Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen, along with the message during the opening of the new school year 2011/12, gives a verbal statement on the 2011 flood situation, measures to be taken and challenging issues in relation to post-flood situation to the Cambodian people, selections from which Cambodia New Vision has provided here follows with English translation.
Along with my message on the opening of the new schoolyear, I have the necessity to make a statement to our compatriots and Buddhist monks on the situation of flood in the Kingdom of Cambodia. You learn already that actions have been taken for flood affected areas by various concerned and related institutions in accordance with instructions I issued while I visited the flood affected (Baray district of Kompong Thom) and again in the special Cabinet’s meeting to figure out the ways to mitigate impacts.
With data collated here I must say that this year flooding is of relative size with the one in 2000. In 2000, the seasonal flood of the Mekong reached its highest level and threatened all provinces along the waterway. This year, the flood of the Mekong is a bit lower in its way, but because of heavy and prolonged downpours, the area under flooding has been extending far beyond the Mekong River to include provinces of Preah Vihear, Siem Reap and Kompong Thom, etc. In 2000, these provinces had not been affected.
It should be noted too that in 2000, along with the Mekong flood, rain flood originated in Kompong Speu province and flew down western part of Phnom Penh. The situation was dangerous and we decided to cut open the National Road 2 to evade the water pressure from threat of infiltration toward Phnom Penh city. As of this year, we are not experiencing threats of water pressure from that direction yet. We are watchful eyes and alert for it.
As flood is reaching the sea after flowing across Vietnam, more provinces in the south and south east of Phnom Penh, like Prey Veng, Svay Rieng and Takeo, and to a certain extent Kompot, have been flooded too. Moments ago I ordered the Ministry of Economy and Finance, the Ministry of Commerce and local authorities to collaborate with the Cambodian Red Cross to administer the provision of urgent assistance to people in flooded areas of Svay Rieng and Takeo provinces. Some people in flood affected area in Takeo province might have just been evacuated yesterday or even today to high grounds.
What has been a problem for us here is that as of September 30, the number of deaths related to flooding has reached 148 persons in just a week after only 50 deaths were recorded a week ago. According to the reports filed by the National Committee for Disaster Management and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, some 17,000 households have been affected in any way from flooding.
Flooding has had severe impacts on the people’s living condition, livelihood and also the pace of national development. People in flooded area suffer heavy losses of crops of all kinds. It has been estimated that over 270,000 hectares of rice field are facing damages and more have flooded since yesterday and today. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, some 80,000 hectares of the flooded rice field will sustain definite damage. It is a big figure of loss indeed.
As far as people’s livelihood impacts are concerned, aside from rice, their other regular crops that provide not only food as source of security but also nutritional facts such as bananas, papayas, potatoes, etc. also suffered unrecoverable damages. They have to replant them when the flood subsides so that they have them again in their menu next year.
As for the state, damages from flooding will certainly bring difficulties as it has to redirect the capital reserved for further infrastructural development to fixing damaged infrastructures. Facing with impacts on some 100 kilometers of national and provincial road, over 1800 kilometers of rural road, 36 bridges and 244 dams, which we will certify when the flood subsides, the state will need to freeze earmarked funding for some construction projects and will use them instead in the post-flooding rehabilitation.
With regard to impacts on education, as we are opening the new schoolyear today, it is now known to all that some 800 schools in the whole country have been under flood. These schools could not open new schoolyear at this time and students in the affected area will have to start schooling later. Some 361 Buddhist pagodas and 75 healthcare centers have been under flood so far as they have been recorded. It is true that this does not count in private houses. As both individual and public interests have suffered tremendous impacts, I assume it would be threatening our macroeconomic management as well.
We have predicted a 6% growth for 2011, while some institutions have extrapolated it to be around 7%. We will keep monitoring the situation and make sure that we will be able to maintain the drive for the growth so that we could assure our target of trimming off poverty at the rate of 1% per annum. As a result of these impacts, among the 170,000 households recorded to be affected, certainly some of them, who may have otherwise been lifted above the poverty line, could have either gone back down or stay where they are. I hope we need to focus attention on this issue as we are dealing with impacts.
According to our weather forecast and flood monitoring works, the level of water recoreded at flood monitoring station at Stoeng Treng has gone down gradually from 10.7 meters, which is the warning level, to 9.50 meters as of 7 am today. It has been recorded a recession from 22 meters yesterday in Kratie to 21.01 meters today. While warning flood level at Kompong Cham monitoring station is 15.2 meters, as of today it has been recorded to be 10.22 meters. In Phnom Penh, as the warning flood level is 10.50 meters, today we have a level of up to 10.76 meters. The flood levels of Neak Loeung and Koh Khel of the Mekong’s downstream in Cambodia record continued increase.
According to the flood monitoring station at Prek Kadam, which is to a different direction of the Mekong stream, and further north of Phnom Penh city, the flood level recorded does not seem to subside just yet. The forecast that I have received from HE Lim Kean Hor, Minister of Water Resources and Meteorology, the flood level at Prek Kadam on October 4 will be 9.94 meters, which continues to be higher than the warning level of 9.5 meters. As the level of water in the Mekong is still high, because of slow absorption from the sea down south, the flood water in the Tonle Sap Lake area, which combines both the Mekong flood water and rains, will be taking a slow recession.
In light of this situation, Kompong Thom province will be the province to suffer the most. Though some flash flood in the northern area of the province has subsided, the flood level of the area of Tonle Sap Lake, which is destination of the flood flow from the north, has not yet subsided. This will present challenges in solving flood issues. We will have to find ways to make the best of the situation.
What concerns us the most has been the fact that some 148 people, 52 of which are children, died from flood-related incidents. They could have died because of parental insufficient attention due to certain state of difficulties, of poisonous creatures, but also of being drowned while in drunkard state. No matter how they died the Royal Government of Cambodia contributes a sum of two million Riel (about five hundred USD) for each death incurred in relation to flooding. We are mourning for the loss of life of our citizen, whether old or young, man or woman, or how they died. After all no one would want to die.
In the name of the Royal Government of Cambodia, I would like to take this occasion to express my sincerest condolences once again to the families of the deaths. I would seek their acceptance of the said amount of two million Riel as a minor hearty contribution from the Royal Government for their losses and their efforts to deal with such pressing and demanding situation. Equal sympathy is also for the losses of main and subsidiary crops as well as housing and other things of value.
It has been a sad moment and a heavy loss of what our people have been striving to produce over a period of many years. It has been noted that after floods of 2000, 2001 and 2002, our people, as their tradition, have been making every efforts to replant subsidiary homestead crops such as bananas, mangos, papayas, and various kind of vegetables. It should be included the fish farming ponds too. As some have lost all these, others may have also lost animals too – cows, pigs, chicks, ducks, etc.
While expressing grievances and sadness over these losses, I would like to convey my appreciation and sincere thanks to all concerned institutions, especially the National Committee for Disaster Management, the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, among others, for taking their utmost efforts to overcome difficulties in these pressing moments. I would like to express my sincere thanks to sub-national level authorities, who have been immediate pro-actors, the armed forces, the Cambodian Red Cross for their punctual responses.
It is equally thankful for the efforts and assistance provided by some national and international organizations as well as individuals in rescuing our people. I wish to take this moment to pay my deepest gratitude to our Buddhist monks who not only have made their monastery spaces available for flood stranded people in their areas, but also provided them with foodstuff that they have been offered during the Pjum Ben day. I also thank every working team of the Cambodian People’s Party for taking their time to visit the affected people and areas to provide them with necessary first aid kits and to figure out more follow-up responses. Their works have indeed shared some burden from the Royal Government in this difficult time.
Last but not least, I would take this opportune moment to thank our people themselves for their efforts to take care of themselves in difficult circumstances and would seek their understanding and apology for tardy responses in certain areas due mainly to objective factors. It has been the case so far that people involved in the rescue mission also have got to save their families and/or family members, whereas the road access to target areas and people have been cut off in various parts by flood, etc. Also my apology to some people, because their situation has been so isolated, assistance has not yet reached them, though I am sure they surely find a way to fix their situation for the time being. I encourage and thank the people who exercise mutual help practice that is our valuable tradition in time of emergency.
Please allow me to express my humbly sincere thanks and appreciation to HM the King for his concern and care for the people’s situation and condition. HM the King visited Kompot province last week and today will be staying in Kompong Chhonang province to preside over the deliverance of aid kits for the flood affected people. This is valuable model for our government officials as well as the armed forces. My humble thanks and appreciations are also reserved for the HM the King’s Father and the King’s Mother, who, for medical treatment reasons are away from the country, have set aside their heartfelt concerns for their children and contributed their assistance through the Cambodian Red Cross, which have now provided helps for over ten thousand families already.
In general the flood level seems to have subsided in slow pace and we have this late September and early October storms of Nesat and Nalgae, which are now moving in direction of the Philippines, to monitor. The latter, number 19 to our counting, would normally reach Hainan of the People’s Republic of China and then down to Vietnam. Once in Vietnam, it is anticipated naturally that it will cause more rain over the Mekong basin area, from where Cambodia would have to bear the brunt eventually. We will have to observe that.
As flood starts to subside now, I would call on all local authorities and concerned government institutions to increase their vigilance and pay attention to taking necessary measures that have been issued and proclaimed prior to the Pjum Ben day on the following issues:
Firstly, continue to provide help for people who have stranded by flood and stuck at high grounds. While taking them to high ground, it is equally important to provide them with food, shelters, and medicines so that they would not be left in starving situation. Though rain may be few and far between, we still have to make sure they have appropriate shelters to stay in. While providing them with basic medicines and care, it is important that we have to alert them of basic necessities so that they can help themselves.
I appeal to the armed forces as well as administrative officials and staff of medical teams to take turns to be on duty to provide security, safety and healthcare for the people. It is equally vital that they all have means they need for any rescue mission if they have, for example to transport patients to hospitals in case of emergency. It is encouraging to see that HE Mam Bun Heng, Minister of Health, has been administering healthcare assistance himself and in various other cases local authorities have also initiated the responses by themselves too.
Once the flood subsides completely, I would urge the local authorities and the armed forces to provide flood affected people with transportations so that they could travel back to their homes like when they were brought to safety in the first place. It is my sincere intention to urge our people, once they are back at their homes, to be cautious of poisonous and other dangerous creatures that may have hidden in their abandoned homes. The most dangerous of all is indeed the poisonous snakes. I also renew from the bottom of my heart my appeal to urge our people to take care of their children in this difficult flood time. They should not be allowed to play in deep and strong current water or leave them alone in flooded home.
Usually, after every flood time, it has been observed that hygiene has become a serious matter. About a decade ago, it was quite a lesson to see that people suffered diarrhea and vomiting. I would urge the Ministry of Health and their relevant agencies under its supervision to take high standard measures to prevent possible outbreak of cholera.
Secondly, try to restore rice plants as well as other crops. This is the most pressing issue and we have issued some urgent measures already for the Ministries of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Water Resources and Meteorology and concerned institutions to ensure that damages will be mitigated or substituted. As there will be different type and scale of damages done to the rice farms, I would urge that appropriately responsive measures will be taken accordingly for particular state of geographical conditions and damages.
While it may be appropriate for some to work out what I called the common rice seedling beds, for certain situation and geographical conditions, we may also apply sowing seeds or drill seeding directly to the ground rather than transplanting rice seedling. What is our major concern here is seed. As far as seed is concerned, portion of seed either in grain or in seedling will be made available by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. However, I would once again urge our people to help each other in this time of need to share whatever seed you may have in surplus as this has been our valuable tradition.
While we consider providing our people with seeds of various vegetable plants, it is also important to note that our people, based on my experience of life along the Mekong River, have the habit of moving basic species and plants to high ground so that they could replant them after the flood retreats. Take for instance some could have dug off the banana young shoots and keep them safe somewhere. They will put them back into ground when time comes. They may have done similarly for lemongrass, papaya, etc. Having said all this, with my confidence and heartfelt gratitude, I would solicit our people’s self-help practices once again.
Thirdly, as water retreats we must immediately take urgent actions to rebuild or mend dams and water reservoirs so that a situation of no water is left in the embankments/reservoirs could be avoided. Those who live along the mighty rivers of Mekong, Tonle Sap, Tonle Basac and other streams, would understand what I am talking as they have water embankments of some kinds or sizes behind houses. What they should be doing is to check their reservoirs to see if they were damaged for any reason so that timely actions can be taken. These reservoirs should normally be of help to grow flood recession rice and/or dry season rice.
There is one issue of concern here and we need to resolve it effectively too. It is usually a conflict between those who need water for growing rice and those who would want to drain the water so as to catch fish. I would urge people’s and authorities’ constant alert in this case so that those with immediate interest could be prevented from drying water out of the reservoir for fish.
In addition to this, every household has to pay attention to your rice field levees as they may have been demolished from the water current in one way or another. They are important rice field embankment to keep the water in and I am sure our people know about this better than I do. However, please take it as a reminder because it needs just one day perhaps to make a different from being a flooded to being dried rice field. If there were any rice left from flooding, it would be a sad loss if we leave them to die of no water. In this circumstance, calling in for intervention would be unproductive as it adds up to cost of production.
Fourthly, all the armed forces – police, soldiers, military police, and the CPP youth teams also included, could be mobilized to help mending and/or rebuilding the people’s homes. I would also foresee contributions from the scouts and the Red Cross youth teams too. The CPP youth groups have been doing that already and it would be encouraging to see if youths from other political parties, judging by the fact they also have their members who are in the payrolls of the parliament and the Senate, would also do the same.
What is the most important of all here is the CPP working groups who have taken their actions to the CPP bases in districts and communes where they are engaging with to provide people with food, to help them fixing their homes, to provide them with seeds, etc. The CPP youth teams also is a crucial mechanism, along with those of the scout and Red Cross teams, to assist our people in matters of healthcare, hygiene, cleaning schools, hospitals, public parks, etc.
Fifthly, eligible voters are encouraged to go and verify their information at the registration offices in their residential administrations. Actually this process started since September 1 and will run through to October 15, or another fifteen days to go. I would urge our people of eligibility throughout the country to go check their personal information so that they could cast their votes in the forthcoming communal elections.
In this concern, I also call on the National Elections Committee to take areas where flood has caused the most severe impacts into consideration if they should be allowed for late registration. Maybe there could be a mobile system for such situational registrations, I do not know. We should not allow our people to flee from homes and to lose their voting rights. The registration is important as we will have the communal elections in June 2012 and the general elections in July 2013.
The Royal Government is in no position to order the National Election Committee on its work and I am not sure if the law allows the NEC to postpone the registration to a later date. I do not know if it is legally applicable to reschedule the registration process, in face of force majeure such as this, for a longer period. However, it is my request that people’s rights to vote must be guaranteed./.