“Elegant Rice Species”
I am so happy to be able to return once again to Pursat province where fifteen years ago on 18 March 2000 I was here for the groundbreaking ceremony of the National Road 56. Today we are here to launch another groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the National Road 55, which is running some 182 Kilometres. I am so joyful to see that from day to day we have put into operation various completed infrastructural achievements and opened new construction projects. That is what we call development. I could recall that from here in the year 2000 I also inaugurated a primary school and junior secondary school buildings. I also provided two additional school buildings making the whole school complex funded by me.
As for the people of the mountain of Kravanh (cardamom) I also had a good chat with them. I asked them in one of the worst drought-hit times of Cambodia at the village of Santre what sort of rice seed were they planting. The reply was about a hundred different species. It was a bad drought and my helicopter landed right here. The previous year rice cultivation was damaged by flood in the later part of the season. That had prompted people to grow a longer-term rice species. So their answers to my questions reflected their choices of various long-term rice species for the previous year incident.
As it was hit by drought, the chosen long-term rice species did not have sufficient water in the later part of the season leading to inability to produce seeds. That is to say because there was insufficient water, long-term rice species was instead impossible to give grain. I named it the “hidden rice species.” I then recommended people to use what I termed “elegant rice species” instead. I then provided water pump station with three pumping machines. The irrigation setup here has been to provide rain water first to people in Damnak Ampil, then to people in area nearer to Mong Russei (Battambang), and then to Jaret before it reaches to the lake of Tonle Sab.
Win-Win Policy Changes Situation
I also came to this part of the country and to this place. It was here that fighting was so serious. The Brigade 94 who withdrew from Thmar Da was stationed here in the mountain of Kravanh. I visited the army in 1990. We had Brigade 94 here and Brigade 95 in Pailin. You Virak, already deceased, then commander of brigade 95 was at Battambang with me but when I went back to Phnom Penh, he also did. It was the brigade 95 that we placed here to reinforce security in the area of the Mountain of Adhibadei. We also had Division 196 stationed at the lake of Komping Puoy.
However, the win-win policy has now changed everything. We do not have war anywhere anymore on our land. After UNTAC (the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia) withdrew, Cambodia was still a country divided in two. Before the Paris Peace Agreement, Cambodia was a country ruled by four factions. In between 1993 and 1998, Cambodia was still a divided country. It was our knowledge that this area of Veal Veng was a hard place to live in those times. After the integration of the remaining forces, we had established the district of Veal Veng. Later, we had had to figure out the connectivity as it was part of the win-win policy’s deal.
I set out the policy and led the implementation while making clear statement that it was not sufficient to launch administrative and political integration. It was even more important to have physical integration to immediately connect roads as well as education and health situation together. The people of Cambodia in every part of the country must benefit similar interest. It was difficult in those days not only in this area of Pursat. It was no different in Ratanakiri, Mondulkiri, Stoeng Treng, etc. as there were good roads to link together. There were so many initiatives but there no capital. We had to start somewhere with what I termed the frog-leap step.
Some cast me humiliation as far as frog-leap strategy was concerned. They said it was too slow. A frog’s leap now though reaches 182 Kilometers or about Cambodian distance measure of about two hundreds Yuoj. Long Bora, also demised, came to me and said he would make Phnom Penh another Geneva in three months. I asked him how could it be carried out and he said there were plenty of money in the World Bank, which he affirmed waiting to be given. I then asked how long would concrete need to dry? I made it clear to him that even if there were money no one could do such thing in three months. Take for instance this road, we now have money but it will take us 42 months to get it done.
As for this road there are many bridges – wooden and Bailey ones. I am recommending the Minister of Transports and Public Works Tram Iv Toek to gather all Bailey bridges and store them in safe place and good condition as we may have to redistribute them to other provinces to reassemble for small waterways. Since when the country achieved full peace, we have given priority to connectivity, which includes road systems that replace former dirt roads and elephant paths. Between here and area near to Thmar Da, there was only elephant path and a track of oxen carts. There was no even dirt road. In 2000, we came and the military engineering team built the road. The infantry engineering team then took over.
Culture of Dialogue
I am of gratefulness to our people as well as the armed forces of all factions for the supports they gave to my win-win policy. I also express my sincere thanks to those who support the culture of dialogue. There was no need for us to scold one another and/or consider one another enemy or opponent. The country requires reconciliation and no insult. There has not been a history of win-win policy in this world. Countries in wars continue to suffer without any ends in sight yet. Some started wars about the same time as Cambodia did and some at a later stage. However, they all seem to have yet ending them. They did not have win-win policy. Or in other word, they need person with the personality of Techo Hun Sen.
Factions are in the mood of winning over each other. That leads to continuing fighting. Cambodia does not do that. The policy to transform battlefield into marketplace or development zone has won major successes. Take for instance, now we are building road to the border with Thailand. We are not loading army to fight with them. Of course we are defending our territory. There is no doubt about it. However, it is also important to have economic relations between the two countries. We respect the borderlines. They need to do so too. And then we can live in an epoch that fighting to gain land is no more the command of time. We do not want their land and we will not let our land be taken from us.
As far as we know, on the Thai side they have already established the special economic zone opposite to Thmar Da area. It is on this note that building asphalted road through here would link up Pursat province into an economic connectivity and establishment of the region. We will have with this road constructed a two pronged economic relations between Pursat of Cambodia and Trat of Thailand. Would it not be a more favourable condition for us if we were to have reconciliation with good neighbours of rich economic, trade and investment relations? Friendliness and good neighbourliness are positive and better than conflict.
Cambodia-China’s Historic Meeting in Jakarta
About ten days ago, on 23 April, I met with HE Xia Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China in Jakarta. It was an historic meeting. It was my first meeting with President Xi out of either China or Cambodia. I had meetings with President Xi before either in China or Cambodia. I first met him in Cambodia in 2009 when he was Vice President of the PRC. This time we had a meeting in Jakarta. It was a historical meeting because 60 years ago, Samdech Preah Borom Ratanak Kaod Norodom Sihanouk met with the late Prime Minister Zhou Enlai of the PRC in the Asia-Africa Conference in Bandung, Indonesia. The meeting from 60 years ago started Cambodia and China relations. In the meeting of 60 years later, the leader of Cambodia who respects one China policy and promotion of Cambodia-China relations discussed (with the Chinese leader about) our next steps within the comprehensive strategic framework of the two countries.
Yesterday, HM the King and HM the Queen Mother returned safely from China after their medical checkups. It also shows clearly that the two countries have multi-tiered relationships. In the course of our meeting, we discussed issues relating to relations in the economic sector which covers also this aspect of infrastructural development that the Chinese friends are supporting. Take for instance the power generation in Pursat which provides and will provide electricity to other parts of the country and eventually bring the price of electricity down. We also have this irrigation system in many provinces, majorly Battambang, Svay Rieng, Prey Veng and Kompong Cham.
Cambodia and China also foster investment in other sectors such as education, health and human resource. What was even more important was that I appealed to President Xi to allow more rice imports from Cambodia. We had a quota of 10,000 tons per annum to export rice to China. I proposed to President Xi to purchase more than 10,000 tons of rice from Cambodia. I hope HE Ambassador here will bring this request to the attention of relevant institutions. Aside from rice, we also have corn, bean and various other crops. It is important to have market potential to promote production.
Silk Road Infrastructure Fund
I am so proud to have such meeting conducted. What was also important was, for us who benefit from the People’s Republic of China as mentioned by the Ambassador, the Silk Road or One Road One Economy. China does not ignore any neighbouring countries. Prior to the meeting of APEC, President Xi invited many countries – neighbouring and around China to Beijing to consult on the issue of connectivity. China announced its credit of 40 billion USD for the Silk Road Fund. I also expressed my sincere thank to China in that meeting and reiterated the fact that there have been so many projects so far while there was never sufficient fund to move them along.
I am glad and hope that when the Chinese friend places 40 billion USD as fund, projects will start moving. I noticed that many projects had been drawn on maps. When China announces it will put money in, along with the establishment in the making of the Asian Infrastructural Investment Bank, for which Cambodia is one of its founding members and has a share in it, together with other member countries, will certainly ensure its successful development. I would like to take this opportune moment to express Cambodia’s thank to the Government of the People’s Republic of China through HE Ambassador for the supports – in grant, in non-interest loan and in concessional loan together with its tangible investments.
China’s enterprises and companies always secure funding for investments either from own or from the Bank of China. It was in this remark that when the world had a bad economic down turn and financial crisis, Chinese enterprises in Cambodia were able to continue their projects at a normal pace. No projects were cancelled or postponed for the lack of capital at all.
The Chinese Financing Roads – Economic Efficiency Projects
I must say a few things about the supports rendered by the Chinese friends, without which it is impossible to have this road ready for construction at this time. The cost of building this road is more than 132 million USD financed by China and provided as counterpart fund by the Royal Government. The Royal Government has been providing counterpart funds to every construction projects, which include also impact of projects on people’s livelihood.
The Chinese Ambassador mentioned already about the various issues relating to the project to build this road. According to the figure provided by the Chinese embassy, the roads already constructed and that are under construction are 2,669 Kilometres. There are more in the figure provided to me by HE Sun Chanthol. Our Chinese friend also built numerous bridges – the Sekong bridge, the Prek Kadam bridge, the Prek Tamak bridge, The Prek Samraong at Takhmao bridge, the second bridge at Jroy Jangva and more.
When this road is built I have confidence that everyone in Pursat and other paces will benefit from it. The road is not done yet. We will have to build another 135 Kilometers from this road to the NR 48 to Koh Kong. We already conducted a feasibility study. One other road from here to Sam Lot will also commence soon as we already finalize the price tag. That is why I mentioned it to be a three pronged connectivity, by which people in Pailin will not have to travel in detour for their trip to Koh Kong. As you can see we have yet to link them all up. We need about 200 Kilometres more. When I said three pronged connectivity I mean the NR 55 will go to the border with Thailand and there will be two roads on its side – one of 135 Kilometres to connect to NR 48 at Smaj Meanjei and another to reach to Sam Lot to the Exit 400.
We have more ideas as long as we can find money to fulfil them. China promises funding and we have had to make good project proposal. China has been adhering to a different approach compared to some other countries. China respects Cambodia’s decision. Whatever Cambodia wanted to do as long as it is economically efficient, since the time of former Prime Minister Zhu Rongji from 1999 to 2002, it would be up to the Cambodians. In this remark, we will submit the remaining road projects here – in 2017 to Sam Lot and 2019 to Koh Kong – to our Chinese friend.
We will need to take one step at a time and according to the state budget ability. China has got so many countries to help in the region as well as in Africa. China has been doing its best to develop itself while also assisting many countries including Cambodia. My sincere thank to the Ministries of Transports, Economy and Finance and relevant authorities for their assistances in this groundbreaking ceremony to construct the NR 55.
Wind Gust Intervention
I have two issues to remind you. Firstly, the rainy season has started. There has been sporadic rain all over the country. However, along with this, we need to pay attention on wind gust that occurs everywhere. According to the weather forecast by the Ministry of Water Resource and Meteorology, the country will experience the wind gust for another one a half month. The wind had brought down over 100 houses that we built for our soldiers. According to the statistics I have here the wind had collapsed over 1,000 homes throughout the country. I may advise that wherever the armed forces station, relief assistance must be carried out immediately for people who suffer natural calamity. Please do not await the Cambodian Red Cross.
The Cambodian Red Cross will definitely be responsible in its work to provide relief but a rapid assistance to relieve them from disaster will lie on the armed forces – the army, police and military police wherever they station. Their mission may include rescuing them from danger and repairing homes. Different level authorities will have to take relevant responsibility. The Ministry of Health will have to focus on impacts that require its expertise such as sickness or injuries. Cambodia should consider less disaster prone compared to other. Take for instance in Nepal, the earthquake recently took no less than 10,000 lives. Typhoon always had the Philippines battered every year. They also went through China and Vietnam. There are some 27 typhoons per year. In 2009, the Ketsana typhoon hit Cambodia too.
Nailing Prices of Agricultural Produces
Secondly, there has been collusion to nail a low price for agricultural produces. I think we must not allow the phenomena to go on. It is an irregularity to deal with. It is related to prices fixing for agricultural produces while the price of oil has eroded. I am calling on the Ministry of Agriculture to look into what it mentioned yesterday about monopole price sharks everywhere. We have the presence of many provincial governors here and those who are not may have to watch TV and listen carefully. There has been some kind of collusion to allow monopole by some agricultural price sharks. They may set a scene in so and so communes inaccessible to other traders to purchase agricultural produces for only one monopole trader.
It has been reported that sometimes lorry from a different trading clan were not allowed to enter the zone. I am calling provincial governors to also look into this matter. You cannot leave this issue to the Ministry of Agriculture alone. It is a serious issue. (We must) punish officials who collided with rogue traders. It is a free market. Whoever pays more will get the deal. No one is allowed to set a parameter for own monopole price gain. I received an SMS on this issue from HE Sam Rainsy and I already passed it on to (Minister of Trade) Sun Chanthol, (Minister of Agriculture) Ouk Rabun and (Minister of Economy and Finance) Aun Pornmoniroth.
HE Aun Pornmoniroth will convene a meeting to set out an economic framework policy with regards to measures to be taken on prices of fertilizers, etc. It is a familiar issue. There had been a case of people growing tobacco along the Mekong River some years ago. We allowed bidding for a monopole in purchasing tobacco. The bid winner then imposed a bad price for tobacco farmers. I ordered cancellation of such method. They paid certain amount for the state but they made a lot more from giving a hard time to farmers. We must follow the rule “who pays more will get the deal.” I advise strict measures as far as fertilizer is concerned. It is important to check the price of fertilizer and its quality.
Leave the price to be decided by market mechanism. We allow no sharks in agricultural prices. I championed free market from early day since before reforms in Vietnam and Russia were to take place. I did it alone. I do not accept this issue to occur. In addition to line ministries – trade, agriculture, finance, I would envisage that provincial governors could look into this matter more clearly. There are also officials of line ministries in the local level. It is the rule that when there are more traders, the price should be more competitive. However, this has not been so. The agricultural shark traders, with help of local police posts, would fix a price at 1,000 Riel a Kilogram for example, while those who would pay 1,100 Riel were stopped from entering by police.
Thank People of Pursat, Defining Culture of Dialogue
I am very grateful to people in Pursat who did not avenge to senior level for mistakes carried out by junior officials. Please pay attention to people in Pursat. People in this province gave (CPP) all of its four seats. In the last elections (CPP) gained three and was short of a few votes to maintain all. I will continue to post my candidacy. I will not leave you yet. I am asking you all to refrain from hitting the cart while in rage with oxen. I do not stand on the side of rogue officials.
The declaration of the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) already came out. HE Say Chhom of CPP will conduct serious scrutiny. CNRP defines the culture of dialogue as a culture in which there is no treatment of anyone as enemy, no insult and no intimidation. My definition of the culture is to have mutual respect, be faithful, no insult, no intimidation and treating one another with value. We have been victims of insult and defamation so far. Please keep up monitoring in junior level would go on doing so. We cannot afford to survive by the policy of fish eating ants when flood comes and ants eating fish when flood recedes.
Cambodia will not have only two political parties. We have more. They all have their supporters. We must learn to value and respect one another. We must take it seriously. HE Say Chhom will instruct the monitoring and coordination must be observed not only at national but also sub-national level, and even people who support different political parties. There should be no discrimination. That is about all I had to say for today.
If I Were Floyd, I Would Call It Even
Let me bring up some remarks from yesterday fight match between (Manny) Pacquiao and Floyd (Mayweather). I could not imagine how low-standard those US referee could be. (HE) Ee Chhien knew about it and I do not have to bring out the identity. There was a foreign guest to whom Ee Chhien asked if Pacquioao or Floyd was the winner? The foreign guest told Ee Chhien Floyd was the winner. Ee Chhien asked further why? The foreign guest said only Floyd died to be loser. All three referees gave Floyd points to win over Pacquiao. I learn more about the US now. I know it not well before. I did not mean to disgrace Floyd and I am sure Floyd did not want (to win) it (this way) but it was given. How could he say no! If I were Floyd I would call it even and let decide in another match elsewhere. That is how sportsman should be./.