Excellency the Hon. John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia and Madam,
Excellencies, ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia I would like to express my sincere thanks to the Hon. Prime Minister John Howard and the Government of Australia for the warm hospitality accorded to me, my wife and members of the Cambodian Delegation, and for kindly hosting this very delicious lunch today. I am very pleased indeed with my first visit to Australia. I believe that this visit is timely significant and will greatly contribute to the betterment and deepening of the existing very close friendly relations and fruitful cooperation between our two countries.
The formal establishment of diplomatic ties between Cambodia and Australia since 1952 started a historical stage of amity that our two peoples have cherished over the past 54 years. I would like to note with great satisfaction that our friendship and cooperation in recent years have been immensely diversified and strengthened.
The Government of Australia made significant contribution at the very early stage to the peace process for the settlement of the Cambodian conflict at the end of the 1980s. The peace negotiation, since then, finally culminated in the signing of the Paris Peace Accord in 1991. Following the Paris Peace Accord, Australia continued to play an important role during the period of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), especially in the military field.
Afterward, Australia has provided invaluable assistance and support in a wide rage of areas for the reconstruction and socio-economic development of Cambodia. Australia’s bilateral and multilateral assistance to Cambodia ranges from increasing productivity and incomes of the rural poor to strengthening the rule of law, demining and so forth.
Over the past recent years, Cambodia has made excellent achievement in both political and economic fields. After the 1993 general election organized by the United Nations, Cambodia held two successive general elections in 1998 and 2003, on its own, in a democratic, free and fair manner. These were followed by the formation of a coalition government comprising of two major political parties with majority seats in the National Assembly. Concurrently, we also achieved complete peace nation-wide at the end of 1998, as well as national unity and political stability. Democracy has been taking deeper roots in Cambodian society with the decentralization and de-concentration of power to the Commune Councils that were established, after the commune elections in 2002, for the management of local administration and socio-economic affairs. Moreover, various local non-governmental organizations and civil societies have been established to allow greater people’s participation in both political and economic activities.
With a view to accelerate the pace and effectiveness of its socio-economic development endeavors, the current Royal Government of Cambodia has launched the Rectangular Strategy with good governance as its core and emphasizes on reforms in four major areas: (1) anti-corruption, (2) legal and judicial system, (3) public administration and (4) armed forces, in order to attain sustainable economic development and reach the ultimate goal of poverty reduction. As a result of this strategy, Cambodia achieved a remarkable GDP growth of 13.4 % in 2005, thanks to an increase of 16.6% in agriculture and 12.1% in both industry and service sectors. For the first time in decades, Cambodia had a rice surplus of 1.3 million tons for export in 2005. Socio-Economic Survey shows that poverty in Cambodia has fallen from around 39% in 1993 to 28% in 2005; and hopefully this will drop further to 19.5% in 2015. Along with this recent economic success, I am very confident that we are on the right path of development.
The enormous assistance provided by Australia since 1996 has greatly contributed to these notable achievements in the development of Cambodia and improvement of the livelihood of its people. With the on-going process of reforms in Cambodia, Australia’s continued multiform assistance will significantly help the country to overcome the challenges of the reforms which are very fundamental to our political strategy.
Furthermore, our two countries have built up good cooperation in the field of defense, in which the Australian government has provided help in human resource development and capacity building for counter terrorism and maritime security. In the area of armed forces reform, Australia has assisted Cambodia in its demobilization of troops and preparation of the Defense White Paper.
Another important contribution of Australia to Cambodia which cannot be overlooked is the active cooperation with the Ministry of Interior of Cambodia. The main support from Australia in this field targets strengthening criminal justice system, immigration capacity building, including our efficient cooperation in the fight against illegal immigration, human trafficking and transnational crimes. Australian assistance to the drafting of the Anti-Terrorism Law has made significant contribution to building Cambodia’s capacity in preventing and fighting terrorism, which has become the current challenge for the region and the world.
At the same time, I highly appreciate the activities of the Australian companies, which have played a crucial role in Cambodia’s economic development and transferred the technology of the 21st century to the Cambodian people.
During this visit, this morning fruitful negotiations and the signing of the mineral exploration agreement and the Agreement on Investment Cooperation will open up new opportunities for promoting investment and cooperation relationship between our two countries and people.
May I take this opportunity to express our profound thanks to the Australian Government and People for their constant support extended to Cambodia in the past, as well as in the present. I strongly hope that Australia would continue to assist Cambodia in its efforts to catch up with the development in the region.
Cambodia and Australia also have good cooperation in the framework of regional organizations such as ASEAN, ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and East Asia Summit (EAS). As a member of ASEAN, Cambodia attaches great importance to ASEAN-Australia Dialogue Relations which are essential for enhancing political, security and economic cooperation in the region. We highly appreciate Australian important contribution to the ASEAN-Australia Development Cooperation Program (AADCP) for 2002-2008, which will certainly enhance ASEAN-Australia cooperation.
Cambodia also highly appreciates Australia’s active role and contribution to make the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) more relevant to cope with new challenges in political and security issues in Asia-Pacific. Cambodia also hopes that Australia would contribute in the same way to make the East Asia Summit (EAS) a strong and dynamic regional organization.
Finally, I am very optimistic that my present visit will give a big boost to our good bonds of friendship and fruitful cooperation, bilaterally as well as in the regional framework.
Taking this opportunity, I would like to express our deep condolences for the tragic death of Mr. Steve Irwin, Australia’s famous crocodile hunter. For the close friendship and cooperation between Cambodia and Australia, may I invite you to join me in a toast.
• to the good health of His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Boromneath Norodom Sihamoni, King of Cambodia,
• to the good health and longevity of the Queen and prosperity of the People of Australia,
• to the good health of the Honorable John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia and Madam,
• to the long lasting friendship and cooperation between the Kingdom of Cambodia and Australia,
• to the good health and success of your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen present here.