… Today I am very pleased to join Their Excellencies Ambassadors, Ministers, State Secretaries, Senate and National Assembly members as well as people coming from Kandal and Kompong Cham provinces to celebrate the inauguration of the bridge number 26 and the groundbreaking ceremony for the bridges 24 and 25. In just two weeks, HE Ambassador of Japan and I, together with HE Khi Tainglim, Minister of Transports and Public Works, have come to Kompong Cham twice already. First we went to the eastern side of the Mekong where we celebrated the groundbreaking ceremony to renovate the National Road 7 (the part between Tonlebet and Thnol Totoeung) at Moat Khmung bridge. And today we have this joyous event here.
… We have been quite busy these days to celebrate the groundbreaking ceremonies and to inaugurate achievements that are born of non-interest aid given by the people and the Royal Government of Japan to the people and the Royal Government of Cambodia. Taking this opportunity, through HE Ambassador Gotaro Ogawa, I wish to express my deepest thanks to the Royal Government and people of Japan for sustaining their great supports for peace and development in the Kingdom of Cambodia. HE Governor of Kompong Cham Cheang Am, HE Minister Khi Tainglim and HE Ambassador have mentioned about the significance of the roads and bridges that we are witnessing the construction and on-going projects under non-interest aid (grant), loan as well as national budget.
… Particularly, with regard to the National Road 6A, as HE Ambassador of Japan mentioned, starting from Kampuchea-Japan Friendship Bridge at Chroy Changva, via the National Road 6A containing a number of bridges through to Kompong Cham, and a huge Spien (bridge) Kizuna itself bridging the Mekong between Kompong Cham side and Tonlebet side, the National Road 7 between Tonlebet and Thnol Totoeng now under construction. It is another development that takes place in midst of the country and has interactions with development in various parts of the country, not only to Kompong Cham or Kandal. Despite the fact that some participants come from Kompong Cham and some from Kandal to witness the achievements. However, they also represent the whole population of Cambodia who benefit from the bridges and roads that are provided by the Japanese grant to the Kingdom of Cambodia.
… Just now we have heard HE Ambassador of Japan made his speech in Khmer. Last year he read his speech in Japanese. In a period of one year of his mission in Cambodia, HE Ambassador has toured the whole country. He visited all Cambodia’s provinces and cities. After completing one-year study (of Cambodia) he requested for meetings with me to discuss and consult on a number of issues related to the bilateral relations between Cambodia and Japan and on which areas Cambodia should want Japan to provide its assistance. Just as HE Ambassador speaks our language (Khmer) we think that he places interest in Cambodia. It also indicates attention and care given by Japan to the reconstruction of Cambodia. We all know full well that Japan has engaged itself in an international obligation at the same time with efforts to resolve its internal economy.
… Yesterday (21 January 2002) Japan hosted a meeting in Tokyo to discuss about the reconstruction of Afghanistan, in which Japan pledged to contribute an amount that is more than anyone else. (As in the case of Cambodia,) ICORC-I and ICORC-II were started and held in Tokyo, before the rest of the meetings alternated between Tokyo and Paris. This year the meeting will take place in Cambodia and as I have said once already that though aid is cut for some countries, it would remain uncut for Cambodia. Once again through HE Ambassador of Japan, I would convey my gratitude to the Royal Government and people of Japan for the uncountable contributions for the future of Cambodia.
… May I take this opportunity to thank for the efforts made by the local authorities, especially to the Ministry of Transport and Public Works for their urgent and timely intervention during the time of flood. At that time we were quite concerned about the condition of the road as one bridge was broken. We had to divert traffic from the National Road 6A to Prek Kdam ferry cross. Thanks to tireless efforts day and night of the officials and workers of the Ministry, the bridge has been recovered and put in place for traffic. This makes me think and suggest that we have to think about maintaining our roads and bridges. To build them is difficult but to maintain them is no less difficult at all. If they were to be built and left for destruction again and again, it would be a shame and misfortune for the people of Cambodia. Being damaged by natural disaster is one thing, but by man-made disaster is definitely unacceptable.
… At present we have suspended the forest concession so that we could start re-negotiating terms and conditions for better a management of forest concession in search of a sustainable exploitation. I wish to suggest a discussion between the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery, the Forest Concession Companies and the Donor Countries on my recommendation to attach conditions in roads and bridges maintenance with terms of concession forest exploitation. Practically, it means if any companies overload trucks with logs and transport them on the roads and bridges, they will be accountable for violating the forest concession norm. Measures to be taken could range from stripping off one’s license (of logging) to placing heavy charge on them. Otherwise, even if we depleted the whole Cambodia of forest, we may not have enough money to rebuild roads and/or bridges at all.
… This bridge (Number 26) costs four million US dollars, and the two others (24 and 25) cost six million US dollars. We look at and see them as cement, but gold they are. That is why the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery has to ponder and to attach conditions to (future) forest concession. If because of this, those companies withdraw, I think we better keep our forest for another 500 years. They would not get rotten. On the other hand, we have forest kept as heritage for generations to come, and it is in fact an investment for a sustainable environment and a balanced ecosystem. Logging is allowed as it would contribute to the national income, but if the national income is not corresponding to the damages (caused by the forest concession companies) we have to take defensive measures.
… I traveled here on the National Road A from Phnom Penh. I have noticed damages on certain parts and places. As HE Khi Tainglim replied to me that MAEDA (contracted company) is no longer responsible in maintenance according to the contract, we should start the maintenance before these potholes become bigger. As for this year we have reserved a larger amount of budget for the maintenance of roads. Japan has already built us the roads. If we were to leave maintenance to them still, we would be as ashamed as if Japan cooked rice for us. Some people question what has the Royal Government offered to the people? It is a sort of stupid question. Let’s take a look. In just between November and January and up to February, we would inaugurate and celebrate the groundbreaking ceremonies of not less than US$ 100 million projects. As for the bridge that we are building here is not for one generation of Cambodia but many generations to come.
… Up to now the Royal Government imposes no land tax on the farmers. In other countries in the world, there are not many countries that take no tax on land. Because of the difficult living condition of the Cambodian farmers, the Government of the former ‘State of Cambodia’ through to the current Royal Government impose no tax on farming land. Aside from these, various school buildings, hospitals, water canals, roads and other infrastructure have been built in their interests and benefits as well. What I am asking from all of our people would be to maintain them. Besides, I would like to take this forum to express my deep appreciation to the 146 families who agreed to move voluntarily their residences out of the projected areas with the compensation of about US$ 60,000 provided by the Royal Government.
… From January 18, 2002 up to today, the commune election campaign has entered its fifth day already. Despite some reports of abuses and violations that were resolved by the National Election Committee, the overall environment is fine. It is regretful that there was a car crash the other day. I wish to express my deep condolence over the death and share the grief with the bereaved family. I wish again to appeal to our compatriots to enhance their spirit of understanding, patience, and forgiveness till the voting day. After voting, we should join those elected to get on with development and peace of our country. I am appealing to all eligible voters of Cambodia to go to vote on February 3 as you go to celebrate a ceremony or event. As we are Buddhists, I would expect that we all go to vote like we are going to the Buddhist pagodas, to the mosques (for the Muslims,) and to the churches (for the Christians.) We all go to vote in a state of mind that is violence-free and revenge-free. If we all love peace, democracy, and development, please go to vote in a democratic way, in a free and fair manner without any acts of violence. Please vote for whomever you trust and like. Please refrain from illegal acts. That is all I am requesting for. I am standing ready to offer my appreciation to whoever gets elected.