I would like to take this opportune moment to express my sincere thank to the Vietnamese people who live and are present also on the other side of the river for this occasion. I am so happy today to be able to come here with Prime Minister HE Nguyen Tan Dung for the launching of the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the 428 meters Chrey Thom-Long Binh Bridge – a historic indicator of the history of the two countries relations.
Bridge of Peace with Three Concepts – Friendship, Cooperation and Connectivity
I would take this opportune moment to say a few things about the meaning of this bridge. I think Prime Minister HE Nguyen Tan Dung and seniors leaders here present would not object the idea that I would signify the Bridge by three meanings – peace, cooperation and connectivity. The construction of this bridge is possible thanks to the fact that the two countries are having good friendly relations. Without friendship, the construction of a bridge as such at the border point would be difficult. If the two countries were in animosity with one another, you may know of a normal natural fact that each side would have their weapons installed at each other. It is because of friendship and solidarity that the two countries – Cambodia and Vietnam – are putting this bridge, which stands one side in one country and another side on another country.
Our people may ask where the borderline of the two countries lies. Does it lie on the shore of the river on the Cambodian side or on the shore of the river on the Vietnamese side? Cambodia and Vietnam have signed an additional agreement in relation to the border between the two countries along the river and tributaries, which, according to the French demarcation, in certain places, the line runs on Cambodian land leaving water area to Vietnam or vice versa. Through various negotiations, especially the additional agreement of 2005, the two sides have decided to observe the principle of placing the borderline in the deepest water stream and/or middle of the rivers or tributaries.
Which in that case our people ask where is the borderline? The borderline lies in the middle channel of the river. Previously, in certain areas, Cambodians had to ask Vietnam for permission to fetch water from the river. Since when we have the agreement, each side can fetch water without having to ask for another’s permission.
Concept of Cooperation
Why did I say it is a bridge of cooperation? I have the honour to work with Prime Minister HE Nguyen Tan Dung in the initiation of the bridge. The two of us are working closely to make cooperation work in the construction of this bridge aimed at further promoting cooperation and development between Cambodia and Vietnam. The cooperation concepts revealed through the stage of conducting site study, design and working out the loan credit for the construction. It took us a while. We could have fulfilled the project long ago if Cambodia were to have money. As is affirmed by HE Nguyen Tan Dung, being a poor country, Vietnam has done its best to work out a financial scheme that each country will carry half the cost.
However, the part covered by Cambodia is in fact the loan that Cambodia asks from Vietnam. As for this bridge, we split the cost in half but for the Cambodian part, we need to spend more because we have two more bridges to build on our side and also to demine the site. Cambodia will then carry the part of 20,590,000 USD from the total amount of 38.5 million USD. Cambodia’s loan from Vietnam and the counterpart fund of 1,830,000 USD has rounded up the Cambodian amount to 18,760,000 USD, while Vietnam will take care of 17,800,000 USD. It is in this sense that I am revealing a concept of cooperation concerning the construction of this bridge.
Concept of Connectivity
Another major concept is connectivity as it links up Cambodia with Vietnam at this boat crossing point. We have replaced those activities with a long bridge so that our two people – Cambodia and Vietnam can go to and fro. It is in this meaning that I am bearing the concepts of cooperation and connectivity to the bridge. As far as connectivity is concerned, we have done quite a number of them. Take for instance the connectivity in term of electricity, which we did in over twenty places. Yesterday we had more discussion about (electricity) connectivity, in which Vietnam will sell us 200 MW of electricity. The transmission will exit Vietnam at its border point with Cambodia’s Takeo province and run through to Phnom Penh.
However, by the time the rainy season comes this year, Cambodia would be able to sell to Vietnam 100 MW electricity. Take for instance we have the connection of electricity since 2005 for this area at a gradual increment of supply from one MW through to three MW, which is not yet sufficient when we also need to light up two more districts – Koh Thom and Sa Ang. According to increasing demand, we may request for five or seven MW electricity for the above districts. I would consider it a grateful gesture if Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung could advise the electricity company (of Vietnam) to sell Cambodia between two or four MW more.
Sending More Medical Staff to Sudan
Connectivity is in other word ability to complete one another. We do not wish to see shelling at one another but transporting to and from one another. People can go to and fro. Let us not create animosity among us. For the concept of connectivity, after finishing the construction, the bridge will play very important role in connecting tourism between the two countries, transportation, exchange of goods and many more as discussed yesterday.
As of last night, for your information, in mid of the banquet, I had to issue a decision to send more medical staff to Sudan as fighting are happening there. Cambodia has a hospital to run in Sudan. There are two Sudan – South and North. Now the war breaks in the South. We have our troops there. We are quite worried for our troops. However, over two thousands people came for treatment in the Cambodian hospital there. We even helped with the delivery of 73 infants. There is a need for the gynaecologist and we will send some there.
From Battlefields to Development Zones
I have a high ambition in my leadership to transform former battlefields into development zones. This is what I have been pursuing since when we successfully implemented the win-win policy. Along with this, it is my commitment to change border areas into zones of peace, friendship, cooperation, and development. We have achieved most of this with Vietnam in areas where there used to be war in 1960s, and between 1970 and to 1975. Places where there used to be heavy rocket launchers have now become markets and industrial zones. We are conducting joint studies now to build a number of border markets where there will be goods to exchange and enterprises to operate.
We also have achieved some along the border with Thailand. We need to make a borderline of peace, friendship and cooperation with all countries – Vietnam, Laos and Thailand. Having achieved that people along the border would have no more fear of war or armed clashes between the armies of the neighbouring countries. While ending their fears, the achievement would also make people affluent.
Learning from the history, especially in the Chinese folklores, those who committed crimes and served death or life sentence would end up being sent to the border. Generalizing that concept, many prisoners were living along the border, according to the Chinese stories. Lacking of strong bond of relation, people would live in fear and experience poverty and difficult communication. Looking into one other aspect, we could also help save patients in Kandal province when they need medical assistance because it would take them shorter time to go to Vietnam than to get to Phnom Penh. I am sure the Chrey Thom-Long Binh Bridge will serve these perspectives.
NR 21 to Be Reconstructed
I would express my sincere thank to our people who had to keep up with the impacts of the construction project. I would also like to inform you that we would go about the construction of the road from this bridge all the way back to Takhmao, total 65 Kilometres in the near future thanks to the credit loan of the Republic of Korea. The road will be built larger and with high standard. We have 77 bridges – big and small to build. The segment of NR 21 of 65 Kilometres we would need to spend 52 million USD because there are many bridges to build over tributaries and waterways.
We need those tributaries and waterways for water for irrigation and fish population. It is true that once we are building more roads and bridges, we would have to meet with some changes. However, to have is better than not to have. I take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks to the Ministry of Transport and Public Works, the Ministry of Economy and Finance as well as the Kandal provincial authority of Cambodia for their efforts to work closely with the Vietnamese counterparts, the An Giang province also included, to create a favourable atmosphere for the construction to happen. In just 30 months to go, we will have a bridge to travel to and fro.
In or Out of Power – Through Constitution
I am so glad today that we are meeting here and I would like to express my sincere thanks to the Cambodian people who have supported this road and bridge projects. I am grateful to the people in Cambodia as a whole, in Kandal province in particular, for voting to elect the Cambodian People’s Party and place confidence in me to continue to be Prime Minister for the coming five years. I will perform my duty responsibly not only as Prime Minister of those who elected the Cambodian People’s Party but of the Kingdom of Cambodia.
I have the mandate from the people, the National Assembly and the Royal Decree of HM the King. Five years is not a long time (for the opposition to wait). They call for me to go down. Why should I do that? I come to power by constitutional mean. If I were to go down, it would have to be according to the Constitution. There is no other way to do that.
Basic Salary Higher than India, Bangladesh, Laos and Myanmar
We are today 14 January. You may recall the 7 January 1979 event. One week after liberation, some places were liberated and some were not. Places liberated were joyous but massacre continued in places yet to liberate. In general, what did we have under Pol Pot? They took everything from us – cooking pots to ploughing animals. They chased us out of our native villages. How many were there extermination sites in Koh Thom? There are numerous.
After liberating the country, we had to neutralize Pol Pot’s mode of production, which is collective working and eating manner. We had to take back what they took from us. Often, we never got all they took from us. Most of us were empty handed. Samdech Chea Sim, Samdech Heng Samrin, myself and other leaders have survived starvation altogether. As Foreign Minister, I was entitled to a ration of 16 Kilograms – 10 Kg of rice and 6 Kg of corn.
In shortage of food, I went to look for banana in the yard behind my house. I came face to face with the Pol Pot’s soldiers, who were there surviving on banana. They did not know who I was. We captured them. The place has now become my Cabinet. This is the reality. We have made our journey step after step and made our progress real. Vietnam did not encounter similar genocide as we did. After the liberation of the southern part, Vietnam reunites as one and overcame tremendous difficulties to this day.
I asked the Prime Minister of Vietnam yesterday how much a worker in Vietnam earns. He said over two million (Vietnamese) Dong or about roughly more than 100 USD. The fact that we have increased the (basic) salary to 100 USD (per month) is comparatively close to Vietnam’s, but higher than in India, Bangladesh, Laos and Myanmar.
A Poem of Comparison in Facebook
There has been someone writing a short poem and posting it on facebook. In the poem, the man told children to be patient though they were hungry. He said because the family is poor, dad can give one extra spoon of rice for each and everyone. He promises they will have more when they are better off. It is a good comparison. He went on to say today you do not have much meat in your meal, but 35 years ago, dad had a fight with the dogs for bone. As you can see, we have brought this country, as is said in the poem, out of its most difficult situation.
Can you tell, if any Prime Minister or leader would not want their people to have better lives? (The fact that we have yet to get there is because) our resource ability is still impossible. Unfortunately, those who instigate the protests in demand for basic monthly salary of 160 USD have in fact paid their drivers only 60 USD.
This year we celebrated the 35th anniversary of the liberation of Cambodia from the regime of genocide in the whole country. The visit of and the activities conducted here by Prime Minister of Vietnam partly hails the victory over the regime of genocide. In those days, we were not able to liberate the country with our own force. As one of the army commanders of Kien Giang province, HE Nguyen Tan Dung then joined the liberation of the province of Kompot. In early 2012, HE Nguyen Tan Dung with other Vietnamese leaders secured a piece of land in Vietnam for Cambodia (to keep their fallen combatants).
There are 49 young Cambodian men died without the knowledge of their families and are buried in Dong Nao, Vietnam. If we could identify their families, we would have brought the remains of those men for them. The fact that we could not find them, (we could argue that) the genocide exterminated them too. Now, no matter what, we are making steps forwards. Despite some obstacles, we can still make steps of development like the construction of the bridge of Chrey Thom-Long Binh. I think I have more to talk about but because HE Nguyen Tan Dung has to pay a courtesy call on HM the King before his return to Hanoi, I had better hold them for another time.
Vietnam to Produce Nuclear Powered Electricity
As I notice from what the Prime Minister told me, Vietnam still has so much power left, especially in the northern and central parts of the country. I would request between 2MW and 4MW for the southern part of Cambodia. I think he will not have problem with that. It is good that the price of electricity from Vietnam is affordable for us. Vietnam is going to produce electricity using nuclear power. I think the country has that potential and capacity. It is possible that among ASEAN nations, Vietnam could be the first one to achieve technology for nuclear powered energy.
Once again, I would like to express my sincere thank for HE Nguyen Tan Dung and the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam for providing Cambodia with the loan needed to jointly build this bridge, a symbol of solidarity between the two countries. In efforts to achieve even better connectivity, we will conduct further joint studies in other areas where there are tributaries or waterways along the border if we need to build more bridges./.