Your Excellency and Samdech, Deputy Prime Ministers and Co-ministers of Interior,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today, I have a great honor and pleasure to join you all in the opening of the National Conference on Vital Records, which is one of the important conferences. I would like to extend my congratulation and appreciation to the Ministry of Interior (MOI) for its efforts in cooperation with development partners to hold this conference.
It is clear that the National Conference on Vital Records is important for national policy makers and our provincial/municipal implementing agencies as well as our development partners to take stock and evaluate the Vital Records performance and challenges, aiming at working out new directions, strategies and action plans for the next three years as well as preparing National Strategic Plan for Mobile Vital Records.
Taking this great opportunity, on behalf of the Royal Government and my own self, I highly appreciate the Ministry of Interior for its role in coordinating communes/sangkats, districts, provincial and municipal authorities, and accomplished a record of 8 million citizens within a one year period. Such an achievement does not only make Cambodia a leading country in the region, especially in providing child birth certificates, but also underscore the country’s commitment to the Convention on Rights of Children, given that Cambodia is one of the signatory.
At the same time, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Asian Development Bank for supporting the works of vital records as part of the Commune/Sangkat Development Project which is financed by the grant from Netherlands. Also, UNICEF and PLAN Cambodia have also actively supported the Ministry of Interior in this process.
The vital records are to provide legal documents that are necessary for each and every citizen on birth, marriage and death. The legal documents are the valuable evidence for the whole life of individual person to certify her/his identity and civil status in order to uphold rights and obligations as a citizen in the society, family and her/his clan. In a democratic and legitimate society, each citizen can always utilize vital records’ certificate to protect her/his rights, freedom, interest and obligation in the society. In this regards, birth certificate is fundamental for vital records. A baby with birth certificate, she/he obtains name and nationality as well as legal guardianship from her/his parent. Therefore, birth certificate is a primary legal document critically contributes to eliminate child trafficking, child labor exploitation and to serve as a basic document for children to receive protection and support services from society. At the same time, birth certificate is also a basic legal document to certify civil and personal status of each citizen in gaining freedom and binding obligation as citizen in the society.
The policy of the Royal Government of Cambodia requires newly born baby to be registered and receive birth certificate within 30 days after the date of birth in the commune/Sangkat office where the baby’s parent or guardian are living permanently. The records produce a birth certificate at free of charge within 30 days after the birth date. Therefore, the registration is the obligation of each and every citizen. Taking this opportunity, I would like to appeal to every citizen to obtain the certificate for yourself and children.
In the same vein, marriage is the change of civil, personal and life status of an individual. Marriage would create a family, conjoin rights, obligations and duties in family and society. In legal term, marriage means the registration of marriage in front of vital records officer at commune/Sangkat of permanent resident of the female, and the couples are voluntarily and free from any pressure and threatening. Thus, the Law on Marriage in Cambodia is to ensure full freedom of all Cambodians without discrimination of races, believes and religion. The marriage certificate also serves as legal interests in term of supporting and protecting wed-locked child. Even though, civil marriage is not the obligation, it is valuable for individual. In the regards, I would like to appeal to all young Cambodians, who are going to marry, to obtain marriage certificates since it allows your family and your sons/daughters to get protected in the civil cases.
Death is the final breath of human life and ends legal status of an individual. Even though, life and legal status is ended, family has to register the death in order to get interest protection for them, spouse and children. I consider that, death registration is an obligation and to pay gratitude to the death person.
In sum, the birth, marriage and death registration are priceless legal documents for all individual in the society.
Realizing that importance, in 2001, the Royal Government of Cambodia, in its policy reform, issued a Sub-degree on Vital Records which allows using a new unique pro-forma of registration for the whole country and has begun working with it since August 1st, 2002.
In the beginning of the process, not many people commit to get the records due to limited capacity of authorities and people in realizing benefit of the records in wide and deep manner. To encourage people to obtain Vital Records certificates that most people do not have, the Royal Government of Cambodia has launched campaign of mobile registration for 10 months and registered 8 million people. The achievement is a big success of the Royal Government’s policy reform. To obtain the bold achievement in a short period of time, we have overcome and addressed many challenges and learned a lot in term of legal issues, systems and procedures of registration, capacity building of thousands officials, public awareness and education, and mobilization and coordination the support of development partners. Taking this opportunity, I would like to thank ADB, with the support of Government of Netherlands, for its direct support. My gratitude is also to the PLAN Cambodia and UNICEF. At the same time, I most appreciate commune/Sangkat, district and provincial/municipal authorities, all level officials of MOI and especially commune/Sangkat clerks and officials who work in mobile teams, all of them have exerted their utmost and pro-active efforts in the registration in addition to their many routine works in the implementation of the RGC’s decentralization policy.
The political platform of Royal Government in its third mandate of legislature considers Vital Records a first priority among four public services. Based on our works, we estimate 5 millions of Cambodian citizens remain out of the records, particularly the record on birth. To encourage and facilitate those people, the Royal Government will continue our mobile registration until August 31, 2006. Even though, we achieved encouraging results, the five millions people out of records and they are observed to be in the remote areas, and they are the ethnic groups, poor families and vulnerable people. Therefore, the eight-month mobile registration campaign for the next phase requires us to carefully lay out strategic plan and contribution from villages, communes/Sangkats, districts and provincial/municipal authorities, governmental organizations and institutions, NGOs, and development partners in order to creatively raise public awareness among different groups and segments in the society to participate in mobile vital record registration.
At the same time, the vital records are a long term task, which is needed to be regularly implemented. It’s not a short term work, which needs to be accelerated in the mobile vital records registration period. Our main target is to ensure that the vital records registration is up-to-date, accurate, stable and sustainable; so that all kinds of vital records registration can be easily, quickly, transparently and accountably accessed by all people.
In order to meet these targets, I would like to share some views with all of you in this national conference on the following main objectives:
First: to review laws and regulations related to vital record works to ensure the conformity and simplicity between laws, regulations and procedures for the benefits of the people.
Second: the current vital records registration system in Cambodia is the manual recording system. Due to our weakness in human and financial resources, I believe that we keep using manual recording system in the near future. But the Royal Government of Cambodia supports the experimentation of an integrated computerized system in the vital records works in order to project the technical, human resource, financial and equipment needs. The current issue is to do the feasibility study to digitalize annual vital records books to ensure the safety of the books. Taking this opportunity, on behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia, I would like to appeal to the development partners to support the transition from manual to digitalized system in order to enhance the quality of the service delivered to the people.
On the other hand, during this feasibility study, may I request the commune and district authorities and provincial and municipal courts that are in charged of keeping and preventing the vital records books from any kind of damage. They should regard it as the most valuable document for the people.
Third: in this vital record system, birth certificate registration is fundamental especially the issuing of birth certificate to the baby within 30 days after his/her birth.
We are proud to have sixty five percent of the people registered during the mobile vital records registration. However, mobile registration is not the long term solution and permanent works. This process is only to address the current issue, while most of the people have not obtained the vital records certificates. Besides, this process does not reflect the stable and sustainable system of vital records registration. The vital records registration system, which is firm, stable and sustainable, is the one that ensures immediate birth certificate to the new born baby. If we don’t have a stable system, the new-born baby with no birth certificate will increase from year to year. This will surely create the circumstance in which most people have no vital records. Thus, during and after the mobile vital records registration, the most vital issue is to strengthen the system to ensure that birth certificate can be provided to the new-born baby immediately.
Fourth: while we pay the attention on vital records registration of the people living inside the country, we shall account for the registration for Cambodian people living abroad as well. The Royal Government has determined to implement the sub-degree on the principles regarding the vital records registration for Cambodian people living abroad.
In this sense, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Justice and Ministry of foreign Affaires and International Cooperation have to consult with each other in order to define necessary procedures for Cambodian Embassies, Counselors and Consulates for the Cambodian people living oversea to ensure and uphold the rights and freedom of those people equally.
Fifth: In order to strengthen the vital records registration in Cambodia to be sustainable and to strengthen the legal registration of the state, ministries, institutions of the government, judicial system and private sector have to recognize and use the vital records registration of the people by regarding the vital records as the basic legal documents to determine about the civil status, identity and personal status of each citizen. Therefore, the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Justice and other related ministries and institutions will have to consult with each other on the use of the vital records in every field including judicial system in order to protect and to promote the rights and benefits of the people.
Sixth: The strengthening of institutions and human resource as well as supplying materials, books and vital records papers are instrumental to strengthening the process of the vital record registration. Since the government has implemented the new vital record registration all across the country and even there has been strong effort in managing the institutions; human resources; distribution systems of materials, budget and vital records books; and revenue from the vital records registration, there are still a lot of remaining shortages that need to be re-evaluated and managed accordingly. In the present time, we have to ensure that the supply of materials, budget and vital records books provided by the government for the mobile vital record registration campaign, which has only 8 months left, is appropriate.
The Royal Government of Cambodia is actively promoting the implementation of the political platform and the Rectangular Strategy to promote growth, to create employment and to ensure equity and efficiency in Cambodia. The good governance is the core of the Rectangular Strategy. Therefore, good governance should also cover the vital records registration for the people. In order to improve good governance in this work, the vital records officials and related ministries and institutions as well as officials in charge copying the vital records for people must be active and honest in providing the service with high responsibility and transparency. In the period of the mobile vital records registration, the one page original birth certificate and death certificate will be provided free of charge. After the end of the mobile vital record registration campaign, the one page original birth certificate and death certificate will be provided to the people free of charge in the case that an infant is registered within 30 days after birth and death registration is done within 15 days after death.
In summary, the policy of the Royal Government of Cambodia for the registration of birth and death within the legal period will not require people to pay anything. This is the core policy, which is needed to be strengthened in the vital records governance. The Royal Government will not tolerate any officials or other people, who collude, ask for the extra fee, overcharge or falsify the vital records for people. I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to the people, all levels of authority and related institutions, to join with the Royal Government of Cambodia in eliminating irregularity in vital records registration service. The Royal Government considers that steering up people to do the vital record registration, strengthening of vital record registration and elimination of irregularity in providing vital records to the people are the competitive movement among all administrative levels and as one of the indices to measure the capacity of the leaders in each city, province, district and commune. The effort in providing vital records for the people is the most honored gesture for the whole nation.
At the end, on behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia and myself, I would like to express my admiration to the ministries, institutions and officials at all levels and the people for this great achievement of the vital records registration in Cambodia. I would like to express my profound thanks to the Government of Netherlands for her noble assistance supporting the vital record registration in Cambodia, which is undertaken under the Commune and Sangkat Development Project of Asian Development Bank. I would also like to express my gratitude to the PLAN Cambodia, UNICEF and other NGOs, as well as all the development partners who have supported the vital records registration.
In the future, I hope that the development partners will intensify the support in strengthening the vital record registration in Cambodia that is for the benefit of the Cambodian people as well as the whole humankind.
On this auspicious occasion, on behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia and myself, I would like to declare the official opening of the vital records registration from now on and wish you all the five Gems of Buddhist blessing.