I am glad to join with all of our Buddhist monks, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, on this graduation and diploma presenting ceremony of the Human Resource University (HRU) for its 1794 graduates. The report of the HRU’s leader, once again has taken our attention to the development of the HRU, which has in fact started as a non-governmental organization. The progress made concerning the development of human resource here witnesses the share that HRU contributed and the growing relations HRU has with other institutions as partner. It is indeed my pleasure to see that we have assured expansion of education with the help of the private sector.
Yesterday, I watched an interview on local TV, I can’t remember which one, with a rector of the University from New York. He made it clear in his speech that that he decided to invest in education in Cambodian university is because of my appeal in 1993 for the private sector to take part in human resource training. It seems that we have now reaped the good result of the policy. We now have up to over 100 tertiary education institutions that provide further education and training for tens of thousands of our people. You can see that in HRU alone, for the school year of 2013/14, we have recorded some 6,500 students already.
It is impressive, according to the report, that 89.29% of graduates with a bachelor and 99% of graduates with a master have enjoyed the work opportunity. It is worth noting also that 12.89% of bachelor-degree holders and 39% of master-degree holders have gone on the path of self-employment. It is so encouraging to see that these graduates do not seek to be hired by state of companies but to become entrepreneurs who would provide jobs for thousands of others. As you can see, so far, there have been a practice where businessmen or well-to-do families send their kids for education abroad, and upon their returns those kids engage promptly and directly into their businesses.
Ending War with Three Messages
The rector of HRU, Dr. Ek Monosen, believed it all thanks to the ending of war. With war, there would not be development but destruction. There would not be healthy economy. It is very lucky that we have ended the war and immediately started to work for development of the country. I may bring this issue up for the sake of seeing through the past. When I welcomed Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea (Khmer Rouge leaders) at my house at Takhmao in Kandal province, some came out and criticized me. I should note here that the whole cabinet (of the so called Democratic Kampuchea) including Head of State, Prime Minister, President of the National Assembly, Deputy Prime Ministers and Ministers came to the house of the incumbent Prime Minister, who definitely ended the war, a fruitful win-win policy originated from Oral area (of Kompong Speu).
In early 1996, we promoted the win-win policy with the lower level (power structure of the Khmer Rouge) that led to the isolation of their leaders. They had nothing to resort to but to come to Hun Sen. Could I not give them a meal? In the course of meeting them, I had intended to send three messages – firstly, to the remaining Khmer Rouge fighters under the command of the late Ta Mok to cease fighting because their leaders had come to see me at home already. Secondly, to the Cambodian people that the war that started in 1970 saw its end when these Khmer Rouge leaders came to see me at home. Thirdly, with the war ended, to international community that Cambodia is now a place suitable for investment and tourist destination.
However, some foreign specialists criticized me for receiving those criminals at home. I rebuked their remark with my argument: “Don’t you forget that in 1980s and 1990s it was you guys who issued diplomatic visas for Khieu Samphan and Son Sen. You laid a nice red carpet for them.”
I may have to remind you that HE Boutros Boutros-Ghali, former Secretary General of the United Nations, who later came to visit Cambodia and met with Khieu Samphan in his new capacity as Secretary General of Francophonie, many had blamed him. I could recall that in the meeting between members of the Supreme National Council and then Secretary General of the United Nations, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Khieu Samphan said to him that international community would not recognize the elections. HE Boutros Boutris-Ghali responded: “what international community, you just said it yourself.”
Genocidal Regime Not Said
For the Paris Peace Agreement, my demand to include the word genocidal regime in the agreement dragged the negotiation for months. I then visited Japan. Japan mobilized me to withdraw the word I proposed: “to prevent the return of the genocide.” Then Japanese Deputy Foreign Minister Hisashi Owada, later President of Judges of the ICJ (International Court of Justice in The Hague from 2009 through to 2012) and I took some seven hours of negotiation till about 2 am the next day just on one phrase. He assured me: “Pol Pot is to be tried definitely but if we mention it openly in the agreement, other faction would not agree.” It was then that a substitute clause came in: “to prevent the recent past actions.”
It was because of this story that I always have it compared to a Cambodian slogan: “when the buffalo eat rice, I dare not chase it out. When the buffalo walked out on its own, surely I will chase it for you.” When the Khmer Rouge was strong, everyone just let them go. When we weakened them politically and militarily, everyone now steps out and shouts about there is a need to bring them to justice. On this fact, I said in the course of the negotiation of the Paris Peace Agreement that the most suitable place for the Khmer Rouge leaders was not in the Supreme National Council but in the International Court of Justice. No one dared agree with that. Now they talked more than Hun Sen about bringing them to justice.
In fact, if Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge organization agreed to join the elections, the Khmer Rouge could have become a legal political party already. What else could one do then? According to the Paris Agreement, there is no mentioning about bringing the Khmer Rouge (leaders) to justice at all. It allows the Khmer Rouge to join the elections. However, because of its wrong decision, the Khmer Rouge became an outlaw. This should explain partly how hard it was to secure peace for the country. If we travel back in time, we would see the war, fighting and then the Pol Pot’s regime. On April 16, I got my eye maimed one day before the liberation of the country on April 17, 1975.
Phone Conversation on Electoral Reform
Today I think I need to bring up an issue, which the press already has your attention, for those of our people who have been waiting for information. Yesterday there was a meeting between HE Sam Rainsy and me over the phone. After numerous negotiations conducted and arranged by HE Prom Sokha of CPP and HE Son Chhay of the CNRP and a number of meetings thereafter between HE Sar Kheng (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior) and HE Sam Rainsy, an issue needs to be sorted out relating to the election date, which is part of the electoral reform. The press reported that the conversation went on for 40 or 45 minutes. According to my record keeping, it was 44 minutes and 20 seconds.
HE Sam Rainsy’s intention to meet me was top resolve some issues. I arrange for him to have my phone number so that he could call me. We talked about various issues covered by the negotiating team so far. We also came to this issue of election date. He brought up the issue that on 16 September 2013, during the meeting and negotiation of the two political parties, I talked about adjusting the election date from the month of July to the month of January (of the same year). I let him finished what he had to say. They I responded: “yes, I did say that regarding the timing of the election and electoral registration.” However, I did not mention about (suggesting the election date moved to) January, I have my recorded speech.
Still, as far as the month to hold election and registration are concerned, we can discuss since they are topics of interest. Voting day in July can be an issue to reschedule because July is the start of rainy season. People are getting busy with their cultivation. As far as voter registration is concerned, we normally do it in October and you may still remember that in 2011, I had to request to the National Election Committee to extend the registration period for flood incident in certain areas. In the summit on 16 September 2013, CNRP proposed to reform only the NEC. I then said that we should reform the elections. NEC is just one of the issues in the whole election thing.
We spent time discussing on two main issues. One relates to the organization of the electoral institution, issues of media also included. However, the main issue that consumed the most time of the conversation was a draft of the Agreement, the signing of which would have to have a national flag standing in the table in between the flags of the two Parties. I may ask HE Sam Rainsy to please understanding the need for me to share yesterday’s conversation with our people. As for the voting month, I suggest that we should try neither to mess up with the Khmer New Year nor to take place in the rainy season. We could either pin the second week of May or moved it further back to January or February or March.
HE Sam Rainsy said people would not have finished their harvests yet in January. However, it was good of him to think of one thing. He suggested the New Year time because people who migrated for jobs in foreign countries could return for New Year and join the election. I asked him the Khmer New Year or International New Year. He said the Khmer New Year. That would correspond to the date proposed by the Cambodian People’s Party for the second week of May, because we need to let our people enjoy the New Year first and the electoral campaign would start thereafter. We would need to discuss further if the campaign should take a 30 days period or less. He then resorted to say the month of February that Samdech just mentioned seems to suit better.
There came another issue – the communal council election, which would happen in June. It is not distant enough from the national election. Since we are talking about reforming the elections, I said, we should set the date for two elections right away. We should set the communal election for February 2017 and the national election for February 2018. We have a space of one year in between. I then suggested that he wrote down what we had agreed. Point one, the communal election is to be held in February 2017, and point two, the general election is to be held in February 2018. As we have come to verbal agreement as such, I then proceed to paper work. I told him I would have HE Prom Sokha coming right way to prepare the paper work and would pass to HE Son Chhay.
He then said HE Son Chhay left for Australia already. He said that that was what we had agreed but he needed time to bring it for consultation with HE Kem Sokha, who was in America. HE Sam Rainsy said he would ask HE Kem Sokha to come (to Cambodia) in time for (the signing of the agreement on) April 11. I then said the date he suggested on April 11 fell on Friday, which is a good date. We would need to request for an audience with HM the King probably at nine o’clock in the morning. I also asked him to convince HM Kem Sokha on that matter.
Will There Be An Agreement or Not, Kem Sokha’s False
Taking this chance, I would ask involved parties not to make any statement that is contrary to the points that we have agreed. Both sides must have recorded the conversation and I would urge some not to act themselves more extremist on behalf of Sam Rainsy. If ever the agreement will not happen, it is not a mistake from the part of Hun Sen or the Cambodian People’s Party or Sam Rainsy or his working team, but from the sole part of Kem Sokha. I do not wish to see anyone acts or speaks wrong of this development. As of yesterday, I still did not lose hope. After a few communications with HE Sar Kheng, he told me that HE Kem Sokha did not agree with the development. I did not accept it as formal. However, the fact that there is disagreement between President and the Vice President of the party, that is beyond my comprehension.
Things to Consider Regarding Rescheduling Election
With regard to the communal council election, in fact we also organized the first election in February 2002. Later, they rescheduled the date because of the organization of the Senate election. We also need to reschedule, in the above instance, the election of the Senate either to early or late 2016. The issue relates to the Constitution that IK urge HE Bin Chhin (Deputy Prime Minister) who leads the CPP negotiating team on electoral reform, to figure it out. If we had to move the election schedule to February, it means the election would happen five months before the set date. However, the weather is better and people are on a short break from their cultivation.
The Constitution’s article 78 stipulates that the National Assembly has a mandated term of five years and cannot dissolve prior to the date, unless it dissolved the Royal Government twice within a period of twelve months. According to this article, the term of the Royal Government would be until September – as the election law requires that the elections hold every five years on a Sunday of the fourth week of July, plus a formation period of sixty days. So, to have the election held in February instead, five month early, what should we do? Shall there be dissolution of the National Assembly? May HE Bin Chhin look into the issue of possible review of the article 78 (of the Constitution).
The One They Demanded to Step Down Is the One They Needed the Most
I hope that HE Sam Rainsy would not have any hard feeling to what I have just said. He said to me yesterday, “Samdech, we are old now, we should do good for our people.” I think we agreed on the issue since the summit meeting of April 16/17. I said I liked that very much Excellency. Our problem has always been the fact that we always have nice words to say when we meet each other, but when we walk out, scolding starts and we know who always do that. He said it was like that because there was not an agreement yet. It was in a campaign stage. I said if we could avoid scolding each other, we should. We need to create confidence because we will have to sit down working with each other. Finally, the one they demanded to step down is the one they needed the most.
In reality, as far as this problem is concerned, Samdech (Chea Sim) President of the Cambodian People’s Party gives me the power to see the matter through. After the meeting, we have a team consisting of HE Say Chhum, Sar Kheng, Bin Chhin, Men Sam An, etc. to conduct meeting along with the flow, and I had my instruction written on the various documents they sent to me on that matter. We have come this far, should (HE Sam Rainsy) let HE Kem Sokha veto the deal, I think it would be a disappointment. As for the Cambodian People’s Party, the Central Committee carries out the CPP’s work between a Party congress and another. Between the congresses of the Central Committee, the permanent committee will take the stage.
On Khmer New Year 2014
In 1975, it was during the Khmer New Year that war raged out. People could not celebrate New Year as the Khmer Rouge forces came into the city of Phnom Penh. Now we have the chance to celebrate New Year. I hope that our people are welcoming the New Year with joy and happiness. It is a good thing weeks before the New Year, early rain fell almost everywhere in the country. It lessened the fact of blowing dust but at the same time kept the green grass growing for animals.
I would once again appeal to our people on the Khmer New Year to welcome the New Year, while observing the sacrifices of the Cambodian armed forces – army, police, military police, who fulfill their missions either at the border or at the road junctions. Physicians also have had to be on a permanent duty to take care of the sick and accident-caused casualty. I also wish in my letter a prosperous New Year to our people, the armed forces, the peacekeeping forces on mission in South Sudan, Lebanon and Mali, and the civil servants as well as the Buddhist monks. The same wish goes to those people of ours residing in foreign countries and diplomats in the Year of Horse 2558 by the Lunar calendar./.