NR 4 Becomes a Priority
I would like to express my pleasure to be able to return once again after I came here for the groundbreaking ceremony on 18 May 2011. Please allow me to say a few things as I happened to have come along this area many times. It was started with the construction of the 4.2 meters bridge 117. It was followed by the construction into concrete later. That means I was around here quite a while. In addition to that, my late mother also contributed to the reconstruction of the Kdei Lovea Buddhist pagoda, which is not far from here. Many of my relatives, my late grandaunt included, were buried there. My late mother also has one other pagoda called Tropang Korng in Kompong Speu’s district of Samraong Tong too.
I also happened to be here for canal digging to release water from the South Rolang Jrei and North Rolang Jrei to area in the district of Korng Pisey before finally reaching to Rolang Ken. I know many places here. It also reminds me of a former Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, who did not know how to plant rice. He planted rice in a way that he had it stood on top of his toes. He was surprised and thought he got a snake bite or something. He is already dead now. I brought this up just to share with you a sense that I have been here on many occasions. I am here today with HE Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China, Excellencies, Lok Chumteavs and compatriots to put into official use the 95 Km National Road 41 starting from the National Road 4 in Kandal province and running through four provinces and nine districts.
It runs through the provinces of Kompong Speu, Kandal, Takeo and Kompot. There has been quite a background relating to the need to build this road. I studied the possibility of whether to build this road now as a priority or leave it to a later stage. I told the Ministers of Economy and Finance and of Transports and Public Works that the candidacy of the National Road 41 must made a priority. Every year we have to screen for prioritized projects to be submitted for approval with the People’s Republic of China.
The Bridge in Gratitude of Teachers
In 2002, if I am not mistaken, we built a Bailey bridge across the river of Prek Tanot. The width was just 4.2 meters. HE Chab Nhalivuth was then governor of the province. People crossing this river had had to pay in those days. They put only a few pieces of wood and let travelers passing through after paying. It was so unfortunate. In the same instance, yesterday I took a decision to take back the Sar La road in Phnom Penh after the company there charges people for using the road but fails to keep road condition. That has led to complaints by people. I have given the timeframe to take it back. HE Pa Socheatvong, Mayor of Phnom Penh, may see this through. The state may have to buy it back and I made it public now to stop charging people money.
As for the bridge that we name “In Gratitude of Teachers,” the one who operated the erected wood for passing the shallow river had asked me for 14 million Riel in compensation to the loss of his business. I paid him from my pocket. Looking at the bridge it is one of the long bridges so I have ordered Kvan Siem of the military engineering team to rebuild it into concrete. Now it is a good concrete bridge with its name referring to our gratitude to teachers. The name should remind everyone – young and old to have gratitude to teachers. We then also had this road construction project and the military engineering team under Kvan Siem was the one to propose one of the costs of the constructions.
NR 41 or Preah Ang Duong Road
This road has a long history in Cambodia. It was first built under the reign of Preah Baat Ang Duong, one of our Kings, who then had his capital in the Udong’s old royal palace or Vang Chas. He built the road from there, now NR 51, through to here. Let me clarify that it is because of the interest rate that (the construction of the NR 51) is late. The road was funded in Yuan and now that the Yuan gains value, the interest is bigger. I brought this issue up with the visiting vice minister of Commerce and President Xi Jinping himself. That has prolonged our signing of agreement. That is why I mentioned that since we already have discussed it already, it is best that we proceed to signing agreements.
With the NR 51 in place, people from Kompong Chhnang, Pursat, etc. travelling to Sihanoukville or Kompot provinces will not have to go all the way to Phnom Penh. They would take the turn at NR 51 and proceed to NR 4 and/or 41 to go to either Sihanoukville or Kompot/Kep. It is amazing that even the 1840’s study had brought about a sense of needing a road through here to link the capital to the deep sea at Kompot for trade with the Europeans. It is so fortunate that we are now able to link these roads together or there will be a barrier to our development efforts in the southwestern part of the country. It is in this remark that I have a great pleasure to have come here to preside over the official use such important road in our history that provides socio-economic interests for our people in our efforts to minimize poverty and develop our economy.
However, the project has not yet stopped here. According to this map, there is a need for one more line of 77 Km road from NR 3 through to Phnom Sruoch, adjacent to Sre Ambel. It is in our project. This NR 41 has come to meet with the NR 3. In Chinese, there also is a saying that goes if you want to be rich you better build a road first. In Khmer we say where there is a road there is a hope. Our dear compatriots, grandma and grandpa, we need more roads. It is not yet sufficient. I also could not have imagined that Cambodia has developed into such a stage. In 1979, we had nothing. Most of our asphalted roads were just 7 meters in width. It was hours before we noticed a truck and/or a few bikes came by.
I went golfing the other day along the NR 6A. The road has been enlarged to two lanes to and two lanes from. There is a line of trees in the middle. Let us see if they will run into each other still. Now come back to infrastructural issue here. Connectivity of this road plays a very important role. We are now connected to the southwestern part of the country by NR 3, NR 41 and NR 2, which is also connected by NR 22 to Kompot province. I may have to go there again for another inauguration. HE Thaong Khon, Minister of Tourism, names the beach of our country’s Kep as the rising star of the southwest. However, there is one other important thing here that I brought it up to the late President Roh Moo-hyun of South Korea when we requested its help for the construction of the NR 3.
I have made it a point that NR 3 is a very important line of road as it serves as a connection to bring salt from Kompot to other part of the country. It is true and we need one more road NR 41 to respond to the need. We also have the NR 2, which links up together to provide people with more choices. However, let me warn that it must not be more choices for those who evade taxes. Previously, when I built water canals and dams in this area, there had been activity to use them as alternatives to evade taxing. We will not allow that. We collect tax for building roads as we cannot afford to depend solely on foreign assistance for that. Cambodia has been providing its counterpart funds and also covering cost of demining and removing UXOs in order to get each and every project going.
I am so grateful that HE Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China has reminded us about what happened 52 years ago – 1963 through to 2015. Fifty two years ago former head of state Li Shaoqi of the People’s Republic of China visited Cambodia and also made a special trip to the province of Kompong Speu. There was then a joint declaration between Cambodia and China, in which Samdech Preah Borom Ratanak Kaod represented the Cambodian side then. Fifty two years later, we are here to put into official use achievements. We will also have this other NR 44 to be put into official use as well. It runs from NR 4 at Chbar Morn district of Kompong Speu all the way to Udong. The road is almost done. If we were to have a signing ceremony for the NR 51 soon enough, we will have more to inaugurate soon.
Cambodia-China – Comprehensive Strategic Partners
HE Ambassador and HE Minister of Transports and Public Works already brought up the cooperation relation between Cambodia and China. It has entered the stage of enhancement of cooperation within the comprehensive strategic partnership which ran five years already, since 2010 to the present. We started as good neighboring partners in all fields of cooperation and gradually bring the partnership into comprehensive strategic partnership. We also see that our relations have complemented each other. It should be noticed that we have more grant from the People’s Republic of China. Last year, we received 700 million Yuan or 100 million USD. This year, we receive 1,000 million Yuan or 140 million USD.
China has had our attention on its declared Silk Road on land and on the sea project that HE Ambassador mentioned here. It is a corridor in the region and world. There are many infrastructural projects and initiatives but there has never been sufficient money to see them through to reality. By late 2014, President Xi Jinping invited concerned countries for a meeting where he declares projects relating to the Silk Road and also funding of 40 billion USD to connect neighboring countries together. I did have his attention that there are so many projects and initiatives for infrastructural development in the region but we never have secure funding for them. However, according to new initiative (brought forward by China) that HE Ambassador said is visual, tangible, I am sure they will become reality.
In fact, in recent months, HE Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China joined me in the inaugurations of NR 58 which links Cambodia to Thailand in Banteay Meanjei province; in April, before there was a Khmer New Year, we inaugurated the NR 9 and the bridge over the Mekong in Stoeng Treng province; in May, we launch the groundbreaking ceremony to build the NR 55 in Pursat to the border with Thailand; and today, we put into official use the NR 41 together. We will have more inauguration ceremonies to do – the Cambodia-China Friendship Bridge at Jroy Jangva of Phnom Penh and the Cambodia-China Friendship Bridge at Ta Khmao.
Please Be Rational, Don’t Be a Demagogue
Having brought up many things about building infrastructure, I wish to react directly, but not in violation of culture of dialogue, to the fact as one in power and with liberal mind to think about country issues. Some people have talked only about reducing taxes and increasing salary. That creates us doubt as to how and from where would they get the needed money, (when they do the two things together) – reducing taxes and increasing salary? I am calling that irrational, demagogue. Some people could not even built a latrine, could not keep up with demand for pay rise of own staff and/or have gone into conflict with own construction contractors.
If we were to increase salary for medical staff, for example, how could they be effective and efficient in performing their duty for our people while there were not hospital, medicines, and/or tools? Budgeting for health sector, for example, there needs to have breakdown to how much one may need for staff, medicines, tools, hospital construction, etc. It is the same for education. We also have the need to build roads, which will needs more money to take care of when we have longer roads built. It is true everywhere. It is important to have a comprehensive thought and analysis with what you really want to do – roads, waterways, hydraulic project, education, health. We cannot afford to think only about salary.
We have many political parties and each one wishes to win the votes. They all make promises about salary. In my reign of over thirty years in power, I have not taxed people’s land yet. I could not assure you that other would do the same when Hun Sen is no longer in power. They may have to think it thoroughly when they talk about changing. In the whole region, Cambodia is the only country in the region that charges no tax on farmers for land they work on. I have refused to exercise this policy ever since the beginning and for over thirty years now.
Better Infrastructure Saves Time and Money
You may think of it this way. You used to spend like 50,000 Riel every time you do a trip when the road was full of potholes. You may have to think about your health and overconsumption by vehicles of gas. When we have better roads, your cost of transportation will eventually reduce and you will also save time. One thing that I am asking from drivers of taxi and motor-taxi is not to over-speed that may lead to fatal accidents. The statistics has been alarming. Fatal accidents take between six and seven lives every day. The traffic condition has been so jammed. Sometimes even with siren car in front, you cannot avoid being stuck. In a report to me, I was informed that the trip on land to this place would take me only 35 minutes. I checked my watch and it had taken me 50 minutes. The convoy even went through traffic lights.
Investment in infrastructure is equitable. Equitable distribution of economic growth is use of national budget in infrastructural development on which people in general can use. Anyone can use roads; send kids to schools; have access to medical services or water for irrigation. Use of budget to equitably distribute fruits of the economy through public investments is the best option. There will be less difference between urban and rural areas. Now people traveling along this road do not experience muddy condition anymore. In Phnom Penh, in some parts of it, the road condition is worse.
As is said by HE Tram Iv Toeuk, Minister of Transports and Public Works, our people must not ravage the road by overloading and over-speeding while transporting, and drinking while driving. I am calling everyone to respect traffic law and own life. Once everyone does that, fatal accident will come down. It calls for strict implementation of traffic rule on land and everyone must take part. It is not going to be successful if we were to just administratively depend on administration, Ministry of Transports and Public Works and traffic police. Every citizen, especially those who operate the vehicles, must abide by the traffic rule.
Ferry Crossing between Kroch Chmar and Stoeng Trang
As I have seen here the presences of HE Minister of Transports and Public Works and HE Chea Sophara, Minister of Rural Development, I wish to deliver message to people in the districts of Kroch Chmar and Stoeng Trang of Kompong Cham province that we have tugged two ferries from Neak Loeung to provide service there. We must bring the two ferries there but we must get ready for operating losses. However, we will soon have roads and bridge built there. We already have road and bridge projects and will request for Chinese assistance to build a road that will connect from NR 7 through the province of Tbong Khmum to the district of Kroch Chmar and a bridge over the Mekong at Kroch Chmar to Chamkar Loeu district.
We will submit the project in 2016 and the two ferries will serve there till the bridge is built. HE Tram Iv Toeuk may give the ferries to the authority of Kompong Cham to administer and not to the province of Tbong Khmom as it is still a new province. You may need to give them to the Transports and Public Works office of Kompong Cham. I have the news that former ferry owner and operator charges prices at his/her will while basing his/her argument every time on changing price of oil in the world. However, you need to wrap up contract with him/her before the ferries can operate. You may want to operate only one and reserving the other just in case.
Rain Comes In Ten Days
It has been unusually hot this year, if I may say dear grandpa and grandma. I have checked with responsible staff the condition of the canals and they said parts of them have little to none because of the rain. Rain has come in sporadic way and in some instances even ruined of homes by strong wind. There has been a strong earthquake in Nepal that killed people. In Cambodia, the temperature was so high. The Ministry of Water Resource and Meteorology informed me that in just about ten days there will be rain here and there throughout the country. If rain comes as they say, they are good predictors. There will not be problem of jacking prices of rice in the market. However, it will be a difficult issue as rice sellers will not be happy when rice price goes down but vice versa when it is on the contrary.
Law on Associations and NGOs
Hundreds of microfinance institutions flocked to the National Bank and Ministry of Economy and Finance for registration when I talked about microfinance issue. Now there are many of them such as EBC, ICA, AIF, etc. People have misunderstood that ACLEDA, Amret, etc. are the state institutions. I warn them not to be confused. Some misused the loans and declared their properties were confiscated by the state. They were angry with Hun Sen. I reiterate that they are private institutions. The state has only one – the National Bank of Cambodia. NBC does not offer loan for business. Some non-governmental organizations are operating in microfinance activities. Lately, some do not offer loans to people but take loans from the people at a 10% interest rate per month.
The Ministry of Economy and Finance, the National Bank of Cambodia and the local authority must not overlook such operations by those organizations. If people could not obtain their money in return, actions must be taken. Culture of dialogue should not intervene in this instance. Demonstration leading to destruction of public property will not be a case to be intervened by culture of dialogue. Crime is crime. That is why we need to have a law for managing these non-governmental organizations and associations. We do not mean to kill a chicken to get to eggs. We mean to raise chicken to fully-grown size to give meat and eggs. I mean the law on associations and non-governmental organizations will support, defend and encourage activities of associations and non-governmental organizations that are functioning according to law.
The Royal Government will soon adopt the law and submit it to the National Assembly for further consultation. It is not brand new idea. We have solicited so many discussions already. We have given attention and taken notes of more new inputs. There is this law in every other country. Why there is opposition to such law in Cambodia? There now seems to be request not to block the law but to consult about it. With regard to what has happened on those asking loans in exchange for high interest rates from the people, if ever terrorist activities were to take place, which organizations will take the responsibility? It is for this matter that I am assuring those non-governmental organizations and associations to have no concern on the law. The law will protect you, support you and widen your activity according to the law. You will do whatever you may under the law./.