Think of Grower When Eating Fruits
My warmest welcome to the Buddhist monks, members of the Senate, HE Sam Rainsy, the minority leader and Madame, Ambassadors and Chargé d’Affaires, foreign guests who are present here. I also welcome youth representatives from ASEAN and East Asian countries and members of the Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia (UYFC). Since we also have the live coverage of this event, please allow me to also express my sincere greetings (over the Khmer New Year) to our compatriots in the Kingdom of Cambodia as well as abroad. Equally, our thoughts, my wife and I, are with the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces members who are currently in Libya, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Mali.
Today, my wife and I are so happy to be able to participate in the opening of the third Sangkranta Angkor of the Khmer New Year, marking the end of the Buddhist era of 2558 and the beginning of 2559. First of all, please allow me to express my sincere thanks and gratitude to the Cambodian ancestors – former Kings and Queens of Cambodia included, who had built, for us younger generation, magnificent buildings on the land of Angkor. One must know the source of water that they are drinking or know who grew the fruits that they are eating. Should there be no efforts made by the former Kings and Queens as well as our ancestors in building and preserving the temples of Angkor, we may not be able to celebrate such an event after its name “Sangkranta Angkor.”
We are grateful to our former generations for the heritages and would in this instance call on and devote for their souls as well as those deities of land, air and forest for their protection of their children who are celebrating this event here and the people of Cambodia in the whole Kingdom.
Skipping the Visit to South Korea for Sangkranta Angkor
I was so joyful after having received the invitation from the Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia or UYFC to participate in this third Sangkranta Angkor. I am so grateful for HE Sok An and Madame for representing me on the first and second celebrations of the Sangkranta Angkor. According to my previous schedule, as of this moment, I was to deliver an address to the Water Forum in the Republic of Korea and to take that opportunity to share with the Cambodian people in Korea the atmosphere of the Khmer New Year. However, the Sangkranta Angkor this year is very special and I have had to stay home for this event.
Siem Reap – First Tourist Attraction City in Asia and Second in the World
It is a proud achievement for us all that the 2013/14 Sangkranta Angkor took place smoothly at the initiative and under direct implementation of UYFC with supports rendered from all concerned agencies for the magnificent cultural event where abstract culture met physical one. The 2013/14 Sngkranta Angkor added value to the province of Siem Reap, the first Asian city of tourist attraction and the second in the world in doing so. It is so hopeful that governor Khim Bun Song determines to bring it to the first city of tourist attraction in the world. I hope they can realize this wish. I just warn them that there will be no success if there is no effort. We need to transform the city of Siem Reap into a real cultural tourism city and to make Cambodia a true Kingdom of culture.
Guinness World Records – Giant Sticky Rice and Madison Dance
I would like to take this opportune moment to express my sincere appreciation to the efforts made by some 2,929 voluntary youths who according to the report this year have come from various cities and provinces to take part in the Madison dance for Guinness World Record 2015. It is a major event indeed. I am grateful that they have sacrificed their valuable times to make this meeting between abstract and physical culture possible on the land that is so culturally rich. We have got a number of “giant” things made here – sticky rice, chess board, filter made from bamboo, hat made of palm leaves and Angrut (a kind of basket specially made for trapping fish).
We also have this longest rope for pulling competition of 250 meters, for which there will be some 1,500 participants in this competition event. The Madison dance also will come with some 2015 dancers. I would urge Hun Mani, my son, who is also the President of UYFC to get your mother and her team to do two things with you – firstly, to float the Kantong (small floating leaves wrapping like a small boat) and secondly, to get them to dance in the Madison event with the 2015 dancer. Deputy Prime Minister HE Bin Chhin may also want to dance Madison tomorrow. It will also be great if Lok Chumteav Somara Sam Rainsy can join.
Dialogue Culture Is Born and Replaces Enmity
As for the Khmer New Year this year, I would like to make some notes on a few events. Firstly, it has symbolized the reunion of the Khmer family in greeting the traditional New Year. Though what we are doing here is symbolic indeed to the event, the people of Cambodia in the whole Kingdom, those in foreign countries included, are also getting themselves ready to welcome new deity of the Year of the Goat, who will be arriving at 14:02 today. Secondly, Excellencies, Ambassadors and Ladies and Gentlemen, may have noticed the presences of HE Sam Rainsy and Madame with us. A culture of dialogue is born and started on the land of Cambodia, replacing the culture of enmity and killing.
I have worked patiently with my counterpart, HE Sam Rainsy. It is true that I had gone many stages of political development, one of which that deserves reminding here is that in more than half of my life I was involved in peace negotiation more than war affairs. I conducted negotiation with Samdech Preah Borom Ratanak Kaod on 2 December 1987 in Fere-en-Tardenois to open the way towards other forums and the Paris Peace Agreement. Later, I formulated and conducted the win-win policy, which finally brought Kingdom to its end of division, which Cambodia faced since 1470, the country was split into three parts ruled by Preah Srey Raja, his brother Dhama Raja and his nephew Soryotey, after the demise of King Noreay Raja.
The Three Kingdom exists not only in the Chinese history. It did happen indeed in Cambodia. Since then the Cambodian Royal Government never had a chance to rule the whole country. After the demise of King Dhama Raja, in 1504 King Srey Sokunbot ruled the country. War took place from 1506 through to 1512. Later, Luong Preah Sdech Kan killed King Srey Sokunbot in Stoeng Sen, Kompong Thom province. The Kingdom of Cambodia then became a divisive country between one in the east and another in the west. Internal division worsened.
A Good Partner in Culture of Dialogue
The point to be seen is that before 1970s, Cambodia was divided into five groups, among which four were armed. They were tagged to be Khmer Blue residing along the Cambodian-Thai border, Khmer White residing along the Cambodian-Vietnamese border, the Khmer Rouge taking presence here and there in the country and the Khmer Pink who are mostly intellectuals, teachers, professors, etc. One other group was the Khmer of the Government. In history of the armed conflict between 1970 and 1975, Cambodia was divided into two, which one side ruled by Lon Nol’s government supported by the US and another was the Royal Government of Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk, after the coup in Phnom Penh.
It was on that day that I reported to the marquis. Five years later, on 16 April 1975, two days before the victory, I was wounded in one of my eyes. That is the bitter experiences that Cambodians created by themselves by making a wrong political decision. In 1975, the regime of Lon Nol fell. People expected that something better was going to replace it. There came the regime of genocide of Pol Pot which killed millions of people. I did a study on this history and figured out how to put an end to the war. According to my experience, there was only one choice. It is to allow others chance to do things that are different to our idea.
It was because the country followed the culture of sole party and there were no free press, no civil society or political parties, who subscribed to different ideas (from those who were in power), the only option left was for them to carry armed resistance. That was a big experience. While in power, it has always been my strategy that armed conflict and fighting is just provisional before a political chance arrives. I already proved it. I searched for political solution to the Cambodian problem. The country stumbled for a time on this but lately I have met a good partner – HE Sam Rainsy, who is present here with us today.
Wouldn’t Budge for Foreign Oppression
In the course of our negotiation I said that we need to institutionalize as much dialogue as we can. HE Sam Rainsy accepted my proposal and we have become founders of the culture of dialogue. We will bear direct responsibility in carrying out the task of leading this culture. Upon completion of our duties on April 13 at the National Assembly, after HE Sam Rainsy and I stepped out and gave a briefing to the press, walking to my car I said to Lok Chumteav Tioulong Saumura-Sam Rainsy to look after Hun Mani, my son. She responded to me to look after HE Sam Rainsy. Having lunch home that day I said to my wife we could not have accomplished the task without HE Sam Rainsy.
We figured out together what we can do to help him. Though my wife never involves in my decision making, I still talk to her about what I I think I should do. She responded in short to me: “do whatever you need to as long as it is legal.” I then picked up the phone and called to HE Koet Rith, Secretary of State for Justice to consult with him on law issues. I then called to Lok Chumteav since I could not get through to HE Sam Rainsy to sort out many more issues. I went to bed peacefully last night. Excellencies ambassadors who are ASEAN and East Asia partners, we Cambodians went into conflict but we also know how to get off the conflict too. I told HE Sam Rainsy that if this issue was brought upon me by foreigners, I would not accept it. In fact the US minority leader talked to me to release so and so. I did not do it. When HE Sam Rainsy asked me, I do it. We are Cambodians. I would not budge for foreign oppression.
It is with this remark that I am seeking understanding from foreign friends to my point of independence and sovereignty. No one could put pressure on Hun Sen besides the Cambodian people and I am ready to resolve the problem with trustworthy partner. When foreigners talk me to do it I leave it unattended. When HE Sam Rainsy chose to take the right course of action, everything is smooth. Whatever I could, I would help. The most important thing here is that we have a big Khmer family reunion to greet the Khmer New Year this year bearing a great political and cultural meaning and more since it signifies the nature of national reconciliation and unity.
Ending Politics of Revenge
The culture of dialogue cannot be implemented by one sole party or individual. We need partners. The dialogue is not between only two parties with seats in the National Assembly. We have many more parties that are not in the parliament and we need to involve them in the culture of dialogue too. Thanks to our discussions, we have now incorporated into the internal regulation of the National Assembly whereby HE Sam Rainsy has become a partner with the Majority leader and Prime Minister. This is what we term the culture of dialogue. Please do not be mistaken that we sit together to plot something else. No dialogue will lead to national destruction.
The dialogue has two major goals: to strengthen peace and to promote national development. I am so happy today that we have the presences of those in ruling party in the Royal Government and out of the Royal Government. I prefer the term in and out of the Royal Government. It sounds better. This is the task that we have been doing not only for our generation but for many generations to come. We must grow the seed of caring and loving each other from now. When your children are in Cambodia, we could have a meal together. I have many children. I may have some grandchildren to join too. We must instill in them the idea for them to be able to exist and work together.
We still have many works to do. We need to bring the culture of dialogue down to local level. Today, I have the pleasure to deliver the message to our compatriots that no matter which party would win in the elections, we will keep that as political rights. The Cambodian people cannot afford to be divided between one side of the village and the other. We share the same blood. To hold on to a political party or to have faith in certain religion is one matter. The need for national pacification rests upon our leadership. We need to learn to work together and not to fail or kill each other. Let us end the politics of fish eating ants when water floods and ants eating fish when water recedes.
Outstanding Points of Sangkranta Angkor 2015
The Sangkranta Angkor 2015 will remind and enliven abstract heritage in the spectacle of physical one. As far as I know, we have many different forms of performance arts – some 24 games and 21 traditional dances. It is not a normal scene to see an abstract culture on the scene of physical one. If we leave diamond in the ground, we will not obtain its added value. The same is true here if we do not organize Sangranta Angkor, we do not have chance to make everyone know about Angkor Wat, least a destination for tourists. Angkor Wat has been listed as world heritage since 1992 but looking at our statistics, in 1993 we had some 120,000 tourists, some 200,000 in 1998, 700,000 in 2003, some 4.2 million in 2013, and 4.5 million in 2014. In 2015, it has been estimated to reach 5 million.
Please allow me to speak a little bit about the open sky policy that was put into action in 1997. Businessmen in Phnom Penh went in great length to think of launching protest against the policy because they were worried of losing tourists coming to Phnom Penh. Not long after, they became supporter of the policy. We launched also open land and water access policies for tourism. Here in Siem Reap, we started from a few old hotels. We now have over 100 hotels. Would all this be happening if we were to have no open sky policy which people can fly directly to Siem Reap? Who would invest in building hotels here?
Former Prime Minister of Singapore, once again I recall, said to me in 1994 that if he were me he would allow direct flight to Siem Reap. I digest the idea for many years because there were some issues that wouldn’t allow us to. Finally I made the decision despites oppositions from circles of tourism businessmen in Phnom Penh. We have gained many things when tourists flock to Siem Reap. Annually, issuing visa for some two million tourists would also pocket the state with 40 million USD. The newly jacked-up price of visa to 30 USD would bring in 60 million USD. If two million of them visit Angkor Wat, we would earn 50 million USD. Revenue from tourism contributes some 16% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The Cambodian youth has made use of the rough diamond through the organization of this Sangkranta Angkor 2015, where there will be a meeting between abstract and physical culture.
The third outstanding point of the Sangkranta event is the fact that it binds together the bond of solidarity among Cambodians and between Cambodia and other nations in the world. The presence of Excellencies ambassadors, foreign youth guests from ASEAN and East Asia and tourists on the land of Angkor, the long abandoned Cambodian old city, will surely create relation between people and people. We thank France for signing the 1904 and 1907 French-Siamese agreements, which led to changes and the return of the provinces with priceless heritages back to Cambodia.
The fourth outstanding point is that the event has provided our youth, citizen and tourists with a chance to understand the prosperity and rich culture, civilization, custom, tradition, religion of Cambodia. Having understood that they will continue to safeguard heritages and expand prestige on the international arena. The Sangkranta Angkor is an opportune moment for Cambodia to showcase its state as the Kingdom of Culture. It should serve the purpose of attracting impression of the youth, at the time of concerned globalization, to preserve their tradition left by their ancestors.
Outstanding point five is that the event brings up the idea of uniting forces of solidarity as one great and proud Khmer family and instills this spirit to preserve and develop the Khmer culture, national motto, soul and identity in the context of ASEAN integration by way of thinking, doing and taking responsibility together. This requires solidarity as is said by HE Sam Rainsy in the National Assembly. He said the other day ‘Should the Cambodians unite, they would be strong.’ It is true. I am calling all to unite and keep solidarity to make Cambodia strong. In fact I wore a shirt with similar color to HE Tia Banh but my wife insisted that I had to wear the red color which is the color of today (according to the color rule of Cambodia).
It was unfortunate that a few days ago because of the disagreement and discontent on the color painting of the entrance arch of the Sangkranta Angkor, someone torched it down. How could they do that when the youth were discussing what to improve it? Yesterday I told the governor of the province to find those responsible and give them a legal lesson, no matter what political inclination they may have. This has called on HE Sam Rainsy and I, and leaders of other political parties, to take more educational actions on our youth to at least pursue centrism.
Tendency of centrism adopted in the ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh with a deceleration to be issued by the ASEAN Summit this year in Malaysia will ensure avoidance of extremism from happening. Extremism happens in many places in the world. It was not yet a serious matter in Cambodia. However, it is important that we must demand abolition of such tendency. Can Cambodians not wear red color? Look at the Cambodian flag. When it has one part in red color, is that also a Vietnamese or Chinese sign? Was it a motive to destroy or to defend the cultural value?
Point six of the Sangkranta Angkor is the fact that the event showcases the art or culture of sharing, taking rescue of one another and flexibility of the Cambodian people. We have shown in various ways – not only the art performances but through traditional games. Last year, I stayed home and watched TV. It is very informative now that many media companies have more than one TV station – for example the media company of Oknha Kith Meng has up to four stations: CNC, MyTV, CTN and CTN International. The Bayon media company also has several – Bayon, BTV, which is the News TV, and ETV, which is an entertainment TV.
The outstanding point seven of the event will be to provide traders, entrepreneurs and sellers in presenting their products, especially handicraft and appliances portraying the Cambodian identity in the region. These are the points that people in Siem Reap reaped from the event. Please allow me to express my sincere appreciation and joy over the fact that we have ensured our place in the World Guinness Record of our giant sticky rice cake. I would not know how they cook the one meter diameter and five meter long rice cake though. I just know that they cooked it for 45 hours and will cool down in 55 hours.
Point eight of the Sangkranta Angkor that is outstanding is the instilling of creative thinking of our youth and the creation of leadership with high responsibility through the preparation and organization of the related events of the Sangkranta Angkor. This is the best methodology for our youth to learn to become successors who will take over leadership. There is no other way. We would have to let them think and be responsible, while staying by their side to give them advice and opinion if asked. No one reaches his maturity and old age without going through youth. My youngest son is now 33 years old. I was 27 years old when I became Minister for Foreign Affairs. I was 25 years old when I had to put together an army from a few soldiers to more than 10,000 to overthrown Pol Pot.
I did not come on the first Sangkranta event at Angkor and I did the same for the second one. I have had to come for the third one. I am glad to get things done and it was not necessary for them to consult us anymore. The other day they got this idea on their own to invite HE Sam Rainsy in the National Assembly. Since HE Sam Rainsy did not have the plan to go anywhere, he accepted the invitation. He also brings along his wife and a number of his colleagues. That is a very good point.
Last but not least, the outstanding point nine is that the Sangkranta Angkor promotes tourism and improves the living condition of the people in Siem Reap. This year we have come up with over 1,000 shops/stands. I used to mention this to former President Hu Jintao of the People’s Republic of China on the latter’s visit to Cambodia. I also brought this up with HE Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang and other leaders that Cambodia would be blessed if it receives some 1.3 million tourists or 0.1% of the Chinese population. Last year we receive some 500,000 tourists from China. We are now busy working on a direct flight and opening a consular office in Shanxi. We hope to bring up the number of tourists from China to over one million.
In my visit to Japan in March, I had a discussion with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. I also told Vice Minister for Infrastructure of Japan to get ratification ready for direct flight in July to Cambodia. South Korea has got forty million people and has direct flight to Cambodia. Japan has got 130 million people, more than South Korea. I hope you would do more. People now go to the United States of America via South Korea because the route has more flights. I am calling on the ambassador of Japan to carry out this important project. According to what I learnt from HE Shinzo Abe, effort will be made to ratify the flight in July. I am longing for it.
We also have similar plan with Russia. I met with the Russian Premier Dmitri Medvedev in Nay Pi Daw, Myanmar. I said to him that at the time when there were no tourists coming to Cambodia, there was direct flight of Aeroflot to Cambodia. Now that there are some 150,000 Russian tourists coming to Cambodia via Thailand, Russia should consider reopen direct flight to the country. Cambodians are also going out a lot these days. Singapore gets the biggest share of Cambodian people visiting the country as health condition. Everyone goes to Singapore for medical reason. I am also calling on India, whose population is mushrooming to 1.2 billion to also consider direct flight to Cambodia.
No Success Gained Without Participation
I would like to take this opportune moment to give my warmest greeting to the Cambodian youth and volunteers, teachers, artists, presenters, masters of ceremony, sportsmen and sportswomen. I wish to remind them that there would be no success gained without participation. It would not be successful if one would take action without participation. If it was a success it would be only provisional. I wish the spirit of participation to keep on forever. Our youth have been participating not only in the socio-economic activities but also the defense of the Cambodian culture. I wish to express my sincere thanks to civil servants, authorities of all levels, the armed forces, teachers and retirees for the efforts they made in the past year leading the country to achieve 7.7% growth.
As for this year we hope that the growth will stay at 7% as is predicted by the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund. While implementing the plan to make early payday for April with increased salary and bonus for the Khmer New Year, it is important to note that the Riel currency maintains its value, despite the gain of US dollar, at between 4,015 and 4,016 to a USD. We have stated in our financial management law to ensure the exchange rate of 4,050 Riel to one USD. It seems that though foreign currency circulates in the country, there is still great demand for the Riel currency.
Dare Think, Act and Take Responsibility
I am so glad and thankful to the Union of Cambodian Youth Federations for thinking of the handicap people by bringing in Braille experts to translate for them. The youth have proven they do not forget about the handicap people. It is a comprehensive thought. They may be physically disable but are not mentally and psychologically handicapped. Some of them have graduated from the University. My recommendation to end this speech in addition to some I already mentioned is that the younger generation, the Cambodian youth, must dare think, act and take responsibility. You must accept your shortcomings and learn to improve.
They should nurture this spirit to make themselves the youth with promising future. They should not depend on wealth of their parents. The issue relating to the entrance arch decoration this year has proven that we must learn to accept criticism and gather all thoughts and opinions for discussion with experts. If in the opinion of experts it is correct we must all follow or incorrect we must all improve it. No one would think correctly 100% and no one would do things perfectly without mistakes.
Learning History, Safeguard and Create Achievements
Youth must learn the country’s history and the major phases that the country has gone through. They should take part in keeping achievements so far realized, while creating new ones with high sense of responsibility. History has it recorded for thousands of year up to now. Today I started my speech with the gratitude we all express to former Kings and Queens who have left us with these temples. With them, we are able to have this event today. Our land and water had been defended and protected through numerous wars by our ancestors. Now it has returned to peace. We must do whatever it takes to lead to the strengthening of peace. It will be a kind of peace that not only the noise of gun dies out but the mind and feeling are peaceful.
Without peace, nothing could be done. It is so fortunate today that our Muslim brothers who studied in Yemen have been evacuated safely. We have done similarly when there were political incidents in Egypt and Libya. It was a bit difficult to conduct evacuation operation from Yemen as they had to travel back a thousand of Kilometers. It was fortunate that Qatar provided a free flight. We would also pay even if they had to charge. We had to do so to help get our people out of Yemen peacefully. When Yemen is at peace, they can always go back. We may also seek for scholarship for our people to learn Arabian in other places.
The Middle East is in armed conflict. Some other places of the world are also in trouble. There is no fighting in Cambodia. Let us wish that the culture of dialogue replaces the culture of violence. I would also appeal to other political parties existed on the land of Cambodia to follow the path of the parties with seats in the National Assembly who have conducted the culture of dialogue. We can start dialoguing between those parties in and out of the National Assembly on either this basis of one to one (anyone party in the National Assembly with anyone party outside) or two to one (both parties in the National Assembly with anyone outside).
No More Coloring and Disrespecting One Another
Peace and social stability is priceless. The youth of previous generation has realized the task to put an end to the war and bring about national reconciliation. The youth of this generation should make efforts to defend national reconciliation, national unity and unify the country, though they may have differing political views. No hostility – either armed or in works – should be allowed to take place. We must avoid coloring and/or scolding each other as is said by HE Sam Rainsy in the National Assembly that conducting a culture of dialogue requires frankness, without which anything reached by the dialogue would not bear any fruits. Parties involved cannot work with each others.
I would not negotiate with anyone who would have me in lower seat. For instance when you came to my office, I have you on one end of the table while I am sitting at another. I would not treat you as my Deputy Prime Minister or Minister. We sat in equal status. Value does not apply to the size of party. In our country it is imperatively referring to small or big party. Political party once established is for winning the elections. There is no doubt about it. The issue here is to win in a fair, just, dignified and honored manner. Those who lose would be satisfied. There must be no stabbing from behind.
I raised an issue with Surya Subedi, Human Rights Special Envoy of the United Nations for Cambodia. I asked if he forgot or pretended to forget when it comes to issue of racism. I said you are worse than the football referee, who before a match, footballers must swear not to exercise racism. Zinedine Zidane’s headbutt the Italian opponent (in the 2006 World Cup final) happened because of racist abuse which provoked the attack. Then President Jacque Chirac of France later welcomed Zizou as a hero of France. How could the Special Envoy of the General Secretary of the United Nations overlook this matter of racism? It is unacceptable to be called A Vietnamese or Yuon on any Cambodians.
Let us all respect each other’s dignity, which everyone would love to. I would call on our artistic performers to be careful when they choose their way of performing. For example, the soloist singer of Ayay Mr Prom Manh used to have his comedy by imitating the nasal voice of people who have it naturally. That led to protest from the people who have nasal voice. They say it is a discrimination against them. CTN TV also had to drop off a movie for its content that related to the Chinese and Muslim communities in Cambodia. The story pictures the Cambodians and the Chinese as working hard people and the Muslim as not. That was equally dishonoring the Muslim people. They told it to CTN, who then dropped the movie of its show time. Many countries are in religious conflicts and I am so proud that despite the many religions we have, our people know how to harmonize.
As we are greeting the coming traditional Khmer New Year and the opening of the Sangkranta Angkor 2015 event, I would wish everyone of our Buddhist monk, Excellencies, Lok Chumteav, ladies, gentlemen and our compatriots the four Buddhist blessings./.