A Bridge over the Mekong, NR 214 from Stoeng Treng to Preah Vihear
As usual, it is a great pleasure for me to join with all of our people to launch the constructions ceremony of the Cambodian-Chinese Friendship Bridge over the Mekong River at Stoeng Treng province and the National Road 214 running from the province of Stoeng Treng to Preah Vihear. It is indeed my pride to see that these two projects are coming into action in the framework of cooperation between Cambodia and China. Please allow me to inform you of the budget that we are using for the construction of the bridge and 143.412 km road from Stoeng Treng to Preah Vihear province.
Last 13 December 2010, I conducted a visit to the People’s Republic of China and there was signing ceremony on the (preferential buyer’s) credit loan agreement of 300 million USD. I told Premier HE Wen Jiabao that I will use the loan in various projects – 1) the constructions of the bridge over the Mekong and the National Road 214 to connect two provinces together – Stoeng Treng and Preah Vihear; 2) the NR 76 running from Sen Monorom of Mondulkiri province to Baan Lung of Ratanakiri province; and 3) the irrigation system at Vaiko which will serve people’s rice cultivation in Kompong Cham, Prey Veng and Svay Rieng province.
Also in this amount of 300 million USD, the construction site to enlarge the NR 6 into four lanes has started since January 2012 and the first-phase of the Vaiko Irrigation System (VIS) construction has already been used. However, among all projects, the constructions of the Cambodian-Chinese Bridge over the Mekong River at Stoeng Treng and the NR 214 – 113 million USD – are perhaps the costliest. According to the preliminary study, some among our colleagues raised their ideas that maybe we should not build another bridge over the Mekong at Stoeng Treng because we already have the Sekong Bridge.
I asked my colleagues to come see me, HE Sun Chanthol was also with them, and I recommended that the new Cambodian-Chinese Friendship Bridge at Steong Treng must be built so that we will have two nostrils to deal with urgency if one bridge were to fail for any force majeure. We can use them alternatively. The probability of failure from either of them would not present us with challenge anymore. I am so glad that our efforts to integrate and connect internally, which I presented as one of Cambodia’s urgent priorities, have been fulfilling with the support from both local and our development partners. The People’s Republic of China has played very important role in making contribution to the local infrastructural interconnectivity – mainly roads and bridges.
(In the course of reintegrating Cambodia in our win-win policy to reunite the country) I always say that it would not be futile if we only work to integrate various factions only on administrative and political fronts. The futility of the win-win policy lies also in physical infrastructural integration and transportation. Cambodia was before divided and blocked from one part to another not only by landmines and armies that belonged to different factions but also by rivers as geographical barriers. That caused tremendous difficulties for our people to travel. It is true that Cambodia has so many rivers and tributaries, which are definitely good for cultivation but they also present challenges in travelling too.
The report presented by HE Tram Iv Toek, Minister of Public Works and Transports, and the impression presented by the Chargé d’Affairs of the People’s Republic of China to Cambodia rest right on the significance of connectivity. HE Tram Iv Toek reminded us about how people in Preah Vihear had had to travel back to Siem Reap, Kompong Thom, all the ways to NR 7 through Kompong Cham and Kratie provinces in order to get to Stoeng Treng or Mondulkiri provinces. Having this bridge and road in place, our people are going to save 200 km less than the distance they used to travel.
This would also allow chance for people to think of bridging their businesses from Steong treng, Ratanakiri, Mondulkiri and Kratie provinces on one side to Preah Vihear, Uddar Meanjei and Banteay Meanjei on the other side. This is what I like best from the projects. I also thank the National Center for Peacekeeping Force, Mine and Explosive Remnants of War Clearance who have cleared some six million square meters over the planned 6.7 million square meters land. As you can imagine that it would be difficult to work on projects like these in this area as it used to serve as war base in 1970-75 and heavy bombardments were carried out in between 1970 and 1973 or before the so called cessation of air attack by the US air forces in Indochina on August 15, 1973.
We even experienced B52 bombing spree as well. There have been 62 pieces of antipersonnel mines, 470 pieces of UXOs and 3,635 kg of war remnants. It has become required part of actions for every construction project to de-mine and clear war remnants. This is what I said the leftover from former generation for us of the younger and later generation to solve. No matter what we have to make every effort to overcome the past.
I would like to take this auspicious moment to thank the Ministries of Public Works and Transports, of Economy and Finance as well as related institutions, but also the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China to Cambodia and the Shanghai Construction Group Co. Ltd. for their joint efforts to work on the project responding to our urgent need. I thank them for their cooperation thus making it possible to smooth out and speed things up. I also have equal thanks for the local authorities of all levels, the armed forces as well as the National Center for Peacekeeping Force, Mine and Explosive Remnants of War Clearance whose combined actions and efforts have brought about excellent outcome that we are celebrating today.
I thank our people who have residences along the projected areas for their wholehearted cooperation. In just days ago, I signed instruction to allow disbursement of over half a million USD to purchase impacted lands for the project. Also I approved some 600,000 to 700,000 USD to cover the cost of impacts from the construction of the NR 56. The more infrastructures we build, with the money we borrowed, the more counterpart funds we have to shoulder too. We also have to buy people’s land to dig for earth to level up the road site where we could not find land that belongs to the state for the said purpose.
Once again I thank the Chargé d’Affairs of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China as well as the people and Government of the PRC for always providing supports for the Cambodian development. If we were to look at the map we might see that up here (the northern part of Cambodia) the PRC has been proving almost all we needed in terms of infrastructural development – the NR 7 from Kratie to the border with Laos, from Stoeng Treng to Baan Lung of Ratanakiri, and on to Sen Monorom of Mondulkiri and to Snuol of Kratie. We also have the NR 62 from Preah Vihear to the NR 6 at Kompong Thom and a road from there to the Preah Vihear temple and Srayang Koh Ke temple.
During his visit to Cambodia in April, I asked President Hu Jintao to help provide us the loan for the enlargement of the NR 6 from Phnom Penh to Skun of Kompong Cham and all the way to Siem Reap into four lanes. HE Sun Chanthol told me the negotiation was conducted and it is now ready to request for approval for the signing ceremony to go ahead. To the western part of the country we have the NR 44, 57, 57B, 56 which makes them all over 1,700 km. We are building the NR 214 nine-meters wide and the Cambodian-Chinese Friendship Bridge at Stoeng Treng 13-meters wide and 1,731 meters long. We still have low volume of traffics in this part of the country.
This road is for the time being number 214 but I may foresee that we would have to change the road number in the future. However, I agree that if a road in known to many by its number, it is not wise to change it. By and large, I still see this road as a national road so it is by any standard a road with two digits. Since we have NR from 1 through to 8 already, would it be not possible to give this road number 9? It would be an honor for the younger generation but also for our Chinese friends too. For our generation, it is an honor when they said the NR 8 and 9 were built under the ministers HE Sun Chanthol and HE Tram Iv Toek.
I would like to also thank the provincial council, HE Loy Sophat, of Stoeng Treng who last year fought persistently with the natural flood disaster. At the time, in one day I might have called HE Loy Sophat two or three times to find out about the water level and related situation as Stoeng Treng province of Cambodia is the first part of the country to be inflicted with flooding from the upper Mekong in Laos. I asked him about the situation of flooding in Laos’ Pakse, Attapoeu as flood came one way through the Mekong and another through the Sekong River. We were able to survive the hard-hit flooding last year and since this is a dragon year we might as well be cautious for high flooding too.
It is a great thing today that we also have the presence of the Ambassadors of Vietnam and Laos here as the PRC is also providing help for the three countries (Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam or CLV) to achieve a triangular development zone. As far as CLV countries are concerned, the triangular development zone (TDZ) is what it is about. Cambodia lists four of its provinces – Stoeng Treng, Ratanakiri, Mondulkiri and Kratie in TDR, while Laos also has four of its provinces – Champa Sak, Attapoeu, Sekong and Saravan, and five provinces from Vietnam.
Maybe someday HE Sun Chanthol can clarify this on television as I have seen so many unclear elaborations. Sometimes I hear answer to question on CLV as a special relation (among the three countries), while in fact it is aiming at achieving a triangular development zone, which is supported by Japan. Usually, there has been a regular meeting between the three countries leaders with the Prime Minister of Japan. However, since we have this mechanism, Mekong-Japan Summit, the CLV meeting with the Japanese leader is also included.
As for the four provinces listed in cooperation for CLV’s TDZ, the PRC kindly assists us in the development of the physical infrastructure. I think that the PRC could also do the same on the part of Laos as far as road infrastructure in concerned. Without roads, no development can be accomplished. In fact I was the one to propose to my Laotian and Vietnamese counterparts for their supports. The first meeting was held in Vientiane, and then in Vietnam and the third in Cambodia. This year the meeting is to be held in Laos again. However, because Laos is busy organizing the Asia-Europe meeting, the CLV meeting will be postponed to next year.
It is therefore important to clarify what do CLV and CLMV mean? What are their objectives? Now there are various forums – the Mekong-Japan Summit, the Greater Mekong Subregion and the Mekong River Commission and many are involved – Japan, China and Asian Development Bank. There also are these forums of Mekong-Korea, Mekong-US, etc. So it is important to clarify which is which as Cambodia is both in the region and sub-region for that matter. Aside from the TDZ with Laos and Vietnam, we also have one other project – Emerald Triangular Project (ETP) with Laos and Thailand too. What is important though is that these mechanisms are not conflicting but complementary to one another.
With these roads and bridges in place we have been gradually reducing people’s difficulties in the concerned provinces. It also plays a constructive role in redistribution of manpower/labor throughout the country. We have a situation where there are lots of free land but less number of labor and viceversa. Take for instance out here we have only some 120,000 people only. I have strong belief, however as I always said it, that before long the north-eastern part of Cambodia will become of the emerging economic pole, the dragon tail, if you may see, in my imaginary dragon shape economy of Cambodia.
The north-eastern part of the country here will be area of agro-industrial development, which also includes hydropower as well. The hydroelectricity from here can be provided to other areas of the country, which in part will contribute to narrowing down the gap between urban and rural areas, and eventually the poverty reduction.
I hope that the road will be ready according to or even before schedule since the Chinese have been working effectively and finished the job ahead of schedule most of the time. As this road will be ready by 2015, when ASEAN will become one community, it will serve as a northern corridor of the country in the ASEAN connectivity purpose.
The other day I was talking about the rotation of deity and it seems that bothered some politicians a great deal. In fact I can tell you that last night I talked with members of the National Assembly from the opposition parties for about 21 minutes on the phone. Frankly speaking, it seems there has been a mixture. However, as we are moving closer to the communal elections (on June 3) now they have reclassified political parties in Cambodia as followed.
According to the report I had from early this week, some suggested that there are only two types of political parties – the ruling party and the opposition party. However, one other group of politicians claimed that there are three types of political parties – the ruling party, the opposition party, and the subordinate party. That was the reaction we got from what I purposefully dangled out to test the water.
I told a member of the National Assembly – from one of the opposition party but I keep him in that party despite having become a member of the Cambodian People’s Party since 2009 – that how could one distinguish who are real opposition politicians and who are fake ones since the one who accused other people of betraying the parties is in fact the one who works for Cambodia in the open and in secret.
What did he do to help the Cambodian People’s Party in the open? It was when he helped the CPP to amend the Constitution (from two-third to absolute majority system). You may remember that even if the CPP possessed 73 seats in the National Assembly, it was held hostage by the smaller parties. They got only ten to fifteen seats but they demanded for half of the power, and worst of all they asked for schools to be divided in power structure. It was so lucky that the “fake” Party was doing greatly to help.
They now are fighting with each other to get what is called the real opposition party status. One says to another that you are not the real opposition party, my party is. They better ask themselves who is real and who is fake since they both work in the open and in secret for the CPP.
Giving this road number 9 is a good Feng Shui number like those 90 seats of the Cambodian People’s Party in the National Assembly. There has been a report of a poll but it is yet to be released. I just want to give you some of the results so that the polling institution would not hold some of the data they have collated. It is discovered that 81% of the respondents said that Cambodia is on the right track, 67% said they support the CPP, 87% said they believe in Hun Sen.
In 2008, the CPP had only 58% of the votes and got 90 seats in the National Assembly, so how many the CPP would get if it is true that we have 67% of the people’s support? I have set a goal for myself if my ruling would score the support less than 60% I would leave. I no longer stand for the post of Prime Minister for the CPP.
As for those arrogant parties has fallen from 21% to 13%. I doubt if they do not feel shocked to see this. Please allow me to have your attention that this result is not the poll conducted by local but by a foreign institution./.