CIT – Pride of the Nation
I am so glad to come to the Cambodian Institute of Technology (CIT) once again in presiding over two events – the graduation/diploma presentation ceremony and the inauguration of CIT’s new buildings and achievements, including this multipurpose study hall. HE Im Setthi, Minister for Education, Youth and Sports already made a report about the institute and its history of development that we all could conclude that the most difficult part or time for the CIT has already subsided. We could look back to the CIT’s development in two different stages.
First, it was a stage from 1970 to 1975 and 1975 to 1979. As Cambodia fell into war, the ill fate happened not only for CIT but for the whole nation. War broke out, in the places where war did not reach yet, there was a growing and endless sense of fear. The genocidal regime (of Pol Pot) and the after-effect of the war brought the CIT as well as other learning institutions throughout the country to an abandoned state. (After the fall of the genocide) in 1981 we restarted CIT. The former Soviet Union that offered assistance to CIT in 1960s then came back in 1980s to put CIT back on track.
The Soviet Union continued to provide assistance to CIT for ten years. I could remember that some officials of the then Ministry of Foreign Affairs also came here to complete their engineering and architectural studies (after their studies were interrupted under Pol Pot’s regime). A new difficulty arose as the former Soviet Union had to withdraw its assistance. We then had to search once again for assistance. As expected, I worked with HE Roland Dumas, Senior Minister and former Foreign Minister of France. However, before we were able to obtain assistance from France, we also had to involve useful helps of UNDP and UNICEF. It could be understood to be one of the most difficult times for CIT after the liberation from the Pol Pot’s genocide.
The UNDP and UNICEF rendered assistance to CIT for the transitional period from 1991 through to 1993. France came in to provide CIT with help in 1993 and 2004. Once the France came in with help, some students staged up what was understood to be an anti-French language movement in CIT. The CIT’s history has been to my full knowledge. At the time, the movement suggested that as the CIT students were using Russian in their studies, if it was to be altered, they proposed that CIT should opt for English language and not French.
Well, since no Anglophone country showed up and offered help, who could we call for assistance? There was no one else but France and France it was. There were two tendencies indeed as far as language use was concerned. The language to be used as means, to me, was not one thing to bother about at the time as long as our students could go on studying. There were Cambodians politicians who returned from long-time living in foreign countries and they fought on this as some came from Francophone and some from Anglophone countries. Divergence of vision brought our students to the anti-French movement. However, I am sure those students already left for jobs already.
There was no alternative as to who we could call on for help. If CIT wants to go for English, definitely there had to be assistance provided from Anglophone countries. But there was no one who responded to our call. The French did. As the French was here, then universities in Belgium that have networking with French education institutions also came. I often raise it with French Ambassadors whenever I had the opportunity and today as we have the presence of the Ambassador, I urge that the French do not abandon CIT. They may consider that CIT is the heritage that Cambodia and France joined hands to give life to it in the most difficult time.
It should be noted and mentioned here that France offers Cambodia its helps in other institutions – the Royal School of Administration, the Law School that trains judges, prosecutors and attorneys, and the Faculty of Medicine too. So we have room for French language here. I am of the opinion that France should give it more attention, and try to strengthen its posture. In relation to this I could recall one fact from 1982 when I visited France in my capacity as Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. I told many French parliamentarians from various French political parties at a dinner ceremony that France should indeed focus its interest in restoring its language use in Cambodia. I also hinted the reestablishment of the French Cultural Centre.
There was then a French parliamentarian responded to me “but the French Government does not recognize your government.” So the French did not see it was in its interest to set up the French Cultural Centre in Cambodia then. I said: “Well, that is brought up for the French interest. However, let me remind you that unlike other former French colonial countries. Cambodia has its own national language. On top of that Cambodia also has more options because we are sending students to study in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.” So as you are now reminded, the issue of being or not being recognized was an obstacle to opportunity for cultural and language development and relationship.
It was not until when Madame Francois Mitterand initiated what is called the June-21 action that a focus of interest on this issue came into the spotlight. That was followed by the reestablishment in 1990 the French Cultural Centre in Cambodia, where I also attended the inaugural ceremony. As of now I am sure Mr. Ambassador must have resolved affairs with the Ministry of Culture already. I have suggested that the leasing of the buildings for the French Cultural Centre (by the Ministry of Culture) is to be extended for another 70 years. When the Ministry of Culture brought a proposal to me for ending the contract, I responded that the contract is to go on and a symbolic charge should be considered for another 70 years. This shall extend the contract, including the period offered before, to 90 years in all.
In fact I have done many things to help out. I also resolved the issue relating to the former School of Rene Descartes for France. I do not speak French, and to be frank all three leaders of the three countries in Indochina, who are members of the Francophone countries, do not speak any French. The other day I mentioned about this July 1997 armed incident in Phnom Penh and one B 40 grenade fell in the French Embassy compound. A French official told my son that in fact there were two as they found another one in the yard behind some months ago. I think that it may not be the grenade from the incident but it could be one left unaccounted for as the Military Head Quarter of Phnom Penh, which stayed here since 1979, had to move out to a new place to let the compound for France to reestablish its embassy.
Though I have some urgent matter to attend to, and it could be said to be irrelevant to the topic that I am presiding over today, I have a message to deliver on policy concerning fishing and fishing lots/areas in the Tonle Sap Lake. However, I take it that you all are consuming fish for protein requirement and there are many families living around the lake of Tonle Sap so you are waiting to hear policy decision of the Royal Government of Cambodia after the implementation of the Royal Government’s order 001 to suppress anarchic fishing by some. The message is for people all over the country and especially for those who live around the lake of Tonle Sap.
Our people must be waiting to hear and see what is next in the Royal Government’s agenda as far as the anarchic contracting and mismanagement of the fishing zones is concerned. For one, our people are waiting to hear if the Royal Government allows people formerly inaccessible fishing lots and to fish. For your information, formerly there was a clear boundary defining areas for people to fish from those designated to fishermen contractors. As of now the state’s reserved fishing lots are no longer allowed to contract out. That is the reason why people are wondering if they could enter the designated zones and fish.
Secondly, there has been an ambiguity as far as the duration of postponement of the fishing zones is concerned. Samdech Techo Hun Sen already said that the zones are to be left untouched for three years, till 2014, and people would really want to know what will happen after the said prohibition is over. I have the duty to declare and inform our people that in the lake of Tonle Sap, all 35 fishing zones – in the provinces of Kompong Chhonang, Pursath, Battambang, Siem Reap, Kompong and Thom, two others in Banteay Meajei will go on till end of contract – do not exist anymore. All of them are dissolved. The two in Banteay Meanjei will also be dissolved when the contract ends.
The meeting of inspectorate commission last month sought my approval on the proposed three different types of fishing lots – those for dissolving, those for conserving and those for go-on fishing. In recent days, there have been discussions, though not in the form of official meeting, to look into the research and investigation relating to this issue. The results also have been brought to HM’s attention already last Friday. I also went on to seek for a final decision on the issue and the result is what I have just mentioned to you above.
After we dissolve the fishing boundaries and lots, the Royal Government will define areas for conservation too as we could not ignore the need for fish to have its residential area for certain time of the year at all. We will define zones that are to be known as conserved fish species zones. There will be defined coordination of zones for various kinds of fish species. They need to be conserved so that these fished can spawn and reproduce. Deputy Prime Minister Bin Chhin will lead a meeting tomorrow to draft a sub-degree on this matter.
No one, state or private, has the rights to fish in the conserved fish species zones. Once they spawned, grew bigger and migrated out of the defined zones, people at large can fish them. These zones will not be too large and will be placed under the management of the Fisheries Administration of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. In addition to that these zones normally are known to be habitats of birds of all kinds who feed themselves with fishes. So, in areas that are not going to be defined as fish species zones, will they be designated for fishing and who have the rights to do so? Please listen carefully as I make it clear for you there will no longer owners of so and so fishing lots anymore as they have been dissolved. People with household size tools will be the ones to catch fish there.
I no longer sit and blow the smoke away but rather extinguish the fire itself. In 2000, already we reformed the fishing lots as there were so many problems brought to our attention back then. The idea of reform since then was for the interest and benefit of the people and nothing less. At the time the state fishing zones were set too large that people in some areas could not go far from their house as they may be caught encroaching into the fishing zones. In a rescue mission from flooding, in the presence of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense HE Tia Banh and Minister of Trade HE Cham Prasidh, member of the National Assembly HE Sieng Nam told me about 16 people who were caught and put in custody for boating across the fishing zones.
As a Prime Minister I saw that should not be the case so I was determined then as I am now to initiate and see through the implementation of the reform of fishing and fishing lots in the lake of Tonle Sap. I then revoked the fishing lots in the district of Soat Nikum of the province of Siem Reap, while enlarging the people’s fishing area to a size of roughly 56% of the fishing area. The situation then improved not only about fishing and fishing lots but also between fishing lot contractors and those who need to preserve water in natural reservoir for the sake of growing rice. In 1995 I visited Svay Proteal of Troey Sla in the Sa Ang district of Kandal province with HE Lim Kean Hor, there were about five or six locals coming to see me and asking me for rifles. I asked them what they need rifles for. They said they need them to sort out differences with those fishing lot contractors.
Those people were angry that fishing lot contractors drained out water from the reservoirs for fish while people need to keep water in the reservoir for their rice cultivation. Similar incident also took place in Kompong Chhonang when I once allowed people to see me at the secondary school of Teb Pronom. People knelt down in front of me to beg my help for their need for water to cultivate rice while fishing contractors in the area drained it out. It is now the time to end all this. Once the fishing areas are given back to people, through the fishing communities, they will work out among themselves when to keep water for dry season rice cultivation and when to catch fish. People truly are in control of their destinies at local levels. This is what we say people are masters of their own fates.
However, in following years, incidents recurred when there were reports that fisheries businessmen, who contracted fishing lots from the state, had created access difficulties among local people. According to inspectorate reports, contractors in some fishing areas placed their traps from 800 meters to 1,000 meters, and even more. That created difficulties for people to travel through the lake. The time for people traveling in the boat to avoid the trapping area could be consuming and in case of urgency, perhaps some people might face life-threatening circumstances. These fishery contractors had made themselves big bosses of fishing lots in the lake of Tonle Sap. They set up themselves secessionist zones. The Royal Government could take them no more and would not leave our people to continue to suffer.
As a matter of fact, in some instances, people were sued for crossing their fishing zones. It was secessionist practice indeed as they could arrest people and send them to the court. Shall we leave the situation to deteriorate to what it was before we confiscate the fishing lots or shall we put an end to it once and for all? There was a matter brought to my attention by Judge Jiv Keng and I was shocked to learn only then that the river of Sen in Kompong Thom became a fishing zone and people taking bath on either side of the river were in fact in the fishing zones.
It is in this note and commitment that I am determined to take action and will not back out. It is not to be a reversal. Those who would like to have a reversal in this matter would have to wait until I leave my position or when the Cambodian People’s Party lost the people’s support. Only then other political parties may reinstate the fishing lots/zones again. As an oath in my life, this policy that I issue and see through the implementation will not be altered in any case by the Cambodian People’s Party, no matter who would take it over.
Like the policy of tax free for farmlands, which came into effect since 1979, in 1991 I declared it before the signing of the Paris Peace Agreement so that we could prevent those who would be joining us from thinking of taxing people of their farmlands. The policy has been in force for 33 years now. I would continue to guarantee that as long as the Cambodian People’s Party is in power, this policy would be upheld. It would otherwise be a different matter if it other political parties were to be in power. They may think of taxing farmlands and give fishing lot contracts to fishery businessmen again. Though the sub-decree has yet to be issued, the political will and commitment will not backtrack.
Well, there have been rounds of discussion before I declare it today in my capacity as Prime Minister. With correct policy, the fishery catches this year have improved. We have more fish to catch and caught more fishes. We have yet to close the fishing season, but as of the moment of speaking, some 445,000 tons of fishes have been caught or 40,000 tons more than the previous year. What is to be noted here is that the one who caught those fishes were not fishery contractors but household fishermen. The state is ready to lose return of the fishing contracts for our people to be able to fish freely for life.
According to the study by HE Aun Poan Munirath, Secretary of State for Economy and Finance, and my advisor, because of the increase in the amount of fish caught, the price of fish has fallen down, bringing down with it the inflation rate from what was expected to be around 6%. So abundance of fish catch in this case placed money in our people’s pockets. From this time on the lake territory is under state’s control and people are allowed to catch fish, except in conserved fish species zones.
I just learned that each fishing lot did not give us much money. Like the fishing lot number 1 in the Sen River of Kompong Thom, the contracting price was 80 million Riel (20,000 USD). We have started from zero GDP in 1979/80 to now over 13 billion USD, whereas our capital reserve has shot up from nil to over 3 billion USD. Why should we need to collect these minor incomes? Let’s give it out to the people. It is true we lose some state’s income but we give more money to people’s pockets. People are happier and there will be lesser problems for us to resolve as they will be sorting out their interest themselves.
We also have this Tonle Sap Lake Authority, which is an inter-institutional and inter-provincial authority grouped with various coordinating ministries – Water Resources and Meteorology, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Environment, etc. I would urge local offices of these ministries to take high responsibilities together with the Fisheries Administration, who could be considered as justice police in this matter and area.
I would like to take this opportunity to place an appeal to all to refrain from illegally importing small-hole nets and all police and custom officers in all entrances must control strictly. I also call on all to preserve the inundated forest as this year’s experience has showed us that fish population does increase not only in the lake of Tonle Sap basin but also along the Mekong River – both upstream and downstream. I hope what our old saying goes “where there is water there is fish” to become true again. So it is important that we defend the inundated forest for fish to breed and spawn, protect and conserve the fish species zones.
At the same time, I also called to Deputy Prime Minister HE Yim Chhay Ly to advise him to discuss with HE Chan Sarun on irregular price bidding for fishing lots, which led to the annulment of the biddings for fishing lots in the provinces of Prey Veng and Kompong Cham. I am of the opinion that those lots should also be dissolved but HE Chan Sarun requested permission to discuss it with local authorities first.
As far as the multipurpose study hall that we put into official use today, I think it is one of the bests compared to those I have built, for instance the Samdech Chea Sim hall that I initiated the construction to commemorate the fact that Samdech Chea Sim was the one who reestablished the Cambodian national police. The Samdech Chea Sim hall, which costs roughly half a million USD, will be able to sit between 1500 and 1600 people. As for this CIT multipurpose study hall, because it had to be built on stilts, it costs more. We also had built a four storey 24-classroom building too. There are going to be also hostels for foreign students and female students, a parking lot and a football field as well.
Having come to this, I wish to remind the fourteenth recommendation I made to the meeting of the National Council for Women to inspect the status, condition and challenges for women in graduate and postgraduate educations. That is my concern because it has been noted that though more women completed their studies at bachelor’s or master’s degree, their number seems to have gone down when it comes to Ph D degree. There needs to have a study, I recommend, to figure out if social or traditional factors that are the crucial cause for this trend. By the time a woman reaches a master’s degree in her study, she could be in her twenty three or twenty four years of age already. Traditionally, that is an age that Cambodian women would get married. So marriage, it seems, could be a hindrance to continuing study.
I have three daughters-in-law and only one could go on with her study. She is now in London. She has had to reschedule her thesis research and writing a few times because of pregnancy after getting married. Two other daughters-in-law could not do it anymore. One of my daughters-in-law got her master’s degree in Japan. Having that mentioned, all of my sons have been to Japan. Starting with Hun Manet who visited Japan in 2010 at the invitation of former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, I requested to the Prime Minister to allow Manet to meet with his son in Japan. However, because his son was in Russia to help with traffic management project at the time Manet visited Japan, the former Prime Minister hosted Manet himself.
A year later, Hun Manit was invited, and this year, leaving yesterday already, Hun Many is invited to visit Japan. They are study visits and I am sure the visits of this sort have been initiated for many Cambodian youths with an aim of raising awareness of the relationship between Japan and Cambodia. We also hosted a Japanese Youth Ship every year in Cambodia as part of youth exchange program, for example.
Now coming back to the buildings, we spent seven million USD for the two buildings – the multipurpose study hall and the four-storey 24 classrooms building and we have yet to build the hostels I said above, especially one for foreign students as we are giving more scholarships to foreign students too. A number of educational institutions respond positively to my call to offer scholarships for foreign students. However, I have noted that we could not offer them yet as we have to consider more requirements. There have been different kinds of scholarships though. Some scholarships cover only tuition fee but students will have to cover the rest of costs themselves.
As far as scholarship provision is concerned, Cambodia offers scholarship that includes a place to stay and a stipend of 120 USD too. We have many students to go study in foreign countries like Japan and France. We have only two Vietnamese students who study in CIT, while hundreds of Cambodian students study in Vietnam. With Laos there used to be a quota agreement that every year there will be ten students from each side to study on state scholarship. Later I proposed to HE Busan Bophavan, former Prime Minister of Laos, to base scholarship not on quota but on ability to provide from both sides.
The buildings will be heritage for this generation and the coming generations which also illustrate the Khmer architecture as that of the Santepheap Building of the Council of Ministers. I am calling on our friends to consider using Cambodian architecture and construction skills for any construction project they may have. If one talks of local capacity building, there is no other way but using Cambodian human resources. Local capacity building will materialize with giving the work for them to do.
I understand that you all see the importance of making further efforts in your area of studying interest. I hope that more investment will come to Cambodia that more jobs will be created out there for our graduates. I think that architecture has a high demand. Japan has made a great example on human resource development in Cambodia. For whatever project they do in Cambodia, they focus primarily and first of all on human resource development. At this moment, you all may be aware that we are lacking human labor for local jobs while more of our citizens migrate illegally to work in foreign countries. We are in demand for human labor, especially in the field of agriculture – like in rubber plant, where the day-labor wage is 5 USD.
In Cabinet meetings, I urge relevant institutions to raise current awareness to workers and people at large about job creation and availability in so and so companies or project sites. It has been often that people know about job in a foreign destination better than jobs available inside the country. It is so important to make jobs known to people. Our people would not choose to go away from their families for similar paid jobs if they know there are ones in the country. Take a case of concern here there have been a few Cambodians who just returned from Indonesia as they were forced to work on a fishing boat. They worked and lived on the boat for months. So, on issue of human resources we have to also focus on resolving the problem of lacking human labors and technicians. This would lead to competing for labor and it will therefore create an environment that the companies have to better pay them.
Once again I congratulate those of you who have graduated and hope that you will continue to make further efforts in national construction, and first of all building up your family, because with each family making progress, our nation will too. We need to start from each person, each family, community and then the whole country will do.
It is in this note that I thank Ambassadors, Representatives and Cambodian leaders who have taken their valuable time to take part in this event. I wish that the CIT would not be abandoned despite debt crisis in Europe. I strongly hope that our friends will continue to help. I also thank JICA, as is said by Minister of Education, Youth and Sports Im Setthi, for providing various tools and equipments for study needs for CIT. I also thank all partners for making contributions in whatever way they can and see fit to bring CIT to the present progress. I thank the Ministry of Economy and Finance for making financial availability for the construction projects in CIT.
I am so glad that 1,348 students have graduated and attended their graduation ceremony today.As is reported by HE Im Setthi, 450 are senior technicians, 892 are engineers and five are holding master’s degrees. It should be noted that among all graduates there are eleven female students from Laos who have graduated as engineers. It has been recorded 25 students already from Laos who completed their studies at CIT. Together with families of graduates, I share your pleasure and expectation and hope that all of you, because of the growing job market, will be able to find jobs according to your skill and ability./.