On CUS Progress, Scholarships and Job Finding Rates

It is a great pleasure that I have the chance to join with all of you to officially celebrate the graduation and diploma presenting ceremony for 6,748 students of the Cambodian University of Specialty (CUS). I would like to express my appreciation for the efforts made by CUS’s progress, according to the report of Rector Sdoeng Sokhom. I am so happy to see that CUS has made progress from year to year and the effort made to find jobs for graduates.

With this new batch of graduates, CUS has made its figures of graduation of 19,752 students. CUS still has 11,631 students pursuing their study. With the forthcoming 2014/15 school year, this figure will reach roughly 17,000. This has clearly showed the progress made by CUS along with overall progress made in our society as a whole.

I would like to express my sincere appreciation made by the governing board as well as leaders and professors of CUS in sharing their knowledge for our students in Phnom Penh as well as in provincial cities. I also thank CUS for providing 846 scholarships, from 2005 and 2006, to me so that I can give them out to students of difficult financial condition, of whom, 211 of them are here to receive the diplomas too.

I would also like to take this opportune moment to express my sincere appreciation for the graduates of all levels for making this day happen. According to the report of Rector Sdoeng Sokhom, there has bee 86.06% rate of getting jobs after graduating from the University. I hope that these graduates will continue to make efforts to go into another learning stage. They would have to make further effort in their studies to develop themselves for both their families and countries.

From Bare Hands to Equal Rights and Footing

We have ensured our country’s development in gradual manner as we all are waiting for. We all knew about the most difficult starting point of our country that rose from war and genocide. We started from the state that we had difficulty finding educated persons to work while very few of then human resources survived the killing (directly or indirectly by the genocide regime). We started with the creation afresh every institution. Changes in every other country are different from what happened in Cambodia. They may change anything but they reserve their human resource and infrastructures.

They may change currency but we did not have it. We did not have a swap between currencies from under Lon Nol regime with those issued after the liberation on 7 January 1979. It is one critical issue different to all and it was impossible to imagine that it happened in the late 20th century in a Southeast Asian country – Cambodia. We have made gradual recovery and changes in the past 35 years. We have gone from hard to bear to the current state of being. Today, Cambodia makes its equal standing and footing with other countries, not only in solving its own problems but also those with other countries.

Some countries in the region has gone into war and yet ended it. As for Cambodia, we have transformed our country from one with divisions and rules to one unified country under sole HM the King, legislative assembly, executive power and armed forces. However, it is true that our country’s advancement has not stopped here. No one country has satisfied with what it has achieved. Reform is what they all need to do. The most advanced nation on earth, the US, also has to talk about reform. It is the same buzz term widely used in Europe, Japan, etc.

In Cambodia, reform is a must and necessary to respond to the need for national development. We cannot stand to be satisfied. It is in this understanding that government official as well as businessman should take part in national reform. The aim of our reform is to maintain our economic growth as well as sustainable development on all fields, including natural resources and environment.

First Asian Games Gold Medal for Cambodia

Last Sunday, as we all learned already, we have a hero who brings the first gold medal to the Kingdom of Cambodia. Cambodia is making advancement gradually in home as well as regional front. Some people claimed that it was juts a gold medal, why did the Royal Government make it a big story? It is because we just have this medal as our first one, I must say, that we need to blow a trumpet and to offer in the gold medallist’s honour a motorcade. Some commentators said Cambodia has not got a gold medal in forty four years or since 1970. Let me affirm that Cambodia has never won a gold medal at all.

In 1951, the Asian games in India, Cambodia did not participate. In 1954, the games in the Philippines, we won no medal. In 1958, no medal won in Japan. In 1962, the Asian games in Indonesia, our famous boxer Chhin Hong came home with a bronze medal. We also treated him as a hero. Cambodia failed to attend the Asian games in 1966 in Thailand. In 1970, the games in Thailand again and we won four bronze medals and one silver. As you can track, we never won a gold medal before that. It is not a simple matter. It is the medal won among 45 countries. Why some do not join the Royal Government to welcome this honour for the country. Sorn Seavmei has now become a mandated Ambassador for Cell Card.

Going to ASEM Summit

It is encouraging to see that now sports also make a proud advancement. There has a saying that goes “a journey of thousands of kilometres always starts with the first kilometre.” It is on this logic that we need to continue to make more efforts. Our country’s relation with international community has grown bigger and wider in both regionalization and globalization. On this front, human resources hold key. We need human resources not only for our country’s development alone but also for tough regional and international competition.

From the present toward end of the year, there are many meetings to attend. In just days ahead, there will be this Asia-Europe Summit in Italy. I have a strong concern about topic to be discussed in the Summit. As President of Russia Vladimir Putin will also be there, I doubt if Ukraine will not become a main topic. I am very concerned about disagreement among leaders in the summit. I could foresee that issue of ISIS in Iraq and Syria may get consensus. As far as ASEAN is concerned, there is this issue of South China Sea. Maybe this would not be brought up in Milan. I am concerned because I do not smoke anymore. I do not know where to go but to sit down and listen and to say nothing.

Four Factors for Cambodia to Join ASEAN

Upon returning, in October and November, there will be numerous international level meetings. I should bring up this issue of ASEAN integration in 2015. As rotating chairman of ASEAN, I brought up this issue of whether ASEAN should aim for the early, middle or later part of 2015. There was no agreement yet. It appears that the date is set to be 31 December 2015 for the creation of the ASEAN Economic Community. I have explained more than once already the various reasons why Cambodia has to join ASEAN? As a member country to ASEAN, we all must know about this. It is not an issue only for one or two leaders or those in the Cabinet or members of the National Assembly. It is a topic for all of our citizens. There are four main reasons:

Firstly, Cambodia appreciates the group’s principle of non-interference in other country’s affairs. It is very important for Cambodia. As a small nation, Cambodia would not be affiliating itself to the group if it were not for this principle. As you can see, as time passed, some countries had their problems, including also coup issues, and we never poke our nose in affairs of other member states.

Secondly, it is the community spirit. What defines the community spirit? The main point rests in this fact that ASEAN bases its works on consensus irrespective of size or wealth status of its member states. On every issue, ASEAN must draw on consensus of the ten member states. This point has ensured Cambodia an equal status, rights and footing among the ten members states. It requires community spirit on which every country coexists in harmony.

Thirdly, we benefit from reduction of gap and enjoy regional integration since when we join ASEAN. We have accrued numerous benefits for the sake of our country’s development, which include also human resource development. Gap reduction in the framework of ASEAN relates importantly to issue of human resources. Connectivity has also surfaced as an important issue. If Cambodia were to stand alone, not in ASEAN, would there be any ASEAN country would think about connecting with us? Take for instance the ASEAN-Kunming rail that is going to run through Cambodia or the road connection between countries in the regions. In the forthcoming APEC meeting to be organized by China, countries like Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, though not yet APEC members, have been invited by President Xi Jinping for connectivity meeting prior to the APEC meeting itself. Gap reduction and integration has given Cambodia huge socio-economic interests.

Fourthly, it is a diplomatic exit for Cambodia. Being a member of ASEAN, we have numerous partners. ASEAN has established partnership like ASEAN-Europe, ASEAN-China, ASEAN-Japan, ASEAN-South Korea, ASEAN-US, ASEAN-India, ASEAN-UN, etc. We consider it an open way of our diplomacy.

Some of our people and politicians do not have a good understanding of this issue. As of now, it appears that they now have a good consensus of this ASEAN issue. Cambodia had a good chance that when it entered ASEAN the country had a chance to coordinate among big countries and regional organizations. To start with, we were the coordinator between ASEAN and China. Later, we acted in between ASEAN and India. Now, we are serving as coordinator between ASEAN and Japan.

Along the line that we were coordinator between ASEAN and China, we also did for ASEAN and India and ASEAN and Europe. We gave speeches as coordinator in the ASEAN-Europe meeting in Brussels and the memorable meeting of ASEAN-Europe in Singapore. This should explain the meaning of diplomacy access as a member state of ASEAN. Viewing the four factors, being member of ASEAN has given us no loss. We have become the one who initiated numerous works, including the declaration on South China Sea (DOC) signed between ASEAN and China on the tenth anniversary of its declaration in Phnom Penh.

Cambodia is now driving for the establishment of the ASEAN Mine Action Centre with its headquarters in Cambodia, where training of and about mines will be conducted in the framework of ASEAN. These are what Cambodia has achieved. Cambodia also works in this ASEAN environment with other partners in East Asia and ASEAN plus East Asia. ASEAN cannot afford to drag on because of the big difference between old and new members.

ASEAN Standards

With efforts made to achieve socio-economic development, human resources and coordination for synchronization between ASEAN and partners in the region, it requires that more needs to be done. I made a joke to other ASEAN head of states and governments that our problem is not that simple. Take for example traffic rules. In ASEAN we have countries that observe left-hand traffic and those that observe right-hand traffic. Right-hand traffic countries are Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Countries with traffic on the right hand side are Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and Brunei.

What are we going to do to allow the two traffic systems to commute in a different system? It is difficult to assure consistency on legal issue. Take for instance there are countries that follow French legal system and those that exercise the Anglo-Saxon’s. However, these differences are not issue that we found in ASEAN. In Europe they also have this problem and they can come up with this European Union.

Regularity of State Institutions and People’s Livelihood

I have spoken on various occasions about political situation in Cambodia. It appears to be going well now. However, well or not well, that is what it is. Political parties are now working together in the National Assembly. Terms of unilateral, illegal, incomplete National Assembly, illegal National Assembly meeting led by HM the King, etc. have now become legal and complete. However, the main issue here is to guarantee regularity of national institutions. That is the strategy that I set out from experiences gained in political deadlock situation in 1998 and 2003. The most important factor is to have regular functioning of state institutions and stable livelihood of the people.

Free Tax for Salary of 800,000 Riel and Below

That the country has gone forward in this mode, our economy has grown in way that our prediction and evaluation of the Asian Development Bank and that of the World Bank has come to a point that it will not be lower than 7%. The draft of the 2015 budget law will be examined by the Cabinet meeting in the fourth week of October. The Minister for Economy and Finance has proposed to impose no tax on those whose salary is 800,000 Riel and below. It was aimed earlier to impose tax also on those whose salary is from 500,000 and above. Having come to this decision, the state will spend ten millions USD extra.

I approved the request yesterday so that the decision will be included in the Budget Law. When I return from Italy, we will need to pass the draft budget law. I cannot have the Minister of Economy and Finance going with me as he needs to stay home to get the draft ready since we have set the time to get the draft to the National Assembly in November. HE Aun Pornmonirath, who always accompanies me to ASEM Summit, and other meetings, will have to stay and work on this important law. As we have political stability, we must guarantee that there is also macroeconomic stability at the same time.

Tenth Anniversary of the Coronation Day and Water Festival

The Municipality of Phnom Penh must be ready from now for many upcoming events. This year we are celebrating the tenth anniversary of the coronation day of HM the King while there will be mass meetings and religious rites on 28 and 29 October. This year along with the water festival, in just two days afterward we will also have our National Independence Day. As for the water festival, I would love to enjoy the boat race event but I will not be present on the third day. As the boat raced event will take place three days, November 5, 6 and 7 – I will not be present on the last day for my trip to Beijing for a meeting on connectivity./.