Peace and Development, Otherwise Instability and Destruction

I am so pleased to be able to meet with professors and students of the Western University today. We will have a diploma presenting ceremony together. I have noticed that more and more universities have chosen the Exhibition Centre of Koh Pich for their graduation and diploma presenting ceremony taking into consideration that there are more and more people attending their ceremonies. Mr. Te Norin, rector of the Western University, already clarified in his report about the progress made in the university. In fact, we have today 2,330 graduates – most of who have either found jobs or created ones for themselves – to be presented with diplomas. It is also a remarkable note to keep that 70% of those in pursuit of their studies also are carrying out life of work and study together.

I am grateful for the report on the University’s efforts and progress, especially its connection to the national development in general. It is impossible to talk about progress that has no link with peace and development. War and the regime of genocide almost had our country completely destructed. It is a true story. In those days, who could have opened schools? We could not do even primary level, not to mention the tertiary level of education. We used burned charcoal or clay as chalk to teach. Worse of all, teaching even to your own kids was not allowed. For further reason, who would invest in operating a school while the country was under war?

You can have a practical example from the war in Gaza in the Middle East. The Israeli infantry forces started intruding Gaza after their heavy attacks from air. Even the school run by the United Nations was among the destruction from the fight. There are countless examples of regions where instability and war cause consequences. It has been years now that they talked about the Arab Spring or revolution of this or that color. Now it has become a curse. Look, what happened in Libya after removing Muammar Gaddafi? Could there be anything else aside from the Western nations abandoning them? They moved out diplomatic missions, evacuated their citizens, etc. After taking life of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, what does it do to the country? In Egypt, what has it achieved?

It is more so Ukraine. Now it is war in Ukraine. In fact, war in Europe should have ended since the end of World War II. Now they pointed fingers at one another for the downing of the Malaysian flight MH 17. These should clarify the connection between peace and development.

Win-win Policy Creates Peace and Development

Our country has made a long journey gradually away from the regime of Pol Pot. We had come to various stages of political settlement and peace finally thanked to the formulation and implementation of win-win policy. With peace in place, we have allowed our people from all walks of life to enjoy peace. Henceforth they engage energetically in development in all fields, human resource development is a real example here. As far as our efforts and achievements are concerned, we have replaced a situation where we had only one junior college in one district throughout the country with one in every commune. With this, we have ensured that our people could at least finish their nine-year basic education.

Practically, we have done a great job to move schools closer to people. We have created ample facility for education for people in remote areas. We have been successful in putting a stop to female students dropping off schools for distance from their homes. It is for your information that we have more than one junior secondary in a district. In some case, there are up to seven or eight. Tomorrow, there will be high school exam and in some places exam is affected by flooding of the Mekong river. HE Hang Chuon Naron, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports will be busy in getting thing under control. Affected by flood is no way comparable to by war. Cambodia needs a long lasting peace and stability.

Credit Transference/Adjustment

I would like to take this opportune moment to express my sincere appreciation for the university – rector Te Norin, professors and management from both inside and outside the country for doing a great job here. It has shown clearly that we now have more foreign citizens taking positions not only in teaching but also in other professions, sports for example. The other day, from live TV program of a football match between the Boeng Ket Rubber Plantation team and Phnom Penh Crown, I noticed a foreign player that brought two shots to the Phnom Penh Crown goalkeeper. You may want to ask if they would have come to work if our country was at war. We all should see this.

It is my appreciation to have learnt from Mr. Te Norin about the chance that the University has created for local students to go and study in the United States without having to downgrade their levels. I also talk to HE Hang Chuon Naron about our grading system. As we have many rectors from various universities here today, I would suggest you help look into this matter. For example, we have done that with Malaysia. They downgraded our student’s levels. Example, students who finished high school in Cambodia, could not go straight to their universities. There has also this case that in tertiary education, some, who had two years in their subject at local university had had to lose at least one year in their continuing education abroad.

I have two sons whom I sent to study in one of the best French school –  Lycée Militaire de SaintCyr. When they transferred to the US, they had to go down one year. However, when he got his degree in the US, he did not have to go down anymore when transferring to Australia. Now that the Western University has achieved this with the US, I think it is great. While the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports could not achieve that, and the private University could, I have nothing else to say but great. In the case of my son, perhaps it could be because he did not meet the English language criteria as he studied in France. He might have to go through one year for English proficiency. I am sure that our students’ English level is high enough.

I am so thankful to the University for making 20 scholarships available on my behalf annually. Today, more than 20 of them have come to collect their diplomas. The University offered scholarships to me and I gave them to those who should have them to come and study in the Western University. I also thank the University for making available some of their voluntary students to take part in the land measuring and titling program, which is part of new action in existing policies on land ownerships.

Thian Vuthy – Self-Declared Maitreya (Future Buddha)

We seem to have Buddhist monks here too. I am sorry to have not seen you first. I should have offered my respect and blessing to you first. The Buddhist monks must not raise their hands to salute a normal person. There is this story in Kandal province where Buddhist monks raised their two hands to salute a normal person, who self-declared a Maitreya or future Buddha. Do I see Minister of Cult and Religion, HE Min Khin, here? Yes. Please follow this matter up. You always close the stable after the horse already escaped. I do not understand, even the King salutes Buddhist monks, and why Buddhist monks salute a normal person. It is hard to understand. How could this happen in the 21 century?

The Maitreya fled. How could he not flee? Handcuff knows no Maitreya. The authority has now applied the American standard in handling suspects. Their way of doing it is first getting control over the suspect before placing handcuffs. We call it American standard. They got suspects down and stepped over before cuffing. Nobody cares to say a thing about violation of human rights. At the time of the US Federal Government shutdown, members of Congress came out shutting down the streets. They all are incumbent members of Congress with immunity. They cuffed them. Who says anything about that? I think the authority learns it from the US, as what they do is always right. I do not mean to mock them.

Take for instance the situation in the Middle East. It seems to be going out of control. After the war in Iraq and tense situation in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and recently in Syria – where many foreign forces went for war, now those forces in Syria have turned to Iraq. According to the geographical setup there, between Damascus (Syria) and Baghdad (Iraq) – I am trying to figure out the geographical condition where, a part of Syria and of Iraq combined could have born a new (caliphate) state. In that case, the autonomous region of Kurdistan could face a chance of becoming another country of its own.

As far as the situation in Libya is concerned, it is hard to predict how the country would come out of the current state of problem. I am quite worried of the situation as everyone involved acquires missiles that can reach over ten kilometers. The world seems to be in an arms race. It is so obvious. In our region, there are also problems. We should try to resolve them peacefully.

Human Resource – Key to Socio-Economic Development

Please allow me to express my appreciation for the efforts made by graduates in their studies. Their achievements would not only answer to their personal developments but also correspond to the country’s need. A country would be able to develop only when it is at peace, stability and other variables, of which human resource is the key. There is no other alternative. It is now the time that knowledge and knowhow economy play very critical role. Next year, 2015, the ASEAN Economic Community will be here. There will be free flow of goods, human and services. We need to seek for and create chance for ourselves.

As far as foreign investment is related, we may have learnt now, there is tremendous demand for human resource. Take for instance the AEON Market/Mall. As soon as investors thought of investing in the markets, they were concerned of how to find human resource to run a smooth market operation. I told them that there have been many Cambodians graduating from local universities and they should recruit and provide them with training. Many companies have expressed clearly they would want locals not those labors from foreign countries. There is then a clear demand for us to provide our people with training to answer to the need of local market. As integration approaches, I am sure the water will shed to low-lying field.

As long as Cambodia has good workers, I am sure they will be able to find works even outside the country. Workers from other countries too may not want to come for jobs outside their countries unless the companies need them for some special expertise. Salary is also a major factor. It is true that they pay low salary in our country but compared to Bangladesh, where I conducted a visit to their processing zone for exports recently, with a Japanese national making a welcoming speech, their pays are lower than in Cambodia. While our workers earn a minimum of 100 USD per month, in Bangladesh workers earn only 65 USD to 70 USD. We are not satisfied with this though. We are looking for ways to make it even better for our workers.

Crisis in America and Europe, BRICS

Study is a thing that needs to continue. It should not end when you achieve a certification of a study program. There is no end to it. As you can imagine, technology and world or regional situation has made innovation around the clock. Who could have imagined about the economic crisis and slowdown in America and Europe in 2008. No one had predicted that. It was easier to deal with what happened in 1997 that we called the Asian economic crisis because in those days China and India were not affected by it. On the other hand, their firm stands also helped markets in Asia.

I made a comparison that the 1997 Asian economic crisis was no different to a sheep fell dying on elephants’ feet. However, for the 2008 world financial crisis and economic slowdown, it was like a falling dead elephant and on to the sheep. In 1997, while helping Asia, China also lent a hand to regional and world economy. As a developing country, we are glad to welcome the creation of a new financial institution – BRICS, where the five architecting states – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are pooling fund together. Their cooperation would help eventually size down the degree of dependency on some monopole financial institutions, while augmenting development pace of poor and developing countries.

Now there is this other initiative to create another regional bank by China, South Korea and ASEAN countries. Its negotiation is underway. Cambodia will be one of the architecting members. China will work on this with South Korea. When it comes to being, we will have more than one bank to look for funding. That does not mean we are ignoring the role of the Asian Development Bank at all. BRICS – no matter how big it is, it will not play a replacing role to those of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. It will only give more power to weaker countries and reduce dependency to only one option.

University Should Have Own Think Tank

These matters would require a lot of analytical and critical thinking. If Cambodia at this time possesses ample human resource and can take part in such a bank, it would be great for us to take up our presence. We had two of our nationals working at Asian Development Bank and one as the deputy General Secretary of ASEAN. Now you can see that this is calling for continuing study. Developments of the world situation require that we are approaching and evaluating issues in a comprehensive manner. It would be great if every university could create a think tank of its own, whose analysis could feed into the flow of thought in the Royal Government.

You may notice that in Thailand, for a particular issue, there are sometimes more than ones group making analysis – Chulalongkorn or Thammasat University, for example. It would be helpful if a thought into enlarging the university’s role, as they have concentrated many learned, can lead to a think tank that will have a say and take position on relevant issues ranging from socio-economic to foreign policy.

The world situation seems to have changed a lot. We are not moving to a unipolar but a multipolar world. The former Soviet Union disappeared but Russia, China, India and Europe has become powerful nation/s in its own way. We have more and not only one powerful nation. This has brought us back almost to the time of cold war. As you can see, the game of punishing this or that country, arms race and sale has grown to a bigger size than what happened under the cold war era. It is owing to the fact that countries are making economic progress and getting richer, they have resorted to stockpiling their weapons, destroyers and aircrafts. I think the world spends more money on arms than in the time of cold war.

Geopolitics is changing while territorial disputes, terrorism and racial and religious issues broke out almost everywhere. Days before coming here, I attended the Islamic Feast of Breaking the Fast Ramadan of our Muslim community. I was so happy and proud of harmonization of races and religions in our country. We may belong to different faiths/religions but we never cause problem because of our religious tendency. We are proud to see that in any given ceremony in the Royal Palace, we always see participation from the various sects of Buddhism or Islam. We never have problem. There have countries in the region that Buddhism has gone into conflict with Islam or Islam to Christianity. I just hope that our country will continue in a harmonizing condition of politics, race and faiths.

Flood Relaxes and Recedes

Please allow me to say a few words about flood, which I already addressed once at the inauguration of the flyovers at Stoeng Meanjei. Judging from information given by HE Lim Kean Hor, Minister of Water Resources and Meteorology, the level of seasonal flood in Stoeng Treng, where it reached 11.56 meters, exceeding the emergency level at 10.70 meters, has lowered. Flood level in Kratie too has reached 22.50 meters, higher than the emergency flooding level at 22 meters. As of today, the flood will recede at Stoeng Treng province. We are expecting gradual recession in provinces lower down the Mekong River line. Beside seasonal Mekong flooding, we also have a number of provinces affected by heavy rain. In all, 13 provinces affected by the Mekong and rain flooding. The first wave of flood is gradually over.

We are also expecting the second wave of flooding, especially during the Prochum Ben Day. We have no way to know if the second one will happen. I may call on our people to take the most benefit from the first flooding. They should capture them in their reservoirs for dry season rice cultivation in case we will not have rain and flood as expected. There are roughly 25 storms a year and we just had 12 so far. I demand that our people keep being vigilant. They should for example not leave their children home without elderly attendance and study the weather before taking long travel on water. In times of flooding, we must also look out for poisonous animals that are looking for high ground too. Our people and authority have vast experiences in dealing with natural obstacles like this we still want to cut down lethal disaster for our people./.