I am so glad to be able to come once again to join with all of you in celebrating of the inauguration of the Buddhist temple of the Serei Udom pagoda in the village of Trabek, Pean Ruong commune in Svay Antor district of Prey Veng province. In just ten days, I have come to Prey Veng twice already – April 11 and today April 22. I would like to take this opportune moment to express my sincere thanks and appreciations to our Buddhist parishioners for their cordial hospitality showing me their love, pity, satisfaction and trust. Together we are celebrating the Buddhist ritual in all eight directions. I am so glad to see that our achievements have blossomed before our eyes in Buddhism and secular sector day after day.

Today, aside from inaugurating the new Buddhist temple, we also put into official use a six-classroom school building in the Primary School of Serei Udom, which HE Net Savoeun and I have shared construction costs. Today we are also building one more six-classroom school building at the Primary School of Jojok in the commune of Me Bon, Svay ANtor district.

Concerning the province of Prey Veng, in the 1980s I once had stayed in the commune of Jia Khlang and I could recall that it was not that far from each other between Peanruong and Jia Khlang. On my way from the district of Mesang, at about 1400 hour, people came stopping me and requested for help in building schools, pagodas, etc. We did not have mobile phone in those days. We had only walkie-talkie radio. From Mesang to Jia Khlang, I had to contribute a total sum of about 100 million Riel on the average of three to four or five million Riel per request.

We are building this 28 km road all the way to the NR 8 at Jipuj of Mesang, which, HE Chea Sophara, Minister of Rural Development, has reported that the preliminary preparation is about 50% already. We will soon replace this bad-shape road condition with an asphalted one.

Destructions Left from Pol Pot’s Regime

I would like to take this opportune moment to express my appreciation for the efforts reported by HE Hah Sareth, governor of Prey Veng, in relation to the development in all fields in the province after the liberation on 7 January 1979. We may recall that Prey Veng under Pol Pot was like a twin region after the head of the region, Ta Chouk, etc. was  arrested. Chan Seng Hong took over the post of head of the region – 23 and 24. Killing of people in Prey Veng and Svay Rieng provinces under Pol Pot was no exception compared to other provinces.

After the liberation in 1979, gradually our people have made their development from scratch. Those of you who survived the regime, even in bags of bones in those days, have made great efforts altogether until the present and produced individual or collective achievement after achievement. If we close our eyes and recall, in 1979, what did we have in hands? Take for instance in April 1979. As of now, the situation is completely different. We could remember that Pol Pot left us nothing but ashes, separation, shaggy and shabby conditions. It has been admirably great effort that our people made to overcome the destruction left by the Pol Pot’s regime.

We can say there is no country in the world that has more orphans and widows in population ration than Cambodia. While facing with these difficulties, we have striven with full energy to overcome the punishment from outside as Pol Pot’s regime legally occupied the Cambodian seat at the United Nations, representing Cambodian people, whom they have killed. However, the truth has shown that everything depends on internal aspect of the country, not decisively on external one. We have overcome great difficulties and successfully assured that no one should die of hunger without our knowledge or that we know of but fail to take effective measure.

CPP Political Platform Covers All, Religion also Included

I would like to take this opportunity to talk a bit about Buddhism. I should recall that it has been the Cambodian People’s Party vision since 1980s as there was a discussion in those days about its policy towards religion, and that included the state religion – Buddhism, too. The CPP political platform has covered every stakeholders, farmers, workers, intellectuals, religions, etc. I wish to clarify is that what we thought about and believed so in 1980s has now become a connector to the present day’s development policy for religion. It serves as measuring tool for religious progress in Cambodia too.

Together with Samdech Chea Sim, Samdech Heng Samrin, and other CPP leaders, we have set out a correct policy in all fields in the Kingdom of Cambodia. We have noticed the development of religion affairs where there are Buddhism, Islam and Christianity. For this religion of Christianity, we then noticed early involvements of World Vision and numerous other organizations. I remember a saying that religion is the drug for believers. Therefore, Pol Pot dismantled pagodas, killed the monks, but people still place their trust in religious faith.

Buddhist Pagodas Keep National Soul, Religion and Culture

No matter how cruel Pol Pot was to religion or Buddhism, he could not remove people’s faith in the religion at all. Although Pol Pot ordered you to stay away from religion and by whatever you did for them, elder people always thought of Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha and even deity. They called them for help. Deity did come. Everyone here is wearing a hat that prints a deity sign on it. It is the CPP’s sign. It is not deity only in words but in real life. Buddhism used to play many great roles, as we noted, in the Cambodian history from the time when it was under French control. It prevented the French from Romanizing the Khmer characters, which means keeping Khmer language they way it is. It protects the Khmer language.

Like some countries in Africa, and those closer to us, Vietnam, which formerly used Chinese characters, also had their language characters Romanized. In that instance, with the help of Buddhist pagodas, Cambodia did not. The Buddhist pagodas served as places that keep scriptures, in which soul and culture of our nation are in there. Many countries in Africa speak French instead of their mother tongues. We Cambodian still speak Khmer, which includes Pali, Sanskrit and the simplified versions of them until today.

Buddhist Pagodas Shelter People

As of this point, we are looking to the Buddhist pagodas as major part of our policy toward elderly people, youth and children of our country. People of all circles could have asked why the CPP people not only allows people to practice religions in general and Buddhism in particular, but also share their resources to initiate the ritual of all sorts and to build and/or rebuild more pagodas. This has become our attention not only because the Buddhist religion provides education to the people, urging them to perform good action, but more importantly, because it plays a critical part in our policy for care of the aged, children and youth as well.

Let us all see. When people grow into their old ages, where do they go? They go to the Buddhist pagodas. That is important. That is why CPP not only opens for religious faiths but also has its members involved in all sorts of Buddhist ritual and in all of the more than 4000 pagodas throughout the country. Some of the old people are in good care of their children but they also visit the pagodas every Buddhist precept day. Where would they go if we do not have pagoda? This is one dimension of the problem. We also have one other issue where a good number of people throughout the country are also taking shelters in pagoda.

Since 1979, the Cambodian People’s Party has been doing this job. So far, it has helped millions of people, especially the aged ones who take shelters in the pagodas. If the pagodas did not have the ability to rebuild or build in the past 34 years, after the liberation on 7 January 1979, where old aged people, especially in poor families, would go. It is indeed a great part for the policy to take care of the aged. Take for example, in the pagoda of Preah Pothivang Am Lim Heng, hundreds of grand old dads and moms are staying to learn and practice precepts. Our people at an average of 60 years old would want to go to pagoda.

Therefore, looking into the old-aged people policy, one should not overlook the role of Buddhist pagoda. It is equally important that one must identify the role of the Cambodian People’s Party in its involvement together with the people to build up Buddhism, and other religious faiths. Some people have come and talked about their so and so visions and made empty promises. In the past 34 years, let us ponder, if there were no Buddhist temple and pagodas, where would they go and what would they do? Take for instance parishioners of Serei Udom pagoda, where would they go to practice their precepts. In the meaning that Buddhist pagoda is a part of the country’s policy for old aged people the Cambodian People’s Party has done and continues to do in its support for the Buddhism.

As for policy towards youth and children, we need to look to some facts that there is school next to it. In our country, in the time when Cambodia was under France, there were so few schools. Many who had learned a lot were the ones who stayed and learned in pagoda. Later, we had more and more schools build outside, but still adjacent to pagoda. As of now, we have so many schools. According to the report of HE Hah Saret, there is a university, three institutes, a school of pedagogy, etc. There are up to 256 school buildings – 1,297 classrooms in all – that I have sponsored the construction. I am sure today we will have some more.

Some of the youth may want to go into monkhood and we must consider this in the policy for youth and their development too. Some people may stay in monkhood for just a few years before they leave it. There is one other point that we all know about. Some poor parents bring their children to the pagoda and place them under monks’ upbringing and education. I used to be one of them. I like being one, this life or next. My dad brought me to the monk for education and care. He told the monk all he wanted back from the monk was for me to have two eyes still. That is an expression to mean the monk can do whatever he deems necessary, but do not to the extent of blinding him, to get the kid educated.

The Buddhist monks provide people with advice to perform merit action, which in turn facilitate social and state management since the people are respecting the law. To abide by the Buddhist dhamma to perform merit action in the society is tantamount to respecting the state law and order already. It is in this understanding that the Cambodian People’s Party has been ready to provide its assistance in all Buddhist pagodas throughout the country. Responding to the question why the CPP organizes so many Buddhist rituals for Samdech Techo Hun Sen, HE Sar Kheng, HE Bin Chhin, and other leaders to presides over, I would say that not only are we open for religions and their rituals but also for support and involvement.

Solar Energized Lighting for Pagodas and Schools and Federation of Youth

I have a discussion with Dr. Sath Sami and figure out the need for electricity for lighting in pagodas as well as in schools. I have seen the proposal from the pagoda for a generator but on top of providing the generator, I will see about giving a set of solar energized lighting as well. The solar lighting would serve better for the need of light at night. This should help our elderly people who have to come to the temple at night for Buddhist rituals. It is almost the time to provide “candle for rainy season” and I urge that the act of providing should be done before the election campaign period as it falls on the day set for this Buddhist ritual – providing candle for the monks in Buddhist pagodas.

As for lighting the candle, I would suggest that the Buddhist monks would do so on our behalf in all over 4,000 pagodas because if the CPP officials come down to the pagodas to light the candle with our monks, during the electoral campaign period, they would be accused of buying people’s heart and mind.

Here in Prey Veng, there is a strong youth movement led by Sar Sokha. It is the Union of Federation of Cambodian Youth of Prey Veng. I would ask for your understanding and help as I wish to leave him at your service. I learnt that they have engaged in various works. For instance, lately they helped people catching snails that attack rice fields. Those snails have been resistant to pesticide. That left us no choice but to catch and kill them manually. As Sar Sokha is now one of the CPP candidates for the fifth legislative term of the National Assembly of the Prey Veng constituency in the forthcoming election on 28 July 2013, which is over three months from now, I am calling for your support and look after him.

Sar Sokha is the son of HE Sar Kheng. We fathers are getting older now. We need to involve our children in politics and public functions. We have appointed recently Tri Narin, a young member as governor of a province. He is a university graduate. We need to involve youths in various public functions. There has to be connectivity. Sar Sokha is not here today but he has always been active with my sons. It is like what I was talking about in Kompong Speu that HE Sar Kheng’s father and my father joined together their Buddhist activity in the pagoda of Ampil Voan. HE Sar Kheng and I are working together in the Royal Government. Now our sons are working together too. I thank the working team of the CPP who provide assistance for Prey Veng province and appreciate efforts made by every level of provincial authorities and the armed forces.

The Korean Peninsula and Preah Vihear Temple Issues

Please allow me to remind you of what I said on April 11 in the district of Pearaing, Prey Veng province, on two issues – the threat of war in the Korean peninsula and the court case of Preah Vihear temple. As far as the threat of war in the Korean peninsula is concerned, it has proven that the Royal Government has taken correct position while various circles have opened attacks on the Royal Government in social media for neglecting the concern for safety for its people and diplomats in South Korea. So far, as we know now, has the Royal Government been doing right or not? Should we have evacuated our workers from South Korea, we may have difficulty in regaining their trust and work access.

Therefore, it is important that formulating a policy must be objective and farsighted. What would happen when both North and South Koreas are in normal state of affairs while we move Cambodian workers out? We have delegated the task to the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training to send our inspectors to the country to follow up with the situation and work together with the Cambodian Ambassador over there. The Korean peninsula is still in tense situation but fighting does not break out. As of this morning, there has been news that North Korea has moved a missile carriage. Our point is that a fight is still a possibility next to none. I would therefore appeal to our people to keep calm and not to be concerned on this issue. The Royal Government has already planned certain measures should the war happen.

Secondly, I would like to appeal our people to trust the Royal Government’s competence in relation to the verbal interpretation on the Preah Vihear issue at the International Court of Justice in the Hague. I would assure our people and the press to rest assured in the Royal Government’s efforts in dealing with this issue. We have entrusted the task with HE Hor Namhing, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, who works closely with the Cambodian delegation, which includes also three foreign lawyers – a US, a British and a French national. I would advise all concerned to make no comments on the issue.

As for Thailand, we have noticed that there are at least four different groups being involved in this issue. As the verbal interpretation is now over, it seems the opposition and the ruling parties in Thailand are throwing fire on each other. One of the groups leads a movement with an aim to raise flag on the Preah Vihear temple and to appeal the Thai delegation to walk out of court, to recognize no jurisdiction, etc. Well, that is what is happening on the Thai side and we leave it up to the Thais to deal with it. As for Cambodia, we are united as one on this matter.

Taking this opportunity, I would like to express my sincere appreciation for the Cambodian delegation led by HE Hor Namhong as well as our lawyers for defending our arguments in a competent manner. As I said already in Kompot the other day, the session was to give verbal testimony to the court and the court will have its decision in between October and November. We will leave it up to the court and need to make no statement that would infringe upon the court’s competency.

Our people and perhaps some of the politicians may ask why Hun Sen keeps silent on this issue. We already send the matter to court and a delegation to see matter through, why should we make further comments. However, I have information updates though we have five-hour time differences between Cambodia and Holland. I always had to stay until after 12 midnight to receive the updates on our interpretation and Thai interpretation. In all there are only two main points here – Cambodia is demanding the court to reinterpret its decision in 1962 and the Thais insists no need for interpretation.

The Cambodian delegation uses every cause-in-fact and proximate cause arguments based on the map in Annex 1 to demand the court to interpret its decision in 1962. We have only one map while the Thais bring in so many different maps. This or that line that the Thais presented does not exist in the cause-in-fact and proximate cause of the International Court of Justice decision in 1962. Whether to give its interpretation or not is up to the court, but we need to inform our people about what is going on in this regard.

However, what would the court do to its decision in July 2011 on establishing the demilitarized zone in Preah Vihear? Should they leave it like that for years to come? Should it go back to the former status quo, which both sides of conflict send in their armies to the area where the court entrusts then chair of ASEAN – Indonesia, the task to look after its development? Doing so would end the Indonesian role as well. I would suggest that our people hold on to this argument. Normally it would not be an easy thing to reverse.

Secondly, a judge of Somalian nationality proposed to the two sides – Cambodia and Thailand to provide maps and coordinates to the court by April 26 and no later than May 30. We would leave this to the lawyers to work on it. What I wanted to share with you here is that we have made correct prediction. While people enjoyed the New Year, the delegation led by HE Hor Namhong in Holland as well as me in Phnom Penh, continued working. We need to ask one question, why does the other side in this case not want the court to interpret? If they are not the culprit, why should they be concerned?

However, though we fight in the court, Cambodia and Thailand should not be considering each other as enemy. I have worked with Prime Minister Yingluck Sihanwatra. The two countries should go on working with each other no matter what decision the court will make. The two Ministers of Foreign Affairs are also in good terms with each other in the court. We should not consider each other enemy and should have good cooperation. I would like to send my appreciation to the armed forces, local authorities and people along the Cambodian-Thai border and encourage them to visit or do business with each other. Cambodia cannot move Thailand to another place or Thailand would do it otherwise./.