I am so happy to return to this province for the groundbreaking ceremony to build the 174 Km National Road 58. If I am not mistaken, last year, with HE Bu Jianguo, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China, I came to the province of Banteay Meanjei on March 10, 2014 to put into official use the National Road 59 linking the National Road 5 to the province of Pailin. This means that a year ago we put into official use a 100 Km road and now we are building another 174 Km road today. I am so proud of the development in the Kingdom of Cambodia despites some obstacles. It is normal for a country in development that there are some peculiar issues. I am sure the Cambodian people will come up with judgment of what has been happening.
Minister of Transports and Public Works, HE Tram Iv Toek and Lok Chumteav Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China already mentioned in their reports about this project. I would like to take this occasion to express my sincere thank through Her Excellency to the Government and brotherly people of China who always support the process of rebuilding the Kingdom of Cambodia from its destruction, while strengthening internal connectivity inside the country. In statistics, the Chinese built and already inaugurated road has reached 1,437 Kilometers. We still have 821 Kilometers more under construction. We also are preparing to build another 411 Kilometers. The length in all will be 2,669 Kilometers.
However, I wish to have the attention of HE Ambassador that we have the need for about 5,000 more Kilometers. We will file more project requests. I am so satisfied with the Chinese assistance as well as those provided by development partners. We are seeking capital from all available sources to accomplish this vision. We are planning to seek more assistance from Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam and Asian Development Bank.
Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and Silk Road Infrastructure Fund
Just now HE Ambassador brought up this subject on the Asian Infrastructural Investment Bank (AIIB) and the Silk Road Infrastructure Fund (SRIF). Let me elaborate a bit. On my flight here I received a mail on my smart phone of a report by Radio France International in Khmer. After Great Britain, there are now three more countries – Germany, France and Italy, declaring they support AIIB. This means that there will be more funds. Cambodia is a founding country of AIIB among others. Australia also expresses its interest. Judging from this development, the Chinese initiative to set up AIIB has attracted many, making it clearly a complementary financial institution to services provided by World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.
I think AIIB is not a competition to other powers but a response to countries in need of capital for development. There need not what is called the policy of austerity or a punishment sort. With the establishment of AIIB supported by five major countries – China, India, Russia, Brazil and South Africa, the world has more options for development. Along with this the Chinese Silk Road Infrastructure Fund (SRIF) also has a very important role to play. In one of the Great Mekong Sub-region (GMS) meetings in Bangkok, I had the attention of HE Premier Li Keqiang to consider using some of the SRIF fund for the GMS, from which Cambodia can benefit.
Four Types of Chinese Financial Assistance
Bilaterally, China has made four different types of assistance available to Cambodia – grant, non-interest loan, concessional loan and private investment. That the Government of the People’s Republic of China provides capital for the Chinese companies to invest in Cambodia, the fourth type of assistance has been very valuable for the Kingdom. We never have prejudice as to which companies coming from where to invest in Cambodia. My policy for Cambodia is that we cannot wait for investments that will come in 2030. We are fishing for daily consumption. No matter how small or big a fish can be, we would have caught it.
There has been a case that companies – one small one and one big one, coming from the same country seeking investment in Cambodia. The small one came first and got the right to invest while the big one came later and told us how bigger their company is compared to the one we offered the investment deal. I confirmed to them on two points – First, whichever fish, small or big, comes first will be caught. I mean if the company requested for investment got the required qualifications, we will let them do. Secondly, if Cambodia were to violate trust on so and so company, it will not be a good example to others. I think the big company appreciated my explanation and stand.
De-mining and Removing UXOs for Every Project
I would like to express my sincere appreciation and thank to the Ministry of Transports and Public Works, the Ministry of Economy and Finance, related institutions and local authority of all levels as well as the armed forces for making efforts to allow this project to succeed. This has also included the efforts of the military engineering team for involving in de-mining and removing UXOs along the project sites. Our people living along the road also have been very kind with the project. In Cambodia, for whatever project to be implemented, there is a need for de-mining. As for this road, the first-phase de-mining effort has already drained 75 million USD. We have also provided counterpart fund in two contracts of six million USD more for the road project impacts. The project has absorbed close to 123 million USD in Chinese loan.
In Cambodia, any construction projects to be carried out, whether from China, Japan, Korea, ADB or other sources, will have to have capital in hand to be provided as counterpart fund on projects impacts, de-mining efforts also included. Coincidentally, today is the 45th anniversary of when the coup against the late Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk was conducted. It was also the day when war commenced in Cambodia. That does not mean I am coming here choosing this day but I had no choices as I had to go to Japan and returned on March 16. The war left Cambodia with mines to clear. That has to be done to allow the Shanghai Construction Group to proceed with the project safely. It is for the benefit of the project implementer but also for safety of our people in the long run.
(Talking about changing National Road number by every new Transport and Public Works Minister,) I do not mean to denounce you Minister Tram Iv Toek. I just wish that this manner of changing number of road when a new minister comes in is no longer applied. However, there will be a change of Minister only every five years in Cambodia. Some likes to ask if there is a reshuffle of the Cabinet and Mr. Puy Kea of Kyodo is the most frequent one to probe this. Sometimes he asked twice a month. Let me tell from here that I will not say it. In Japan, there was this news about reshuffle.
I would not give answer. That could give a cause for misinterpretation. I thank him very much for asking but some questions I may not answer. I will not let you know because reshuffling the cabinet is not a simple matter. It is up to us to do. Leave us time. Even the Ministers, governors, police or military chiefs will not know. When there is a need, there is a deed. Just you wait till real action comes to run in your press.
Connectivity in Border Area
I am so happy that we have realized achievements. On April 1, we will continue to launch the groundbreaking ceremony and inauguration of the National Road 9 and the Cambodian-Chinese Friendship Bridge at Stoeng Treng. On April 6, we will inaugurate the Tsubasa Bridge at Neak Loeung. We will inaugurate the constructions assisted by China and Japan. Cambodia is friend to all. We will knock on every door. We accept assistance from everyone. We build this road and bridge at Stoeng Bat for the heavy transportation as a connection from Thailand. With Thai leaders – old and the current government of HE Prayuth Chan-Ocha, we have discussed keeping the National Road 5 in Poi Pet for tourists and Stoeng Bat for transportation.
We may have to build also an overpass here to evade traffic congestion and accidents for those coming along the National Road 58. Our Chinese friend has been helping us in both Cambodia’s internal connectivity but also those with neighboring countries. In the northwestern area of Cambodia, the People’s Republic of China helped us build the National Road 57 (formerly 10) from Battambang to Pailin, the NR 57B from Bovel to the border with Thailand, the NR 59 from Kon Damrei to Pailin. Now we are building the NR 58 to connect at one end with the NR 68 at Samraong City of Uddar Meanjei.
Former Battlefields to Development Zones
Let me recall that I have come along this area three times. I came first in 1984. I was then Acting Prime Minister. I came again in 1986. There was (one the Thai side) in this direction a camp called Nang Chan. I went up there and sat. It was the time when we captured it. In September of 1989 I came through here to go to Aranyaprathet, from where then Prime Minister Chatichai Choonhavan and military chief Chaovalit Yongchaiyudh sent helicopter to pick us to Bangkok for a meeting. Along here there was nothing but bushes and mines. Some people claimed to have lived here since 1979 and sued for land to me. There was no one even until 1989.
We now have stopped the war. My aim is to continue to transform former battlefields into development zones. Our border area from Preah Vihear province to Pailin province, used to be battlefields. We now are building roads, water canals, schools, and hospitals and setting up electrical lines. Many of us could have learnt that in these areas there were no paved roads but those of elephants’ paths. Since these areas are closer to the border, it is also important to implement the foreign policy of the ruling party to build up border areas of peace, friendship, cooperation and development.
I am glad that we have the presence of our Thai friends from Sra Keo to witness this project ceremony. We should maintain good communication. We must talk to each other when there is any matter of attention. We should not treat each other as foe. The border trade along the Cambodian-Thai border has a size of over four billion USD, in which Cambodia exported only about 500 million USD to Thailand. I just wanted to share with our Thai friends that we should make good relation along the border and facilitate people-to-people business.
In my negotiations with Thailand or Vietnam or Laos, I never forget to request them to help Cambodians on issue of medical assistance. Pregnant women have better access to those countries from the border than coming all the ways for medical service inside the country. It is also true in case of vaccination. We may need to complement each other. We will make border area a fear-free place for poor and prone-to-armed conflict people. Let us cooperate and fight the traffickers of drug and human, money laundering and illegal logging. I also urged no fire upon in case of illegal logging. Please arrest them and send to Cambodia for trial.
Attempt to Overthrow the Royal Government
Tomorrow there will be a meeting of the National Assembly. Thing has appeared itself. I have said about the attempt to downfall the Royal Government. The person has now confessed that they had attempted to overthrow the Royal Government. They have stated out openly that they beg people in Long Beach, US, to excuse them for failing to overthrow the Royal Government, the Cambodian People’s Party. How would this be responded with legal action? Thief apparently confessed. It was also reported yesterday that (the person) wanted HE Sam Rainsy bring up (the issues of detained members). In the National Assembly’s meeting tomorrow there will be two laws to be adopted.
I have no say in what appears to be statement by HE Sam Rainsy’s Deputy that he does feel happy about the 22 July 2014 Agreement. One might find in the record keeping that he was the one who confirmed that it was written in the agreement that should the new law could not realize, the old one will continue to be valid. No matter what I am sure tomorrow we will have new laws. I will come to the National Assembly after I preside over a graduation ceremony tomorrow. I am sure the court will have his words recorded. I urge that they read article 80 from beginning to end.
HE Sam Rainsy and I have been in contact regularly and tomorrow we will be working together to get the law ready for the forthcoming formation of the National Election Committee on April 13. A real reform is taking place. Let us tell those in local and international non-governmental organizations to respect rights of the National Assembly, which is the sole elected representative of the Cambodian people. Taking this chance I would like to express my sincere thank to people, sitting before me here, who have voted for the Cambodian People’s Party. It is a great victory that the Cambodian People’s Party has won four out of the six seats for the Uddar Meajei constituency.
I have a strong belief that our people will continue to give their trust on the leadership of the Cambodian People’s Party. Whatever the Royal Government does is for the sake of our people’s interest. For whom do we build the roads?
The Sangkranta at Angkor
Since we are going to have some urgent affairs in the country, I will have to change my plan, which I declared before that I would go to South Korea for the Water Forum. On April 13, we will have an important event to elect the new Election Committee. I will be required to be in the country. There will also this Sangkranta (or Khmer New Year) at Angkor for the third time in three consecutive years so far. I will take the chance to preside over the Sangkranta festival to give encouragement to our youth who have been doing all the works. This year Cambodia will try to achieve a new record of cooking the world biggest sticky rice cake of 3.2 tons after they did one for 2.8 tons last year. Whether it will go into the Guinness Book or not, I do not know but I would invite the Chinese Ambassador to taste the “Giant Sticky Rice Cake” with me./.