HE Sam Rainsy and Lok Chumteav,
Samdech Preah Anuj Preah Norodom Arun Rasmey,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Culture of Dialogue – Cambodia’s Unique
I am so pleased today to be able to take a presence here together with HE Sam Rainsy and Lok Chumteav in this very happy meeting with all of our workers and students who are staying legally for work and study in Malaysia. I thank HE Sam Rainsy the initiative to have such a meeting while we are staying in Kuala Lumpur. I appreciate his thought and preparation to take the opportunity that we are all present here. HE Sam Rainsy proposed the idea and sent me an SMS while I was in Jakarta. I think it is a good chance that we can be present together in this auspicious time to meet with our people working in Malaysia at a time that the Khmer New Year just passed recently.
Taking this solemn occasion please allow me to wish the Cambodian people the four Buddhist blessings on the year of the Goat, BE 2559. For those of you who are Muslims, I am calling on Allah to keep his eyes on you and bear you happiness and progress. HE Sam Rainsy just mentioned that it is a unique situation in the world that after the realization of win-win policy, we have proceeded to the culture of dialogue, which, he said, cannot be achieved by any one person alone. It requires cooperation and we two – HE Sam Rainsy and I, are the cofounders. The two of us are now demanding the support of our people in securing success of the dialogue of peace for the utmost interest of our nation.
It is important that I recall about the need for culture of dialogue. Why do we need it? What have we achieved with that so far? In a dinner party in Jakarta the other day (thrown by the President of the Republic of Indonesia on the occasion of the Asian African Conference Commemoration 2015) HE Shinzo Abe and me were seated next to each other. I told him about the culture of dialogue that Cambodians are pursuing. I told him that HE Sam Rainsy and I were present together at the Sangkranta Angkor event in Siem Reap province. He laughed and said I could not do it with the opposition (parties in Japan). That is why I said it is the unique point of Cambodia that we have discovered.
Though with existing mechanism, we may not be able to solve problems if we do not devote to the value of being loyal and respectful of one another or keeping high the national interest. However, the mechanism has already been established in accordance with the dialogue we had in the National Assembly. People have always seen HE Sam Rainsy and I going into private room for discussion. We do not do that to find way to destroy the country but to find out means to secure efficiency of the culture of dialogue. HE Sam Rainsy may have remembered my proposition that we need to set up a group of members of National Assembly, where ten from each elected party will be members. When we see the importance of it we then incorporate the idea into the National Assembly’s Internal Regulation.
We called on HE Pen Panha, who is the chairman of the jurisdiction committee to work out amendment to incorporate the idea. That is what should be seen as a reform so that there will be a mechanism in National Assembly to oversee the draft laws before they go through discussion, which could lead to conflict in the National Assembly as has happened in other countries. We have seen examples in many countries like South Korea, Taiwan, India and Thailand. We do not want to see that happen in our country.
Culture of Dialogue’s Achievements
As for HE Sam Rainsy, he has two roles to play. The culture of dialogue mechanism will not cease to exist after this term. We will discuss further in the next term as we in this term have only two elected political parties in the National Assembly. Firstly, the whips of the members of the National Assembly of the ruling party and parties outside the Royal Government must dialogue with each other is one matter. Secondly, they are also dialogue partners to the Prime Minister of the Royal Government of Cambodia on important national issue. People could consider this a meeting between the Prime Minister and the minority leader of the National Assembly.
I do not wish to use the term opposition party anymore. I wanted to use the term minority party or the party outside of the government. HE Sam Rainsy and I are leaders with elected seats in the National Assembly. The difference is (I am) in the Royal Government and the other one is not in it. We have proved that we can work together and unite. We come here to meet our people together. I do not know who you voted for but the one thing that I know is that you all are Cambodians. The culture of dialogue allows us to resolve many issues. We have resolved the need for electoral reform which many did not hope we could do it before the Khmer New Year. We did it.
We even transferred the job to the newly elected leadership of the National Election Committee before the arrival of the Khmer New Year. That was achieved not by means of applying the culture of hostility but dialogue. There is this other story. We will have a new TV station. On April 9 2014, HE Sam Rainsy asked me if it was possible to setup a commission to redistribute frequencies for TV and Radio as was raised by some NGOs or political party. I would not allow such thing to overpower the law. I gave my opinion that we cannot afford to have this idea of a political party formed has to have own TV. A company needs to make a request for investment. That it favors whatever party is their problem. When they followed the recommendation, things go smoothly. This was achieved because we had dialogue not hostility.
These are some of the results that I wish to list them out for all our people to see how the culture of dialogue can bring about. You may read our history in the “Moha Boros Khmer” or the Great Khmer Men” and you would learn how many parts Cambodia was divided, and in that instance a huge Cambodia had reduced to a small country. In fact I had said something about thanking the French about the France-Siam Treaty 1904 and 1907 or we would not have the chance to celebrate Sangkranta Angkor 2015 on the land of Angkor. However, while thanking the French on the western part of Cambodia, we are not happy with what the French did on the eastern part of our country. I was not born yet. They did not ask for the Cambodian opinion but the French parliament to trim out our land. We were able to reclaim the western part of our country from Siam.
The culture of dialogue resolves many issues. Democracy does not mean that (politicians) have to insult one another. HE Sam Rainsy and I are not in agreement on every issue but we have agreed not to use insulting rhetoric to resolve the problem. It will not solve the problem. We must seek the way together to resolve whatever problem there maybe. Lately, there was this issue of housing and rents and healthcare for our workers. We exchanged our opinions. Lok Chumteav Mua Sokhuor (a member of the National Assembly from the minority party) also shared information with me about people who reside for work abroad. Checking against information from my source, I made my decision to halt it.
We have to seek a mechanism for negotiation to guarantee safety for women working at home (in foreign countries). Our people have gone through so many hardships and they should not suffer any harder. While in Indonesia, I also went to see HE Megawati Sukarnoputri, former President and leader of the Indonesian Democratic Party – Struggle (PDI-P). She called upon one of her female ministers to talk to me in Bandung and she told me that according their estimate, there could be 20,000 illegal migrants working on fishing boats. I could tell myself these are not all Cambodians. There must be some from Myanmar and Laos too. She even told me that she met with a Cambodian worker who told her that while working at a construction site, he woke up in a fishing boat one day.
We must find the way to prevent our people from being duped to migrate. We also need to work harder on creating more jobs inside the country so that our people will find jobs at home. This workload cannot be carried by the Royal Government alone. All political parties, now we have only two elected to the National Assembly, including those unelected, have to work together to foster the culture of dialogue, which I suggested in formula like one party leader with another party leader (1 + 1) or one party leader with two others (2 + 1). Those who like the chance to have dialogue, they are welcome. Some may not like it and may want to set up own party. I wish they all jump into the water before crying out loud it is deep or shallow.
Culture of Dialogue – Democracy with Good Appetite
I may ask one question, by holding on to the culture of enmity, according to our experiences of hundreds of years, what had Cambodia achieved? We achieved nothing but losing our size gradually. How many people had died or maimed? I think it should be enough and everyone must understand that. We may belong to different political philosophy and parties but we must not be enemy with each other. We have no choice. Cambodia is our homeland. It does not belong to Hun Sen or Sam Rainsy alone, or anyone else. While Hun Sen is Prime Minister here, everyone can live together. When someone else were to be Prime Minister, for example HE Sam Rainsy becomes Prime Minister, there would be a strong repelling force, should he not allow me to live in peace. With the repelling force in place, Your Excellency cannot live in peace either. Every political party, small or big, has its own supporters. Inappropriate action on them would bring about repelling power.
It was with this philosophy that I told HE Sam Rainsy that I cannot apply politics as in some other countries. I would not do a politics like in Myanmar. No one gets a Nobel Peace Prize. (As politics evolved in the past) I did not order for you to be arrested or jailed, how could you get the prize? However, the core of the matter is I could not do it. I would not approve such action. I would be glad to sign for the pardon (for politicians) according to law. Whatever that rests in the power of Prime Minister and according to the law on Prison, we were able to get the matter resolved easily.
Well, this is how much I think I should say to set light on some of the advantages of the culture of dialogue in place. We may need to observe, not to find false with, that the culture of dialogue would not be sufficient with efforts of HE Sam Rainsy and me. It requires support of leaders of all levels and concerned parties as well as the locals to guarantee long life of the democracy through culture of dialogue. We should not correct the understanding that fighting and insulting one another is democracy. Democracy by means of culture of hostility is one that makes us lose our appetite. It is now time to carry out democracy through culture of dialogue for good appetite./.