Venerable Buddhist Supreme Patriarchs and monks,
Dear country fellows and compatriots,
Today, after my first official statement on October 1, I have the necessity to speak to our monks and country fellows in relation to flood situation. I wish to inform you that this afternoon the Royal Government’s Cabinet full session has reviewed and assessed the evolving situation in relation to flooding as well as to make an evaluation on damages as well as national and sub-national rescue operations.
Having reviewed the situation, I seek your understanding and apologize to our Buddhist monks and dear compatriots that the Royal Government has made decision to cancel the boat race event, one major item of the water festival, which would be held on November 9th, 2011 in front of the Royal Palace. Please allow me to inform all of you about the reasons why we have to exercise the cancellation.
The main reason is because of this severe flooding situation in our country, which, after being studied and evaluated, has been literally even bigger than that of the 2000 flood in many parts and a little lower in some parts of the country. Why after flood in 2000, people could come to Phnom Penh to enjoy the boat race, which is part of the whole water festival? The thing was that in the year 2000, the flood subsided not long after it had reached its peak.
As for this year, according to the data provided by the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, the flood level stays at 10.78 meters at the Jadomuk flood monitoring station, which is above the 10.50 meter warning level. Monitored at the station at Prek Kadam, where the flood warning height is 9.5 meters, the current flood level establishes at 10.14 meters. Above warning-level floods have also been reported at other flood monitoring stations of Koh Khel and Neak Loeung.
We have less than one month time to celebrate the water festival. According to estimation from the said data, by then the water level in front of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, where the boat race and other water festivity events would take place, will settle to a level that will still be high. This will present danger for people who would come and observe the event.
Even more so, sportsmen of some 400 boats coming from various flooded provinces to the boat race event are the main labor force needed for cultivation activities, especially in the post flooding time. The cancellation will allow them, instead of having to come to Phnom Penh away from home for at least one week, to stay home to participate in post-flood cultivation phase to restore their livelihoods.
This decision also takes into consideration the fact that the state would have covered financial as well as material expenses, besides people’s own resources, to provide for organizing, maintaining security, which could be good savings to deal with the post-flood devastation.
These are reasons why the Royal Government is taking necessary step to cancel the boat race event in the water festival to be taking place on November 9. I am sure our Buddhist monks and people are well aware of the current flood situation and understand the difficulties that we are in altogether.
Let me clarify that though the festive boat race event in Phnom Penh will be cancelled, our people and local authorities could still organize, according to own resource availability, these festivities either in pagodas or at communal, district or even provincial levels.
As we cancel the boat race event, other festivities such as concerts, performance arts, floating lights, discharging fireworks, paying respect to full moon, and enjoying the Ambok (flatten rice from early harvest), will go on. Government officials, employees and the armed forces will also have three days off as is stipulated in the Sub-decree on national holidays to be observed in 2011. It should be noted that the date of water festival celebration this year is falling on our National Independence Day on November 9.
It is in this context that I would affirm that other royal festivities such as the birthday anniversary of HM the King Father Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk, the twentieth anniversary of HM’s return to Cambodia and the National Independence Day will be observed.
I would like to take this opportune moment to inform our people of report of flood assessment and related damages. As was said on October 1, floods hit Cambodia hard since then and we have been making relentless efforts to ensure our people’s lives and properties be saved. As of the moment of speaking, we have recorded impact on paddy of some 390,000 hectares or about 16% of the total area under cultivation. As of this time, 190,000 hectares or 7.74% of the said cultivated area have been devastated.
Judging from this figures and situations, it is possible that the expected growth rate would have to reset from 7% to six or slightly over six percent. We also noted a shockingly increasing number of deaths in relation to flood. The figure has now recorded 247 people compared to the figure I declared on October 1, which was less than 100. I would in this instance invite everyone and family to pay attention to save own as well as their family members’ lives. Special attention should be given to taking good care of small children who cannot swim.
In areas along the Mekong River, it is almost certain that as water recedes, bank erosion would be the case. Once the water levels up, the erosion was observed, but once it goes down, more would happen.
The Royal Government of Cambodia and the Cambodian Red Cross, charitable persons alike, have been spooling efforts to provide emergency relief assistance to people in affected areas. As of October 10, we have provided reliefs to some 76,595 families, of which 52,136 families were provided with help of the Royal Government and the Cambodian Red Cross, some 19,079 families by charitable persons and working teams of the CPP, and 5,380 families by other organizations.
In the Cabinet’s meeting today, the Royal Government has decided to provide rice through the Cambodian Red Cross to assist the people. The Royal Government would take care of the rice needed while the Cambodian Red Cross would have to administer the kits of basic stuffs to provide to some 40,000 stranded families.
As of today we also have assistance from the Government of Japan of some 25 million Yen or about 330,000 USD as HE the Japanese Ambassador himself kindly presided over the distribution of the assistance in Kompong Thom province. The People’s Republic of China has also rendered some 50 million Yuan or about eight million USD and we have asked the Chinese to provide us in medicines and blankets, which shall be arriving this coming Saturday or Sunday. I would urge that they be distributed immediately to clinics and hospitals in affected areas.
We could also utilize a part of the assistance for rehabilitation efforts together with the fund earmarked for the current year budget as well as the next year budget of the Royal Government, which altogether is about USD 100 million. We have set aside some 221 billion Riel for post flood restoration and rehabilitation in the remaining two months of the year. We have reserved an extra 200 billion Riel plus some 160 billion Riel from the ADB support fund for the next year operation. They will be used in rehabilitating infrastructures, rural and national roads, in the post flood period.
We have some 4,469 kilometers of rural roads, of which 1,970 kilometers are severely affected, 583 kilometers are partially damaged and 87 kilometers are destroyed. Because we have built many roads in the past years, the number and length of road damaged by flood is more than what we suffered in the relatively similar flood in 2000. It is therefore important to reserve a big sum of fund for the restoration and rehabilitation.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks to the Buddhist monks, local authorities and the armed forces, which have made tireless efforts in providing our people with basic needs in time of difficulties.
I also thank the Cambodian Red Cross together with the National Committee for Disaster Management and the Royal Government of Cambodia for their swift actions and urgent rescue efforts for the people.
Taking this opportunity I’d like to express my sincere thank to all development partners, including the Governments of Japan and the PRC, for providing assistance. I also have the news that the US also provides assistance through a Save the Children of some 50,000 USD. I also have here a report that there has been also some assistance coming from charitable persons in Thailand.
May I apologize to people for my absence for the past two weeks, unlike in the early part of the situation that I was seen being around, because of personal reason. My father has fallen seriously ill and is still in post-surgery emergency care. This situation also has kept my wife by his hospital bed and could not allow her, in the capacity as the President of the Cambodian Red Cross to go out help our people as she did in 2000 or in August this year. However, she has made tireless efforts to provide guidance to her CRC colleagues in its central committee. I am seeking our people’s understanding on that.
Last but not least, may I urge our people, no matter where they are now, to make every effort to overcome this year flooding difficulty and to work together – state, private sectors and/or individual – no matter what political tendencies they may belong to, for a speedy relief of people’s sufferings. It is good for some political parties to organize help for the people but it is even better if they do not use that effort to insult the Royal Government and its efforts to rescue people in time of crisis./.