thai internal matters but how come they brought us to concern with them?
One thing I warned them is that Cambodia has been unified from top to bottom. Of course we have the opposition who voiced their unrealistic opinions. Cambodia will bring the matter to the UN Security Council only when Thai invaded Cambodia. We have suspended that step for the time being …◉