Number of Female Students Pursuing Tertiary Education
I am so glad to be presiding over once more the Vanda Institute’s graduation and diploma presenting ceremony for 3,300 graduates. I am so grateful to HE Heng Vanda for inviting me to this joyful event. I am so happy to listen to the report on progress made by the Institute so far. This is my sixth time to chair such joyful event. It is so impressive to note that there are 2,458 female students or 81.85% out of 3,300 graduates. Undeniably, it is a great achievement of gender equality. I wish everyone to pay attention to one thing, though. The number of female students taking undergraduate courses is quite impressive. As for postgraduate program, however, out of 113 students, only 54 or 47.79% are female students.
I could well understand the reason. While many male students can go on, many female students are busy taking care of children and family after getting married. It has brought me to a conclusion that while female students exceeded male students in number in undergraduate degrees, it is on the contrary when it comes to postgraduate and PhD programs. This has made the number of female students smaller than that of male students in the pursuit for tertiary education. I suggest that you take this note as a call for further efforts to address gender equality issue. I must note though that the female figure of more than 80% to finish undergraduate studies here is quite impressive.
I would also like to take this opportune moment to express my sincere appreciation for successful graduates, both undergraduate and postgraduate programs, who have made great efforts in the past two, four and six years respectively in pursuit of the degree. It has been noted that so far the Vanda Institute train – both those already graduated and those pursuing their courses presently – a total number of 11,156 students, 9,425 of them or 84.48% are female. The Vanda Institute, with this achievement, has made significant contribution in the field of human resource development.
The Vanda Institute also offered scholarships on my behalf to 264 students since 2005/06 school year. It is also joyful that 30 of them have graduated. In the school year of 2011/12, the Institute offered some 50 scholarships on my behalf and some 180 scholarships on behalf of HE Sok An, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Council of Ministers. Along with this, it is reported that among the 3,300 graduates, 2,539 of them or 84.55% have found jobs and 464 of them or 15.45% have not been employed yet. Among those employed, 1,740 of them work in the private sector and 799 of them work in the public sector.
I am sure those who are not registered here as “jobless” must be finding themselves employed in one way or another. They could at least work with their families to figure out their engagement in some way as no one could afford to stay idle and look for job at the same time. It is our common concern – not only the Royal Government alone but also the society as a whole – to work for job creation and solve the problem of joblessness.
While greeting successful graduates, I am taking this opportune moment to express my sincere and high evaluation for the progress made from one stage to another of the Vanda Institute, as is reported by HE Heng Vanda. The Institute has now seven buildings with 178 classrooms, ten of which are lodgments for poor students. The Institute is building a new thirteen storey building with 144 classrooms. I am sure with this many storeys, the building will be equipped with elevator/s. We may imagine as to how much electricity would be consumed for running the lifts and air-conditioners.
This has significantly changed the Institute’s ability in providing human resources training in this expertise. I am sure you understand that it is to answer to demand for such need and development that the Royal Government, I may say it is my primary concern and endeavor, has made great efforts for more electric power to be generated. Days ago I went to Pursath province to oversee the construction of the hydroelectric power plant at Atay, where 120 MW of electricity will be generated and put into operation in 2013. We may solemnly declare that Cambodia is passing the time when they had to use kerosene, tree sap and animal fat for lighting.
It is still fresh in my memory that when we first came to Phnom Penh after the liberation of January 7, 1979, among the nine essential items that the state provided for the government officials, kerosene was one of them. Without electricity, it was for lighting during night. The state then subsidized all nine items. No matter how high their prices in the market could be, we provide them at stable price to the state employees. There may be some still applying those materials to light up night, but a report has been filed that some 50% of Cambodian villages in the whole country has access to electric power for their consumption needs. Those who do not have access to electric lines are also using car battery to provide lighting power too.
I must say based on this development that from day to day more efforts need to be made to develop hard infrastructure – roads, bridges, ports, airports, electricity, etc. and soft infrastructure – legal tools, procedures, human resource development, etc. Institutional and human capacity building is a key to achieve the goal of development. Without human resources, it is impossible to talk about development. You may have remembered my argument that it may not be the case that a country with an abundance of natural resources is rich, while the country may not be judged to be poor without them.
According to my experience, in order to address the country’s development, we need to have two critical factors – correct policy and human resource. Take for instance, Cambodia has got mineral resources, but without human resources and/or peace, let alone the correct policy, we could not expect to change its status. It is clearly seen in our history that because of incorrect policy, the country had gone through a long time of backwardness full of tragedies, destructions and deaths.
What on earth did they launch the coup against the Sangkum Reastniyum? That was a political mistake. The regime was replaced by the Khmer Republic. It was even more correct to say that peace was replaced by war. Some may argue that there was some peace at the time. I would argue that it was an unstable peace. My first reason is that there were constantly increasing bombardment along the Cambodian-Vietnamese border by the US and the South Vietnamese forces. This is what I term unstable peace. Secondly, though it was true that inside the country, there were what we call the Khmer Rouge, White, Blue, Pink movements who were threats to political stability, it was still better than the whole country was plunged into war that started on March 18, 1970.
It is a remarkable political mistake committed by the Lon Nol clique, but it was even worse those made by the Pol Pot clique. They put out a policy to evacuate the city population from urban areas to achieve their ultimate goal to liquidate ownership. They claimed that the rich could not take with them their factories, cars, etc. They could not use them in the society without market and cash, even if they brought with them gold and diamond. Their last vision of killing the people became the worst. As is known to everyone, peace was smashed and we had to work so hard to get back these days.
Well for those of you below 40 years old, it may be hard to understand and believe what were happening then. However, you may find out those hard lives under the Pol Pot’s regime from your parents and/or grandparents. The Polpotists were against even children. They gave us meager food to eat but demanded that we gave them back more waste matter to be used as fertilizer. I would not make any comments on those who stand trial but I find it unbelievable of what they had to say about their actions and regimes. Well what I wanted all of you to see is that we need to have a correct policy so as to advance our nation as advancing our nation would not solely depend on natural abundance.
As you can see now the case of Cambodia, though we have so many things, no good things did we achieve after repeated political mistakes committed. In about 16 years after the independence from France, war broke out and followed by the genocide. We have made so many efforts for the country to revive. As was shown on TV, the spectacle of Youth in the Cause of Motherland depicted life when the country was liberated on January 7, 1979. I was among those people. I had my children in my arms and my wife sat by us. We counted number of bicycles that ran pass our house. As of present, there are more motorcycles and cars than we could count.
Incorrect policy would bring about retardation of development process. It can be said also that such mistake would result in every other mistake. I used to mention Singapore, a country where there is not even sufficient drinking water for consumption, has become one of the rich countries because they have abundance of human resources. Cambodia has gone through two different stages of human resource development. Starting in 1979, Cambodia gathered together human resources that were left from the Pol Pot’s killing to start working and retraining inside and outside the country. I also came to the School of Teachers’ Training here in the past to give lecture.
I would urge all concerned in the Institute to continue to work for the improvement of qualification because the quality of training and education will decide how useful a graduate could be and answer to demand for qualified workforce. Without qualification, one would find it difficult to get a job either in the state or private sector. It is very encouraging that the Institute is aware of this fact and has recruited able and qualified professors, as well as has equipped with modern teaching tools.
I noted also, on the Cambodian Television Network (CTN), HE Heng Vanda was invited to speak on issue of debt and I also received a copy of his report on debt status of about 100 countries, in which Cambodia ranks 72nd. It was so interesting to see from the report that in Southeast Asia, Singapore ranks among the first in the biggest national debt. I was surprised to see that. Among the 100 countries studied, the one with no foreign debt is Brunei Darussalam. It should be noted that there are two forms of debt – local and foreign. Cambodia has only foreign debt. We do not have local debt.
There was a time that I decided to put a hold on selling treasury bonds as I noted that the sale was barely enough to pay debt. Now that we are in the process of putting into operation the stock exchange, let’s deal with it as it comes. The national debt ratio to the GDP has to be below 40%. As for Cambodia, both previous and current debts, which also include those to the former Soviet Union and Russia, are standing at 29%. Judging from the above norm, we could negotiate the debt within the margin of 11% more.
Cambodia’s economy is having impacts from the current debt situation in Europe and the US economic crisis. They have posed many challenges on our economy, despite its growth. We depend on these countries for markets. When these countries faces problems, we also have problem in exporting our products to these markets too. I should inform you that as far as the market in Europe is concerned, we could export everything, except weapons, to their markets with no-import tax. However, we have reason to concern about that as one country after another – Greece, Spain, Portugal and even one of the G8 countries, Italy – falls into debt crisis. There is still ongoing tension as far as the newly proposed European Union treaty is concerned.
As far as the Cambodian economy is concerned, we are now waiting for the evaluation of the agricultural sector. However, roughly, according to HE Chan Sarun, Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, despite severe flooding in 2011, Cambodia is still acquiring a surplus of over 4 million metric tons of paddy or about 2.5 million metric tons of milled rice. We canceled the water festival’s boat race because of the flood but we observed that number of tourists arriving in Cambodia has increased and so has our export. It has been noted that there has been an increase of over 30% in industry and a positive trend is also noted on the construction sector.
It should be noted that despite flooding in 2011 that destroyed some 260,000 hectares of rice field, of which only 60,000 hectares survived, we could still secure the surplus of 4 million metric tons of paddy rice. This has ensured Cambodia’s ability to cope with rice demand almost every year. No one would dare go into contract while you have rice in one year and are not sure in the following year. People sell rice to neighboring countries because we do not have milling capacity. We have no better option for that. If there were to be more investments in this field, we may expect more capital to purchase rice, more jobs to provide to our people, and more secondary products such as rice bran and husks to produce animal feeds too.
The Cambodian economic growth in the year 2011 has been predicted to be around 7%. As last year we had a contribution of 4.5% from Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, this 2011 growth is still waiting for final figures from the sector in April 2012. As I mention earlier though the agricultural growth will not be negative since export of rubber has gone up 50% already. We have three different predictions – IMF, World Bank ad Asian Development Bank, and each is giving different figure. However, we hope that each one will not bring us too much joy or too much sadness.
Today I have some messages to make. First I would like to respond to certain non-governmental organizations (NGOs) concerning the draft Law on Associations and NGOs. If I can remember, HE Sar Kheng, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Interior, has brought this issue for consultation four times already and the number of chapters and articles have also been brought down. I also raise my recommendation to HE Sar Kheng to continue to discuss the issue.
It seems they have gone a bit too far in their demands in the article 4 of the law. Let me clarify to you that the Royal Government is giving high appreciation on activities of all Associations and NGOs and considering them to be an important part of national development in all sectors. They have done so much to contribute to the national development using both local and international financial sources. The Royal Government understands the necessity of their partnership in all aspects, except in the field of national security matter. Saying that does not mean we do not allow them to work with the military sector but on the contrary allow them to provide the armed forces with training on various issues.
Some NGOs have provided training on issue of democratization, human rights, election and the electoral process, rights protection for children, human trafficking, protection of the vulnerable, etc. Some even went straight into providing training in agricultural activities and/or seeds. We also noted that in time of flooding some NGOs rushed in to join with the Royal Government, local authorities and the Cambodian Red Cross in providing assistance to those affected by the natural calamity. Various associations have also been involved – the Women Association, the Youth Association, etc. The Royal Government recognizes partnership and will continue to collaborate with them.
Let me now clarify that if there is no consensus reached on the draft law, there is no need to rush it. It has been discussed years now, and we almost reach the end of 2011 too, if more time is needed for further discussion, let it be. If we cannot wrap it up in 2012, let’s go on to 2013 or 2014 and on. This country has been without it for 33 years now. Some have gone to extremes to have no law at all. Let me clarify that there are two choices. Firstly, we must have a law and this law must be relevantly applicable without becoming a hindrance to any process of the associations and NGOs. The law is not for putting pressure on any NGOs.
As far as the Article 4 is concerned, I never saw the draft but I learnt about it from the press in my IPad, it seems there is a disagreement on whether an association should have alliance with another or not. Maybe we should let them do so if they wish for that so as to take away the problem. I would urge they reach a consensus before bringing it to the Cabinet’s meeting. In fact the law has come to the Cabinet’s meeting once already but I instructed it to be returned for more discussion.
Secondly, there is no need to go for this law and there is a need to take away the Article 42 of the Constitution. Let’s think about this. What we are doing is not a violation of the Constitution. If we do not have this law, we do not need to maintain the article 42 of the Constitution or to make amendment to it. The article 42 stipulates that “Cambodian citizens shall have the right to establish associations and political parties. These rights shall be determined by law. Cambodian citizens may take part in mass organizations for mutual benefit to protect national achievements and social order.”
I am of the opinion that NGOs may need to import, for example, materials for humanitarian purpose as a non-profit making organizations. We need to allow them to bring in for giving out to people. They would need to seek tax exemption or tax to be covered by the state. With what do we use to certify that or to register, since they do not want themselves to be known as NGOs? Now I would like to affirm that it is in their interest to go for the law and the Royal Government is not rushing into it. We may at certain stage request those of you in the NGOs to draft a law and send it to the Royal Government. They may also suggest what article should be revised and amended to the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, who co-chair the drafting of this law.
As Prime Minister I assure you that and no one could put pressure on me to send the draft law to the National Assembly. I will keep it. We have come without the law for 33 years so we can wait a little more. However, I hope there would not be comments that such a law is needed immediately. Doing so means we have to remove the Article 42 of the Constitution.
The second message I wish to send out today concerns the declaration of associations relating to the communal councilors who will cast their votes for the Senate members (in non-universal elections via proportional electoral system). I received this information from various sources and I see that it is no different to what we had happened in 2007, when in the district of Joeng Prey of Kompong Cham, communal councilors of the Sam Rainsy Party were made to swear twice and their mobile phones were taken away. This year they are made to swear only once (on the evening of January 28, 2012) but in the whole country their councilors will be ordered that their phones be removed.
I think I should bring this up for the human rights organizations and those of you who work in relation to issues of democracy and human rights to figure out if you have anything to say on this. This has shown that they are concerned that perhaps some of their councilors, even some of their National Assembly members, might not vote for their Party. What would some people who used to talk about human rights, freedom of expression and speech, have to say about this development? In the past, there was this rumor that the CPP is holding their members up for swearing. I must affirm to you that such an act is not within the leadership principle of the Party.
I also have thought about how those councilors and members of the said Party would think and react. What do you think of your leaders when you are told to swear to vote for the Party and your mobile phones are confiscated? As for the CPP voters, I am sure if their leaders were to do so, they would not vote for the Party at all. If they could not give votes to other party, they may just choose abstention. They may say it is their party’s internal affairs. I am sure though they know too well that it is something to do with human rights, a universal issue and not an affair of any particular party. I hope the leader of the SRP will reconsider their approach.
I will head to Svay Rieng province to preside over the graduation at the Svay Rieng University. Prior to the 33th anniversary of the January 7 victory day, there will be a number of activities. On January 2, 2012, I will be traveling to Vietnam to preside over the inauguration of the memorial monument of 49 fallen Cambodian combatants who had been buried in Vietnam soil because until now we could not account for their relatives. I will give a speech giving some facts about how I came to Vietnam for help and how to go about forming a United Front for National Salvation Armed Forces. Accompanied by senior officials of the Royal Government and the Armed Forces, I will be visiting and paying them our respects.
From the Vietnamese side, the Prime Minister and their senior officials will also be present. Some of you who have graduated today may be older than when I was (organizing struggle movement against the Pol Pot’s regime). I was only 25 years old then. I became foreign minister when I was 27 years old. As we approach the anniversary, I wish to reveal to you all a new achievement – the 7 January overpass at the Pet Lok Sang junction. The overpass will be inaugurated on January 6./.
Selected Extempore Comments during the Graduation and Diploma Presenting Ceremony for the Vanda Institute Specialized in Accounting, Auditing and Taxation