Congratulating 1,050 Graduates and Education Policy

I am so glad to come and hand out diplomas for 1,050 graduates of the Pannasastra University, which is the first ceremony of this sort for me of 2013. I thank the Senior Minister HE Kol Pheng who is the Head of the Governing Board of the Pannasastra University, who has just reported on the progress made by the University. I remember that I was at the University once on July 19, 2005 where I presented the diplomas and officially inaugurated the University itself. According to the report, the University has made gradual progress day after day and today we are presenting diplomas for 1,050 students. We also learn that some 22,348 students are continuing their studies in the University, which has expanded its facility to six different locations in Phnom Penh and two more in Siemriep and Battambang provinces.

Noting this progress, we all are thinking of problems concerning the (Royal Government’s) policy vis a vis education. As I already mentioned on various occasions that should we not allow the private sector to contribute in the area of human resource development, we might not have the ability to resolve the growing need for education at all. The state tertiary education institutions are of limited capacity that we have to seek for private contribution on the issue of human resource development. Students who finish their senior secondary school level have grown in great number every year. The state tertiary education institutions could not absorb them. With the policy for the private sector to invest in the field of education, we now have more private tertiary education institutions than those of the state.

It is true that even the state tertiary education institutions also has two options in providing their education services – whole state scholarship and fee paying program, which should also provide some income for the Universities and professors. What is even more important is that we have expanded our absorbing capacity, which provides opportunities for many of them.

I am pleased indeed to witness the progress (made by the Pannasastra University) and would take this opportune moment to express my sincere thanks to the governing board and leadership of the University as well as teaching staff who share knowledge with our students. It is also a great pride indeed, according to the report, that the University has also received 35 foreign students from Canada, China, Philippines, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Nigeria, Pakistan, Thailand, Turkey, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Australia.

This has clearly proven that Cambodia is not only developing local human resources but doing also for the foreign human resources as well. This has also shown that the Cambodian education standard has improved to a level acceptable to foreigners. Despite all these, we are seeing still the need for further improvement of our education facility where the accreditation committee has a strong say on.

I am so glad to see these progresses and thank the University for providing 350 scholarships to me so that I can give them out to other students. I would also take this opportune moment to express my sincere thanks for the University leadership for offering chances for the students to involve in land measuring for our people. I am so proud and happy with this mission. I will talk more soon about the second phase youth-student volunteers mission, who will depart tomorrow.

Attracting Investments for Jobs Creation and Economic Growth

Let me say a few words to the graduates. I am so happy with what has been raised by HE Kol Pheng in his report and I would express my congratulation to all of the graduates as well as their parents, supervisors and families for the efforts they have put together so that our students can concentrate in their studies. The achievements that you all have scored today have a strong link with the support provided by your families and chances offered in our society. All impressive achievements we all score these days originate from peace, national reconciliation, political stability and socio-economic development from one stage to another, the efforts of which has brought about impressive economic growth.

For the some 1,000 new human resources today, as is reported, about 95% of them are now working in state and private institutions and about 5% are pursuing their self-employment careers. This is impressive. Our aim in education is to create human resources to contribute to the national development, where work is a major pillar in the rectangular strategy for growth, employment equity and efficiency. Once we have them trained, it is requiring that we have works for them to do and in order to do the job we have to guarantee that there is political stability as it is a prerequisite for all types of investment, even the investment in education. Take for instance the University has up to 1,254 staff. If there were no investment, would there be jobs for these people?

At times, I have a hard time trying to understand some people who claim themselves against investors as they regard those with money as their enemies. In that stream of thought of them, who would invest in creating jobs? Take for instance, if HE Kol Pheng did not bother to create the University in response to the mainstream policy on education, there would not be work to do here. We need people with extra money to invest, and with their investments, we will have more jobs created for our people. For instance, the investment in this University has created jobs for over one thousand people who work directly with the University, but there must be some who indirectly benefited from the investment too. We will make further effort to attract internal and external investment to create more jobs for our people.

Any one country in this world is attracting investment, both foreign direct investments and local, even in the US, France, etc. You may want to ask the US how many Japanese companies are producing cars in the United States of America. We must see this. No matter what happens, we have to guarantee political stability as it is a strong element that lures investment to the country.

Countries with economic crisis in the world are facing with the problem of having to reduce workers. That is a serious problem in Europe. The Eurozone will have no choice but to reduce number of workers, reduce salary/spending and increase tax. I attended the G20 meeting in Europe on behalf of ASEAN and I sat next to the Prime Minister of Spain. He told me he has no choice but to reduce salary, spending and increase tax. It explains a lot of things why there are frequent demonstrations and more and more factories and companies are closing down. Once the factories close down, workers are jobless. It is therefore important to maintain political stability to promote growth and stimulate spending for growth.

Getting Ready for 2015 ASEAN Economic Community

There are more interests expressed for investment in Cambodia as the ASEAN Economic Community will be coming in 2015 and there will be a strong competition in the world as well as in the region. Initially, ASEAN member countries have not yet agreed with each other as to when in 2015 that the community should start. In that case, there was a proposal for adoption in the ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh that the date for the ASEAN Economic Community to be operating is not January 1, 2015 but December 31 of that year. That is what we have agreed upon in Phnom Penh.

As you already know that once the ASEAN Economic Community takes place, all barriers will be removed, while goods, services and human resources will flow freely. Our people need therefore to be knowledgeable in preparation for a common market in ASEAN. We are seeing the possibility that some of our best will be able to find jobs in other ASEAN member countries. I do not buy the concept that foreigners would come to get all the jobs in Cambodia because I am sure the water would not flow uphill. They would have higher salaries in their countries and they would get less payment in Cambodia, why would they come?

Take for instance, the 131 foreign staff of the Pannasastra University, would they stay working here if the University pays them less. Therefore, it is important that we grasp the principle of competition. If we are not strong, we will face with difficulties. If our products are good we can export to foreign markets or country free of taxes but if our products are not good, we cannot export them and we will face with the situation that products from other countries will flood in. We will then have a hard time and are not entitle to placing protectionist stand or policy.

Field Study and Root Cause Finding to the Problems

I am sure you all are quite familiar to these terms and experiences because you study economics. I also learnt that the University also fit in a program for students to visit various institutions and civil society as your practicum. I think it is a great way of learning when you send students to experience in state or non-state institutions or factories, enterprises. There is a stark difference between what you learn in the book and what you actually do. It is therefore important that we have to go out and make field practicum visit.

We also have to learn asking question and trying to find out the answers. For instance, some says there is not much fish this year in so and so areas and others say there is more fish in so and so places. This has called for a study. This morning, on CNC TV, I learnt that there are much fish in Kompong Chhonang but there are not much fish in fishing areas along the river of Tonle Sap. This has brought us to reasoning that those areas are unusually lacking fish because of the low flood that left not much water. With less water, the current of water flowing to the sea is not strong and the fish are not attracted to get along with the current. We then concluded that one major reason for lacking of fish this year is too low a flood.

Intellectual, Moral and Virtue

I thank HE Kol Pheng for his report. Even though health has not been kind on you, it is very thoughtful of you to mention food for thought about the former King in China and the Chinese officials that you called “the tree planting officials.” I used to bring up similar but more serious story of what I called “the pumpkin officials.” I am grateful to HE Kol Pheng for bringing up the five principles of moral and meditation. Among them, I support the first principle that HE Kol Pheng urges you not to behave as if you know all. You should consider yourself to be a glass of water because once it is full you cannot take more water. I used to raise it up that one should not think oneself to be the number one star. No one knows all like the senior Cambodians used to say – even a millionaire would lack the clay pot to bake cake with.

Being alone would isolate oneself. This is true not only for lower staff but even leaders could also become isolated. The fifth guiding principle urges you to observe morality and virtue while continue to improve your study and knowledge you gained from school. Knowledge is a crucial element but not sufficient. It needs to come along with morality and virtue, as in the absence of both, knowledge could bring about danger or disaster. The world was in dangers because of this too. Look, people who make nuclear bombs, chemical weapons, drugs, are knowledgeable. They are intellectualsa. When the intellectuals are immoral and non-virtuous, they may involve in making drugs or bombs for terrorist activities.

Fish Eating Ant and Ant Eating Fish

They will have my full support for a political code of ethics but I would rather have it in binding law so that we can bring anyone to trial if s/he is using abusive terms. I think there should be a law to prevent using words like traitors, etc. Take for instance the slanderous words like “selling (Cambodian) land to foreigners.” They have kept saying that since when there was this coup against Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk. They scolded him all the time and even made it into a song that I narrated (as an example) the other day in the National Assembly. Have you not found it unbelievable that the Cambodian land was sold since the time of Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk until the present? But we cannot sell them to anyone, it seems.

Bavet is still where it is, Ka Am Samnor is also where it situates, Jrey Thom is also where it is (on the border with Vietnam) and so is Poi Pet or Pailin (one the border with Thailand) and the border with Laos. We cannot, it is obvious, sell them to anyone. Another version is the selling of head (a way to say that someone is selling their national interest or acting in the interest of others). How many head have we sold? After the genocide in 1979, there were only about five million Cambodians (or Cambodian heads). Now we have 14 million. If we are selling head, why we are having more? Why should anyone’s head is so cheap? Why is it so easy to sell?

As far as the code of ethics is concerned, you have my support for it. It should be there mainly for leaders so that they do not insult each other in abusive terms. In Cambodia, politicians use bad words to insult each other since when I was a teenager. When someone gets insulted, s/he could not refrain from returning words. It would be better to have a code of ethics that anyone using abusive term would be serving jail term of so long, for example. We should try to get it done since we still have months before the National Assembly is no longer there for the new one to come in.

I used to talk about this motto of “once the water is up, the fish eats the ants and once the water retreats, the ants eat the fish.” I wish I could change this in Cambodian society. When Lon Nol removed Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk from power, those being close to Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk were jailed by Lon Nol. When Pol Pot took over the power, they executed those left from the time of Preah Norodom Sihanouk and Lon Nol. After 1979, we tried though there was war not to kill any war prisoners. You may note that after the Paris Peace Agreement, those war prisoners were released from custody, who were illiterate before, are literate. They were in prison but they learn letters and carpentry, for instance.

It has shown clearly that while the Cambodian People’s Party is ruling and I am the one to govern the country, everyone can stay with us, the one who does or does not insult altogether. Still they blame us there are no human rights. They insult us right in our face and as no one bothers them, they say we have taken away their rights. What is their right then? Is it the right to kill Hun Sen? Let’s end this pattern of fish eating ants and ants eating fish, or the motto of with me is without you.

Peace and Chance for Self-Development

Some people have not had chances originally but tried to create ones, while some who have chances allow a slipping through. Youth in the former generations had lost chances or opportunities since March 18, 1970. That war broke out in major parts of the country resulted in cessation of education activities in a larger part of the country too. While Pol Pot came to power, there were completely no schools and the city was abandoned totally. For foreigners who are here present I would share with you that in those days the whole city, after the liberation on January 7, 1979, there were only 70 people.

From 1979 through to 1991, the country was being at war while certain area was at peace. We had difficulty in implementing the Paris Peace Agreement because the Khmer Rouge faction did not participate in the process. War continued and the United Nations Transition Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) was not able to achieve what it had planned – a complete peace throughout Cambodia. UNTAC’s failure to achieve peace resulted in continued conflicts and provocations that made armed clashes happen in Phnom Penh later.

Thanks to the win-win policy (that I put out on behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia and Cambodian People’s Party), we have put the war era that started in 1970 to a complete end in 1998. This achievement has brought great chance for our youth in enjoying their educational opportunity. The chances they have this time is much better and advantageous than those of the former generations. As for me, I almost lost my chance completely because I had been wounded. While losing one eye, my left arm and leg were also in desperate condition. What should I do, I asked myself. There was nothing else between taking up the challenge of turning back at Pol Pot or death. To die alone was not a bad thing to do in those days because one could just presented oneself to the regime to be killed or kill oneself.

The point is dying alone would not save the people from danger. You can imagine how much opportunity I had in that state. Shortly after recovering from the wound, my eye could see no more than 200 meters. I tried to recover from that state not to become Prime Minister, I would not know that, but to liberate people from the regime of Pol Pot. What happened thereafter you already know. With the people’s trust and support, I have the chance to continue to serve them and the country. That is why I say you have more choices than I did. You even have the chance to choose, for example in the Pannasastra University, what to learn in what faculty, etc. and to study in the state or private educational institutions.

It is so sad that some of the youths have resorted to drug, to quarreling and all sorts of hatred acts in the society. They used their chances wrongly. We are considering drug-addicted people as victims or criminals. Nevertheless, when they go extremes in drug addiction, they no longer are victims but more or less criminals. Take for instance, some of them have gone in and out of the De-Addiction Centre more than once. Some of them get addicted to drug without knowing it so their state of being addicted is not purposeful.

Fire Disaster, Election Campaign’s Land-Measuring Break, Funeral Procession and Cremation

I have some more to add. Firstly, I would urge our people in the whole country to pay attention to issues relating to fire disaster that happened consecutively in these last weeks. I am urging prior attention from the house owners as they cannot depend on intervention and even if there is effective intervention and help, you still have lost your property. It is in this logic that I am calling on all of you to increase vigilance in relation to fire disaster. Secondly, I am sending a message to the youth-student volunteers that among over 2,000 of them involved in the first phase mission, only 400 of them would return to the mission because the rest of them would have to get back to school. Those who would go back will also go to a different place so that our youth-student volunteers would have a better sense and knowledge of various geographical conditions and setups.

The process of land measuring will go on but we have to fit in a provisional break at the electoral campaign period. We do not want our youth to work in the period because political parties might make inferences on their actions. We will withdraw the youth-student volunteers, right before the election campaign. However, some of the mission fronts might have completed already by then. As of the moment of speaking, we already completed the mission front in Kep province, while it is almost done in Takeo province. As I said on various occasions already we would not stop until we have fulfilled the mission. We may have a break at the electoral campaign only, though.

Lastly, I am seeking understanding from the Phnom Penh people about the fact that we have to enforce some road closures on February 4 because we will organize the cremation ceremony of the Preah Borom Ratanak Kaod. There will be many foreign dignitaries – Prime Minister, Vice President, Head of National Assembly, Crown Prince, etc., joining with us in saying last goodbye to the King-Father. We will have many guests and have to take security measures and orders in Phnom Penh. We will start the funeral procession of Preah Borom Ratanak Kaod’s body on February 1, accompanied by 101 rounds of the artillery in his honor, to be placed in the crematorium. There will be three rounds of 101 shots at three different times so it will make 303 shots altogether.

There will be three shots at a time. The first round of fire will be at the time that the body of Preah Borom Ratanak Kaod leaves the Royal Palace. The second round will be at the time that the body is placed on the funeral pyre or crematorium, and again on February 4, the day that we launch the cremation. The ceremony will be a large one and there will be numerous people taking part. We will place some large screens along the way so that our people can follow up the process. They may follow it up on TV too. Many foreign guests will arrive on February 3 and some will arrive on February 4.

The cremation will be to express our gratefulness to the King-Father’s respectfully good deed in demanding and securing independence from France as well as national construction in the Popular Socialist Community period in between 1954 and 1970. Under the leadership of the King-Father, we had undergone the national reconciliation and at one critical stage the King-Father was himself a major player in negotiation to achieve breakthrough toward the realization of the Paris Peace Agreement. These are great achievements for the sake of our nation and children.

I would also take this opportunity to appeal to TV stations to postpone their concert schedules from February 1 to 7 so that we can say our last goodbye to our Father, Grandfather and Great-grandfather after we have observed the one-week mourning period in October 2012, and now another one-week mourning period. As is instructed by the circulation, loud music and dancing should not be organized in this period though our income would have fallen down, but as I said we have only one Father, Grandfather and Great-grandfather to mourn for the last time. This should be the least that we can do as the Cambodian younger generations who have benefited from independence and peace secured by the King-Father./.