BMR Achievements Despites Harsh Terrain and Financial Difficulties
I am so glad today to be able to join with all of you to inaugurate parts of the Bokor Mountain Resort (BMR) development project which consists of 49 km of road and a 418 room hotel. It is indeed a good start despite the mentioning in the reports of HE Khoy Khun Huor, Governor of Kompot province and the Sokha Company representative about the harsh terrain and financial difficulties during the construction period. For me I consider this investment a fast moving project compared to those difficulties mentioned. They deserve my praise and appreciation.
What is my main concern in the BMR investment which has so far spent 200 million USD upon the projected amount of 1 billion USD? When I first came here to preside over the launch of the project on January 19, 2008, the world hit with a financial crisis and economic downturn which then led to conditions of uncertainty not only in Cambodia but throughout the world. Whatever impacts the crisis brought to other countries in the world would also result in correlative impacts on Cambodian economy too. I ask myself then if Oknha Sok Kong could survive the crisis and sustain his investment plan at Bokor.
My doubt rested in the question if the project will succeed or fail since, because of the world financial crisis and economic downturn, many projects seem to have made no progress after the groundbreaking or launching ceremonies. This also includes some of the state projects too. I concluded that the Sokha Company’s investment project in Bokor Mountain felt on the time of hard-hit world economy. This has proven they survive using their capital and those borrowed from the banks. Normally, decisions to give loan base entirely on the degree of confidence that the banks have on the company’s record of performances. It is a great thing that with all financial ability and sources, the company achieved this project that we are joyfully celebrating the inauguration altogether.
I am so glad for what has happened on the land of Kompot today – the Bokor Mountain Resort (BMR) or I call it the historic site. According to the report I have here, the French (colonial staff) discovered this place in 1907 or nearly 100 years ago. They made it a residential and relaxing place. I have observed on my way up here, some sections of the old road and bridges are only 3.5 to 4 meter wide.
The French were here until the time of Sangkum Reastniyum (Popular Socialist Society) of Samdech Ov (Norodom Sihanouk) and Samdech Me (Queen Monineath Sihanouk). Their Majesties possessed a residential building lower down the hill and one more while reaching to the Yeay Mao (Grand Mother Mao’s) spiritual statue. We also have here old Casino building that we will have to fix it and keep as museum.
As the war broke out in 1970, the site was abandoned completely. Even after the Lon Nol’s regime, the Pol Pot’s regime also left it in unattended and ruined condition. After the liberation 1979, until 1995 and 1996, according to our historical records, the former Khmer Rouge forces at Phnom Voar of Kompot province reintegrated with the nation. However, the area was still in insecurity condition.
It was until I launched the win-win policy that the whole nation enjoys complete peace and security and national development has come into play. In the beginning, developing this area was not yet our priority. I received three companies, the Sokha Company also included, coming to see me with their expression of interest to redevelop the Bokor Mountain and Resort.
One of them specializes in refurbishing old buildings in Europe, like in France, expressed its interest in working on BMR. I asked them about how they would bring visitor up to top of the mountain, my main priority, while they only talked of refurbishing old sites and buildings. They gave me a short answer that it is the Cambodian Government’s responsibility. So I advised them to stop conducting their feasibility study. Later, there was one other company coming for the same project and was willing to build the road to top of the mountains but travelers would have to pay for using it. As far as I could remember they were asking for five USD for one trip. Even though the Cambodian Development Council (CDC) already channeled it for the one-window meeting, I still did not give my approval.
Then came the investment proposal of the Sokha Company of Oknha Sok Kong in which he proposed to build access road to top of the hill and for free public use. It is a domestic company. Shall we not approve the local company requesting to build the road for the state? Oknha Sok Kong even wanted to name three roads here after my name and that of my wife. Oknha Sok Kong proposed that the first road starting from the mountain’s foot to top of the mountain is called “Vithei Kiri Techo” and because I see that there are trees along the road I name it “Rukja Vithei Kiri Techo” or “Mountain Avenue of Techo.”
Please allow me to clarify a bit about the term Techo. In fact Techo is a title given not only to me. In the Cambodian history, as far as we could trace it back, the title of Techo was also given by HM to Mr. Meas and Yort too. So the road is named after Techo does not necessarily mean me – Techo Sen alone. In 1630, there were Tech Meas and Techo Yort, though the two military commanders were did not conduct their activities in this part of the country. The two were at the district of Samraong Torng of Kompong Speu.
In one instance in the Cambodian history, one of the Kings of Thailand then invaded Baray, Santuk and Kompong Svay districts in what currently is Kompong Thom province, the Cambodian King then ordered Techo Meas and Techo Yort fromSamraong Torng to engage and defeat the Thai invaders. The Thais then withdrew to Ayuthaya while Thailand then went into conflict with then Burma. However, because of rage of defeat in Cambodia, the Thai King ordered Thai army to open attack on Cambodia from the sea. That was how we have in record the story of Thai soldiers suffered food poisoning from eating Krasaing – a kind of locally hard skin fruit used for adding sour taste to the soup.
The Thai armies invaded two more times – one led by the Moha Obraj (like Prime Minister) and another by a crown prince – but was utterly defeated. Engaged in the battles here, our troops were coming from various regions – Udong, Kompong Speu, Preah Tropang, etc. That was how in the past we had also commanders with the title of Techo.
One other road that is a connection from the main “Rukha Vithei Kiri Techo” to the hill of circulating cloud (Popokvil) to enjoy the water fall, I name it “Vithei Kiri Techo Kungkea” or Mountain Aqua-Avenue of Techo” so as to link Mountain Avenue of Techo to the waterfall. I name the third road which is 11.4 km “Mountain Avenue of Techo Sen Jei.” As we all could see that building these roads in this harsh terrain is not a simple job. Various parts of the mountains had to be trimmed and large pieces of rocks had to be moved out or made as safety barriers.
The fact that the company built the roads for the country is like being on the state’s behalf to improve the country’s infrastructure. It is indeed the state’s gesture to reciprocate in kind to such an act. There have been various requests by the Sokha Company. I advise that some of the requests be channeled to the one-window service meeting and some can be settled right here. One of them is the request for delineation of the Preah Monivong National Park at Bokor so that the company could come up with a master plan to start building road along the line to prevent land encroachment and confiscation, illegal logging and hunting and/or forest fire. Such request does not have to go through the one-window service meeting. I would instruct relevant authorities and the Sokha Company to work out the delineation.
For one other request I think that the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Mines and the Electric Company can jointly take joint action to answer to the Company’s call. The Company requests that the Cambodian electric company set up a substation and network of 115 KVA in the area so that the Sokha Company would be able to address the need for electric power. I think this issue does not need to go to CDC’s one-window service meeting.
It is also my joy to see that the Sokha Company planted over one million trees in the site. I encourage them to go on doing that. We can say that this is a good gesture indicating that there is no forest destruction here. I encourage the Sokha Company, the Forest Administration and the Ministry of Environment to work together to continue to develop green coverage in this area. We cannot have a site without green coverage at all or the site would be meaningless.
I am also fascinated by not only the 418 room hotel up here but also the ability to store up to 400,000 cubic meters of water together with the ability to provide electricity to light up the mountain top. This means that the Sokha Company not only builds the country roads but also pays the country the electric bills too. I urge HE Sok Chenda to review all these and figure out the tax bills.
What is even more fascinating is, for me, the workers residential area, though it has yet to be completed. Like I said the other day at the SAP at the inauguration of SEZ there needs to have a residential area for workers in order for them to stay and work for the company. I wish to inform the Cambodians that we now have the resort of top of the Mountain Bokor. I noted that during the Khmer New Year there were some 5,000 cars up here while we had only 400 rooms to cater to the need. The company is considering building another 600 rooms more.
I am so grateful that this project has come out successfully. It has been anticipated to take longer time to get the project done but considering the terrain and financial difficulties in the world and the region, with its severe impacts also on Cambodia, I think the project completion is not simple or late. This is a large scale investment project as there has not yet other project of this scale in the field of resort. This phase of project completion cost 200 million USD already. I am of the opinion that the term “rising star of the Cambodian Southwest” is developing its true meaning. We all are going up by 1,075 meters (above sea level) altogether.
It was the case before that in a three day holiday people might spent only at the Sihanoukville province and city but it is now not so. People might spend one night at Sihanoukville, one night at Bokor and another at Kep. I agree with the Sokha Company to postpone the projects on cable cars and golf to a later stage. Just now I told HE Sar Kheng that when it is Cambodia’s turn to host the meeting of the Ministers of Interior and provincial governors along the Cambodian-Vietnamese border, we should bring them here for the meeting.
A few years ago I said the province of Kompot does not seem to make a move. However, at the later part of the first decade through to the early part of second decade of the 21st century, Kompot has enjoyed so many achievements. Here in Kompot we have what other provinces do not have – salt, cement, hydroelectricity, new national road 3 and 31, and now the BMR. Kompot is part of the southern corridor, and according to the Tokyo strategy, it includes Ho Chi Minh, Phnom Penh and Bangkok. Also counted in are the Vietnamese province of Kien Giang, Cambodian provinces of Kompot, Preah Sihanoukville, Koh Kong and Thailand’s Trat.
As far as salt is concerned I asked HE Roh Moo-hyun, former President of Republic of Korea, to help us improve the national road 3 as it will serve our purpose of widely distributing salt to all over the country. I noted also that more tourists like to come to Kompot as they could have meals in Kompot before they go up the BMR. Taking this opportunity may I seek our small scale traders and restaurant owners to exercise transparent business and adhere to reasonable pricing so that these tourists will come back to visit again with more friends. To advertize by online, TV or paper is a way to get to many people but it is even more important and widely effective when we could make those tourists to come back again and to bring with them many more.
I wish to just add that in the future the province of Kompot will have a deep seaport of its own as we are conducting not only open sky and land but also water policy.
I still have one more thing to share with our people today and I would also make it known to deities who look after the land, the forest and the air. In 2003, I also talked about this once in the province of Kompot. Then someone said it at Kandal’s Koh Thhom that even the deities also rotate to take the leadership every year. They wanted to infer (to the Cambodian People’s Party) that it should also change the candidate for the leadership. I would take this moment to tell them that if ever they rotate, it will be among their deities – like Sar Kheng, Pol Saroen, Sim Ka, etc.
They all wanted to mean that I should be changed. So long as they have the rights to engage in politics, why am I not? So I am calling on all deities who look after the land, the forest and the air to figure these people out. What is ridiculous is that the ones wishing to replace me are even older than I am. Well, let me just summarize that staying long or short will depend on people’s choice through the elections. Please allow me to clarify that it is not yet time for anyone who is not in any way related to deity’s families. They may think again as the CPP has up to 30 people in the permanent committee, over 200 in the central committee and many in the younger generation who hold Ph. D, MA or Sc., so do not mess with the deity./.