2,619 Graduates, Education for All
I am so happy that we have this chance to come to confer diploma for 2,619 graduates. This could be considered the first event of its kind to start with in the New Year since graduation ceremony and diploma presentation would usually be held in August, September and November. Some participants have in fact graduated a long time ago – take for instance the Buddhist monk Samdech Areyvong and Lok Chumteav who are members of the National Assembly and the Senate. Let me stress here that as far as education is concerned, there is no restriction as to age, gender or race.
Please allow me to take this opportune moment to express my sincere appreciation to all graduates for the efforts they have made. Since we have 2,619 graduates for today’s ceremony, please allow me to ask for your understanding that some of you have to stay outside the auditorium. I appreciate your efforts in completing your studies – both those who have state scholarships and those who are fee-paying students.
It is a reflection of efforts made by both state and private institutions to invest in education, which is a prioritized area among the four priorities that I have put out since 1987. As is said by HE Im Setthi, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports, this priority package has retained its relevancy in the past, the present and the future. I personally foresee that the four priorities would remain relevant for another twenty to thirty years.
During the period, negligence of any one of the four priorities is tantamount to a bus with one lost wheel. Irrigation/water, roads, electricity/power and human resource are the four priorities that investment in all of them must continue. And the human resources enjoy both state and private investments.
Of course, mentioning private sector’s involvement in education, we mean the establishment of tertiary educational institutions but we also have to count in payment by each student’s family for their studies as well. Fee-paying students have in fact allowed chance for further investment on necessary educational infrastructure. HE Yuok Ngoi, rector of the University of Law and Economics kindly showed me pictures of the construction of more buildings, which cost around 1.7 million USD, and the plan for more buildings, with the students’ fees.
So it is a great pride that our fee-paying students not only paid for their studies but also for the tertiary educational infrastructures. I am so proud of you that through your efforts – as state scholarship or fee paying students – you have contributed a great deal for self development as well as development of the country as a whole.
As is said by HE Im Setthi, the coming 2015 will be a competing year for Cambodia. However, this does not mean we should wait till 2015 to make efforts. We have never been idle since 1979, though. I used to come and teach in this school in 1987/88, when it was under the management of the Ministry of Interior and the late HE Sin Song was here. The whole school was in bad shape. With efforts made gradually, we have been able to put all that behind. I also would like to take this opportune moment to thank the management of the Senior Secondary School of Boeng Trabek for cutting a part of its compound and give it to RULE so that the latter could put in more buildings.
HE Bin Chhin, Deputy Prime Minister, is one of the former students of this school. HE Cham Prasidh, Senior Minister and Minister of Trade, was also a student from this school too. We can say that this school has been here for many generations. While gradual progress is made, it is our pride that we are able to redevelop and expand it.
It is known to all that we started from the most difficult situation. It is now our joy that our youth are enjoying the chance created by the country as a whole. Historically, it is the case for many countries that leaders give their people with no chance/opportunity. Take for example in 1970, the Cambodian youth in the whole country had no choice but to become soldiers.
The decision to launch the coup to overthrow Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk, the Cambodian Head of State, on March 18, 1970 had divided the country into two parts. It was because of that that there could be no third choice for our people. They had to be either with the coup leader, General Lon Nol, or with the liberation zone. What does being with no choice mean? It means that people had no choice other than displacing themselves away from fighting, while youth are losing opportunity (for education).
You may find out how many people died in between 1970 and 1975 and again between 1975 and 1979. Many also died and wounded in between 1979 and 1998 in civil war. After 1979, the country continued to have war between Khmers – one side was the government that fought against the return of the Pol Pot’s regime and the other side was the tripartite coalition in which Pol Pot was in it. Our youth and almost the whole country, except in few cities, lost all opportunity. In the period from 1970 through to 1975, there were no schools in the liberation zone until 1979.
In 1979, we have made efforts to reestablish educational system and infrastructures and the first school year was launched for 1979/1980. Where were students and teachers? In the state of lacking of everything, we restarted from those who know a lot would teach those who know less, and those with little knowledge would teach those who did not know. You may understand a country that was imposed with punishment, development assistance was also denied. Those of you who are in the forties would still remember those times. Compared to those days, today is the best chance and there was no other better chance.
In 1998, the win-win policy implementation brought about national reconciliation making Cambodia a unified country. It has brought the country’s disunity to an end. You may be reminded that our country was ruled by two factions in between 1970 and 1975 and by the genocidal regime from 1975 through to 1979. The country was ruled by four factions from 1979 to 1993 and again by two factions from 1993 through to 1998.
While going through these periods, though we had achieved peace some of the times in some places, it is undeniable that continued fighting has prevented our youth from taking up studies. It was usual that in various places, trenches were prepared in every school so as to protect students from fighting. After the country united, we made more efforts for physical infrastructural development, mainly road connections, as I am sure that political integration would be insufficient.
With physical infrastructures in place, students and teachers can now travel from region to region. Take for instance Koh Kong province, traveling there could be done only by engine boats. Now everyone could reach Koh Kong on land through the NR 48. No one could describe how difficult it was travelling to the province of Battambang or even on to Pailin. Traveling to Ratanakiri, Mundulkiri and Stoeng Treng provinces were no better at all. However, with our efforts, these destinations have now been well connected by roads.
Thanks to all efforts that we made so far, opportunity has been within reach for every youth of the new generation. Youth are no longer gathered and given arms to fight anymore. What we are doing now is to gather you for study and staying away from bad actions such as drugs and gangsters. We should include measures for preventing rebellious teenagers, drug addicting and gambling of all sorts in the safe village/commune program. Not only do we not mobilize and arm them for any fight, but we instead are seeking all means to reduce the number of soldiers too. We want to transfer spending on defense and security for education and social affairs, which we really wish to attain. It is because the security issue in 2008, our effort to bring down the number of soldiers has to take a slow pace.
While congratulating on all graduates – those with bachelor and/or master degrees – I also wish to have their attentions that their study is not ending. They should continue to make efforts to study, even in informal way. By the way, research is very important. Studying is one thing for both students and officials and it is very important to keep on with research. Without research, you would not be able to go far. Things are not idle or remaining still. They change. Everyone should learn that if we do not keep our knowledge up to date while things are evolving, i.e. we are left behind. This is an era that various things are developing fast so we have to keep abreast with.
I wish to express my sincere appreciation and praise for the governing board as well as those teachers in the leadership of the University for striving to achieve respectable results. I believe that if the management of the University has not been professionally capable, it would be impossible for RULE to draw everyone’s attention on quality of education here and to gather resources for purpose of building more infrastructures within the University. Those efforts are praiseworthy.
I also learn that there are 29 foreign students who are studying here – both as scholarship students and fee paying students. I am sure once our tertiary education is making advancement, we will be able to attract foreign students to study in Cambodia in both state and private Universities. It is also important that we made these efforts because we also have to respond to the growth of our population as well.
I may let it out that I am preparing a vision for Cambodia till 2030. Having said that does not mean I am planning to stay in power till then. Let’s not be concerned. I also wish to assure those in the opposition that they should not worry about getting Hun Sen out in 2013. You do not have to drag me out as I would leave as soon as you win. It has been recent that some said that the Cambodian People’s Party is shocked (after learning that the opposition parties are joining together). I would tell them that (these efforts are just) a storm in a contained environment with unnoticeable impacts.
Now what? Is it the National Salvation Democratic Movement? Who does it save? Does it save those of you who are here receiving diplomas, those monks who are collecting alms? Where does it want them to go and what does it want them to do? Is this how the term “salvation” is being defined? Let me remind them that from the former title of “National United Front for the Salvation of Kampuchea,” the word salvation was removed a few years after liberation. The front was then renamed as “United Front for Construction, Defense and Development of the Motherland.” Who do they save (at this time)?
I may send a few words to those in the opposition that I have sent a letter to the President of the National Assembly already to inform him that I will come to the National Assembly to explain about the Royal Government’s work of border issue (with Vietnam). I have not got a response yet as to when I can come to the National Assembly. This time I will come to the National Assembly to take up the questions myself. I will leave no stone unturned as we have to clear up the air. This time, I would take four hours to answer to your question.
If it is possible, let’s broadcast live on all TVs. Some people were good for nothing but scold everyone as traitor. They said they would not take any Cambodian as their enemy, only those voted for the Cambodian People’s Party. Why do they consider those Cambodians voting for Hun Sen. and supporting the Cambodian People’s Party as enemy? Don’t they think it is too extreme? There is one who used to be a Minister under Lon Nol’s regime. Why did he not take Koh Wai then? Why does he leave it for us to account for? Who occupied Koh Wai then? Was it not the South Vietnamese government? It was the South Vietnam’s then President Nguyen Van Thieu’s force that occupied Koh Wai.
The Council of Ministers has offered me two choices – to respond in writing or in verbal address. I told I will do it verbally. I will need some four hours and will address issue of transparency, constitution and total land area. Where did we get the 181.035 square kilometers? Who measured Cambodia those days? Why did we have fence only on the east?
How would one define when the country was having a situation in its western border and someone was causing problem in the east? (Referring to the opposition leader pulled out the markers planted to triangulate the point where the border pole would stand). According to martial law, he could serve a death sentence. They then asked how much the marker would cost. It is not about its cost but about how that action is defined by law. (Now that they are talking about alliance) I doubt it why they always think that once they are together they would get all the votes. Why is it so easy?
Those in the opposition said some three million voters who failed to cast their ballots (in the commune councilors’ elections) would all vote for them (in the general elections). On 5 November, 2003, in a meeting in the Royal Palace, when the Cambodian People’s Party won 47% of the total valid votes, (those politicians) calculated that so many would vote for this, so many would vote for that, so many ballots would be invalid and so many would not go to vote, and all in all, according to their calculation, the Cambodian People’s Party would lose.
They also talked of creating international pressure. What is it? Why on earth do we have law? In Cambodia, there has never been a case of dismantling political party dismantling anyway. However, personal wrongdoing must be punished. Days ago they exaggerated that (the case of arrest of) the President of the Association (of Democrats in relation to secession in the commune of Proma) would lead to the closure of the FM 105MHZ Beehive Radio. They made it sound like we were to strip off the rights for expression. I responded the radio does do anything wrong.
As far as this case is concerned, among all seven (known to have involved in the illegal village setup), six of them have now reported themselves. There is one who fled to Thailand and I out that person stayed two nights in a house of someone working for a non-governmental organization in Phnom Penh and fled to Laos and then on to Thailand with some 300,000 Riels. Now the person reported himself already. Only Bun Ratha, the man believed to be chieftain is still at large. I would urge the main leader to find the best lawyer for this case.
I would like to take this forum to send a message to our compatriots relating to new action on existing policy vis a vis land issue. I am giving my appreciation for the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction under the leadership of Senior Minister HE Im Chhun Lim for the efforts they have made in implementing and coordinating this mission. I also thank provincial, district, communal and village authorities for the facilitation of the whole historic campaign.
I thank the technical staff from the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction and also from other ministries, who have merged as working team with students. I would like to express my sincere appreciation for the generosity of various people from the state institutions, the CPP working groups and the armed forces in looking after our youth volunteers and officials in the mission. I especially express my appreciation, respect and affection for the students who are involved in this work.
It is indeed a great pride. I have a good feeling indeed to say that they deserve to be praised, adored and respected. I am fond of them, adore them and also respect them for their heroism in fulfilling this historic mission. I take this opportune moment to once again express my sincere thankfulness for sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, grandfathers, grandmothers, sponsors for allowing their beloved sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, grandsons and granddaughters to fulfill this historic mission of measuring and giving land ownership to the people.
I am so pleased and proud of our young generation. It has been generations that the people of Cambodia do not have proper land ownerships. Take for instance, my family has got a land title only for residential land along the Mekong River, for which we paid tax on it. We also had a piece of land that was not legal. My grandparents claimed dry season and rainy season rice land in this area called Tuol Sambuor. We paid no tax on that land. If we did not pay tax means we did not have land title. There are so many people, in this case, that did not have land title.
Many people fled their villages because of war in 1970 and in Pol Pot time, their land titles were not recognized and land was nationalized. Later, in 1979 people expanded their production and the state then found out that there was a need for people to claim new land. The state provided money to the Ministry of Planning to give out to people to claim land. Under the State of Cambodia, we also issued people with land title imprinted with a feather sign in certain region, while there are regions that titles have never been given yet.
Improper land ownership put our people in uncertain state. They could not decide on whether to develop the land or not because they do not know if the land would be confiscated by the state or given out to companies for investment. In addition to that, lacking land ownership, people could not have the mean to secure their loans from banks (for further investment). They also could not transfer land in their own rights to their children. It is in this state that some people, in some places, have gone into conflict with neighboring companies.
There are also cases that they called forest coverage areas. It is said to be forest coverage area in the map but only tapioca, rubber and cashew are there. Having noticed that and in order to end people’s anxiety and insecurity on land ownership, the Royal Government of Cambodia, implementing the order 001, is committed to fulfilling this mission of measuring land and providing land ownership for people so that they will have proper and legal land titles. We also have to make sure that there is a clear boundary between forest land concession and economic land concession and those belong to the people.
Up to now, we have up to 350,000 families which would require about 1.2 million hectares of land to be provided for. However, I must make it clear that we will measure land and provide land title only to those who maintain actual occupation. Those who claim new land after this date would not be eligible for this mission to measure for them. They should go talk to the authority. Measuring land and giving land ownership for people with actual occupation is only our first step, and claiming land illegally will be punished like this case in the commune of Prama. The people in Prama commune did not do anything wrong but people who came from outside to claim land there. We have to find out who is behind.
For the second phase I will continue to organize social land concession and speed up this process. We have provided thousands of families with social land concession but I think we need to expedite the process and we have no problem in doing that since we have more land available. While measuring land, I think we may ask our youth volunteers’ (expertise and efforts) to prepare a master plan. For instance, we have identified a place with land availability for 500 families and each family would possess between three and four hectares. After processing their identification, we may send them there.
The second phase of our mission would guarantee that Cambodian farmers would possess land for cultivation. However, there is one thing that I should clarify. Some people have misled our people that Hun Sen has ordered the youth volunteers to measure and give out land title so that he would start impose tax on agricultural land. Please allow me to affirm, as long as Hun Sen and the Cambodian People’s Party exist, tax on land will not be imposed. I disagree with the idea of taxing people on their agricultural land when I debated with the International Monetary Fund on this issue.
I argued then that if I were to charge tax on agricultural land, we might have more (money) too but the Cambodian farmers are in a situation that we should in fact help them, building more irrigation system for example. When you (opposition politicians) come to power, you may decide before farmers on whether or not you would impose tax. You (opposition politicians) promise to give high salary. What would you do when you do not have money? You may resort to taxing farmers of their agricultural land.
Whatever will happen then is not going to be the Cambodian People’s Party’s concern anymore. However, as long as the Cambodian People’s Party is in power, whether I am going to be there or not, it will maintain this position of imposing no tax on agricultural land. I may assure those politicians, after living with this party for thirty three years, people are able to make their judgments.
I wish to thank the Ministry of National Defense for providing trucks, medical staff and drivers for this mission. Those trucks have become shelters when there is rain for our youth volunteers. It should be noted that the first batch of youth volunteers would return to the mission tomorrow (August 2) after coming for a rest. When they return I will give them ten cases of juice which have I received from the Angkor Beer company. The second batch of volunteers would take a break on August 5 and the third batch would take a break on August 15.
I thank the Ministry of Health for looking after the youth volunteers. As is reported by HE Mam Bunheng, Minister of Health, there had been 82 cases of diarrhea, 314 cases of cold, six cases of mild malaria, four cases of dengue fever, 16 cases of rashes, one case of arm bone broken, 10 cases of sore throat, one case of dizziness and 167 other health related cases. Among these, 25 cases have been brought to hospital in provinces and also in Phnom Penh (dengue, malaria, appendicitis and broken bone) and five have been discharged.
I thank all media companies, TVs included, for making efforts for information coverage on activities of the youth volunteers. This has indicated that measuring and giving land title to people has become grand movement in the history of Cambodia. To fill in the form for people would also take up to ten thousand soldiers and they may not have sufficient expertise to do that. It has proven that setting up team that consists of 24 members – 12 are youth volunteers and 12 are related-field officials – is indeed responsive. While filling in form for land tenure would need educated people to carry out, data enumeration into the database would also need to be fulfilled by the youth volunteers too.
As of July 30, we have inspected and proclaimed results of judgment areas in 258 communes in cut-out regions (from forest land concession and economic land concession). We have filled in the form of registration of 122,586 pieces of land, etc. We are still figuring out based on this result how long will this job be completed.
These youth volunteers are worthy of praise, adoring and respect because they are away from home not for leisure in Siemreap’s Angkor Wat or Bokor Mountain Resort or sea bathing but working in the forest. I understand that they are adorable in their families as they are already in their second, third and even fourth year in Universities. You all are also important but because we have already a reasonable number of youth volunteers already to do the job.
I may reiterate that the Royal Government does not send the youth volunteers to resolve the land dispute. They are in your place to measure land for the people and to give the people proper land ownership. As far as land in conflict is concerned, it is not mandated for them to resolve. Wherever there is land conflict, please send the youth volunteers to places where there is no conflict. Land in conflict must be left for systematic land registration by the Ministry.
These students are not the court or the authority to resolve land dispute. One should not exaggerate if one is not sure about it. I would not be surprised if the youth volunteers react to such baseless remarks. There is no one who could be as blind as a man with good eyesight but pretend to see nothing, and as deaf as a man with good hearing but pretend to hear nothing. I urge that they should not abuse the truth relating to the youth.
This action would insult not only some over two thousand youth volunteers but also their families, and most importantly those people who have shared the enthusiasm and adore them as their own children. Such enthusiasm has brought together a national movement. I thank Samdech Preah Areyvong and the head of the Buddhist monks for allowing all pagodas to open their doors for youth volunteers to stay.
This effort to measure land and to give our people with proper land titles would clearly define people’s possession of land and promote economic growth while reducing poverty. Holding land ownership with confidence and safety would encourage our people to go along this path of development. I doubt some politicians are running out of cards as that they have come to blame that Hun Sen is doing all this land measuring and titling in order for political gain. Let me tell them if it was for political loss, why should one do it?
Take for instance the economic leadership in Cambodia. There is no need to lead the economy, if leading would only destroy it. However, after the two-digit economic growth suffered a down curve, now it has picked up again and (people) say let’s continue the leadership. It has been definitely reflected by the election results in 2008 and 2012 at a rate of 61%, which I am sure you must agree that is not a simple matter./.