In addition to the prepared text delivered at the closing session of the Annual Conference of the 2014/15 Stocktaking and 2015/16 Directives Setting for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Samdech Techo Hun Sen made the following selected extempore comments:
Barriers to Exports from Low to High Income Countries
I wish to add a few things here. There is an organization called OPEC (Oil Producing and Exporting Countries) who is doing the oil exporting. In this region, we have a mechanism for those who grow and produce rubber. We need to work harder with our partners. Cambodia is holding its rotating chairmanship. There is also one other initiative I started since 2005 in the framework and to attract attention of the ACMECS countries on issue of setting up a rice exporting countries (REC), in which Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar are members. This is an issue that is continuing to be discussed.
REC is not to be established to manipulate price (of rice) in the international markets. We just wanted to facilitate price and food security related policies in the region and the world. OPEC has its policy framework and sends prices of oil up. The price of oil has now gone down internationally. The price of food will not. Human need to consume and the amount consumed would not go down. It should be noted that once there was this issue of high oil prices, some people and countries had converted lands from growing crops for human food to growing crops for machines. It sent the price of food sky high. Later, those countries and people had resorted to using land for human food crop farming.
Population growth and the land area expanded for farming has not been balanced over medium and long-term period. The climate change has also played very critical role that we have had to start immediately with research and development (of seeds) that are resilient to the changing weather condition. Temperature in our country does not stay at 34 or 35 degree Celsius anymore. As of this moment, out in the field the temperature is between 38 and 39 degree Celsius. Would plants in the field be adapting to the condition? We have seeds that previously grow in the temperature between 34 and 35 degree Celsius.
These are our concerns. Price and market is another issue. However, adding up expenses to cope with the changing weather condition, the cost of production is running out of control. Farmers could not make profit from their produces when they have to spend more time, labour cost and more on other means but the price falls low in the international markets. Richer countries export Boeing or Airbus planes, medicines, etc. Their products are unique and do not have competitors. They export freely to other countries. Poorer countries have difficulties in exporting their produces to other markets.
I think that also happened in the case of cucumber between Spain and Germany. HE Ambassador of the European Union may have known. Germany barred imports of Spanish cucumber for its remark that they carry virus. There is this other story about the English mad-cow beef and the French policy. On our way from Canada to Cuba, on Air France my wife asked for beef. I said to her there was no beef for the war of mad-cow disease.
The issue is the barrier to negotiation between low and high income countries. I wish to appeal to richer nations to please consider favour to poorer nations. Despite principle set by the World Trade Organization for country members not to exercise subsidy, some developed countries still do. Owing to implementation of such policy that poorer countries could not export to richer countries. Fortunately we could export to Europe. However, if Europe also produces rice, Cambodia may not have the chance to export rice there because the price of Cambodian rice would be lower than those of the local ones.
Failing to Meet Rice Export Goal, Rice Production Increases, Though
It is our prediction that we may not be able to realize our goal to export one million tons of rice this year. For the first quarter of this year, we have recorded a rice export figure of 150,000 tons. We still have nine more months to go. However, with limited capacity of our rice mill, purchasing power and storage, we have the feeling we may not reach our goal. We are not disappointed though. Though the target fails, we still notice increase of rice production year after year. I learnt that a new investment is underway for a new rice mill with the capacity of milling three million tons. When they all are in full function the country will be able to take the load of milling rice in the country.
These days, we have lost so much from exporting whole paddy rice abroad. We cannot prohibit our farmers from selling to other countries. However, selling paddy rice causes us to lose added value such as rice brand, broken parts of rice and rice husk. Worse still, we are losing jobs for our labourers. If these are to stay inside the country for processing, we would be able to produce animal feeds and provide for small energy producing plants. It is a major work and is surpassing our ability at the moment. Nevertheless, compared to previous time, about 70% of our farmlands are ploughed by pulled tractors.
More Pulled Tractors, Less Animal Manure
I have a concern that our less and less number of farmers are still raising ploughing animal such as oxen and buffaloes. It is true that ploughing with pulled tractors is increasingly popular but it will also lead to the fact that our farmers do not have enough animal manure as fertilizer. It is a fact. As more people find pulled tractors useful for land preparation work, pumping and transporting, they also have a cause of concern that we may have extinction of our ploughing animals. I hope that our people continue to raise those animals despite their choice for pulled tractors. At the very least, those animals would provide us with manure for our farming as well.
Provincial Authority in Responsibility of Land Conflict, Illegal Logging and Fishing
As far as point 10 and 11 of these recommendations, I had mentioned it to a wider meeting of about 1,000 officials of the Royal Government working to help strengthen works at the local levels. There were also presences of those of sub-national level and concerned authorities. Forest and illegal logging is a serious matter requiring clear responsibility. Concerned agencies must not point finger at each other. I have mentioned this not once or twice. Now that we have delegated power to sub-national level, though we have yet to make amendment to the law on forestry and fisheries, we have already incorporated the forestry and fisheries districts into the provincial command structures already.
As this is already the case, involved agencies cannot place responsibility on others for what went wrong. It would be difficult to find drug when people trade it. They hide it in pockets. As for trees, they load and transport logs in trucks. How could they do it without being seen? They destroyed the forest but also the roads. When thing goes wrong, one places responsibility on the other and vice versa. Development always brings pressure to bear on environment. Take for instance, the province of Prey Veng, or long forest literally translated, we find no more forest. Where is the forest? They were replaced by farmlands because of the population growth.
We now have mechanism to inspect and measure land concession. Over 170,000 hectares of land have been confiscated from eight companies (licensed) by the Ministry of Agriculture, over 100,000 hectares confiscated from 23 companies (licensed) by the Ministry of Environment. There will be more. I have given my opinion the other day that to just take back the land would not be sufficient comparing to what they had done to the forests. To take just the land back would be like to relieve them from liability. We must also force them to compensate for the forest they had cleared for trees. Firstly, they would go where there are trees so that they can log them. Secondly, they go where there are people and cause impacts and conflicts.
In the notification (from the Royal Government) it is stated clearly that where there is issue concerning with local people, actions must halt. However, they gave no notice to the clause. They caused problems. It may not be a comprehensive measure to just take land back from certain companies who only chopped down trees, plus using the company’s license to buy trees from others as well. I think for these companies we need to carry legal actions with them. Otherwise they would just free themselves easily after they did so much destruction. You may still remember the case in Kratie province where people came and stayed in the pagoda of Stoeng Meanjei or Samaki Rainsey demanding for my help.
I learnt about it in the newspaper. I dug it up. We resolved the issue. The Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, the provincial authority, and the youth volunteers have all measured the lands and even posted on information board for comments. A company came out and protested. Hundreds of families protested and no one cared. Finally they came to the Prime Minister for solution. Finally we sorted it out. It all depends on us. I encourage authority to provide clear solution. I also hope that the forestry district administration and provincial authorities of all provinces with fishing zones and forestry will not point fingers at each other in such a case.
In Svay Rieng, I have urged for the amendment of the law. As far as forestry is concerned it seemed like we have three agencies to work on it. There is this agricultural office at the provincial level. As for forestry, they have what is called the forestry district and so has the fisheries administration. They do not have relation with provincial authority. That is why when thing went wrong, the district and provincial authority pointed fingers at each other. We issued notification on the ban of rosewood exports to foreign countries. We piled the wood up. Still there is market for it. People not only chopped rosewood on the Cambodian territory but also intruded into Thailand leading to lethal response.
I am calling on all of you to wake up and take to your works. Please be more dynamic. We work as a team. All eleven footballers in the team must work hard together to get the score. If they all depend on Ronaldo alone, the team would have come back home before the final match. The English team cannot depend on Rooney alone. The same is true for a country. We need the whole team to get thing done. I already said it that there is no need for my recommendation. Your tasks have been defined by the position you are holding. It is clearly defined in the sub-decree on institutional organization and functioning. The fact that we have conducted decentralization and de-concentration, more power has now rested with the sub-national authority.
April 9 Electoral Law Reform
Please allow me to take this opportune moment to inform all of you and the people of Cambodia in the whole country that the political situation will be sorted out finally tomorrow. Earlier, we have planned to elect the members of the National Election Committee on April 13. However, because there is a consensus between the Cambodian People’s Party and the National Rescue Party headed by HE Sar Kheng and HE Sam Rainsy, plus the meeting between HE Sam Rainsy and me yesterday, followed by another meeting to match the list between HE Sar Kheng and HE Sam Rainsy, we will proceed to the election tomorrow. That is why I have had to cancel my schedule for the election (of the members of the National Elections Committee) so as to (1) realize the work prior to schedule and (2) give longer time for the Khmer New Year. I have scheduled to be in Siem Reap on April 13.
I met HE Sam Rainsy yesterday and I said that Khmer could go into conflict but Khmer also learn to speak to resolve the difference too. The message of HM the King has it that Cambodia gets the potential to resolve problems through political dialogue. It is true that today HE Kem Sokha has had to go to the court for questioning. However, that is the exercise of another power – the court power. However, this evening, as far as we know, he would be coming out. No one is going to arrest him.
Please allow me to take this chance to affirm on the election law. There has been some remarks, unfortunately, made by both Cambodians and foreigners about the new election law to be worse than that of the former one. Some even went a great length to say the law is unconstitutional. Let me stress that, whether a Cambodian or foreign national, you have no right to interpret this issue. If it is unconstitutional, the Constitutional Council would have rejected it already. No one, physical institution or individual, has the right to interpret the law except the Constitutional Council.
It is unfortunate that in a seminar where some members of the National Assembly also attended, some people said the law is unconstitutional. It is a serious insult on the sovereignty and privilege of Constitutional Council, HM the King, and the two political parties who have won seats in the National Assembly, representing the people of Cambodia, who worked to write the law together. I raised this issue just to urge us all to understand and respect obligation as a Cambodian citizen. I myself, as Prime Minister, also do not have the right to interpret the law on behalf of the Constitutional Council. When we come to legal matter that we could not figure out, we always ask for interpretation of the matter from the Constitutional Council.
It is so unfortunate that some individuals went around and said here and there about the unconstitutionality of the law. How could one person, local or foreign national, have right to give that judgment? How could a foreigner interfere to say so and so law is constitutional or not while the Cambodian institutions could not do so except Constitutional Council? I am not a lawyer but someone who abides by the law. I just advise you, local and foreign national, on this matter.
Law on Organizations and Associations
Previously I talked about the law on Non-Governmental Organization, whether we should or should not do it, while article 42 of the Constitution clearly states that the Cambodian citizen have rights to set up association and political parties. The right is actually given by the Constitution. However, we have only the law on political party. We do not have the law on NGOs and Association. I do not have intention to obstruct political action and/or action of associations and/or NGOs. However, I have the belief that they will benefit from the law. I think only those criminals hiding under the shadow of NGOs will lose their interests. Those with legal actions will surely get the benefit.
As of now we have over 4,000 organizations. How do we go about managing them? Some aids registered and channelled to Cambodia by so and so while the Cambodian Royal Government does not know about it. If organizations like ISIS or Al Qaeda or other form of terrorist organizations were to transfer terrorist financing to Cambodia, how could one go about dealing with it? Who will be responsible in finding out? We are a member of what they called Counter-Terrorist Financing Financial institutions. Some would say there has not been discussion on that. In fact the discussion was since 2000 and I cancelled the discussion in 2012. Now it is time.
COC Would Not Replace Concerned Countries’ Roles
A Cambodian politician, who always give his analysis on the issue relating to South China Sea, has recently reiterated that its was Cambodia’s false to adhere to attitude that failed the achievement of COC (Code of Conducts) on the South China Sea. I just asked the same question, why COC was not there before Cambodia was chairing ASEAN? Before it is Cambodia’s turn, it was Vietnam in 2010, Indonesia in 2011, why was there not a COC? Now that it is 2015, the rotating chair of ASEAN has gone to Brunei, Myanmar and now Malaysia, why the COC has not realized? Why it is Cambodia that they place all the failures on? On this matter I dare say that even if the COC were in place, it would not replace the role of related countries.
I will bring up this issue when I go for the ASEAN summit. In 2002, Cambodia did its utmost to get to the signing of the declaration on the South China Sea. Cambodia did indeed want to score point when it was holding the rotating chair of ASEAN. However, Cambodia alone could not realize it. I mentioned in a working dinner to someone that we do not eat similar food. I meant for countries that are concerned and not concerned with the issue have different responsibility. I bring it up publicly because I am not happy with the fact that they blame all the bad things on Cambodia again and again. Now, as everyone can see, before and after the chairmanship of Cambodia, why the COC is still not a reality?
That fact that it was the first time that ASEAN did not reach a declaration in its summit was not because of Cambodia but because of positions of those involved. Now I am declaring that Cambodia will wait and see. I can predict that, though forged by China and ASEAN, when COC comes out, the role of concerned parties will be the key. ASEAN cannot act on behalf of concerned parties. All concerned parties – Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, China and even among the ASEAN members themselves, who would resolve the issues? Would ASEAN do it too? It was said in the Diplomat that Hun Sen does not seem to have it wrong. It is true. Cambodia has not got its border in the sea with China. All it could do is to encourage negotiation and not to add gas to the flame. I am now waiting to see if the COC is going to come out after one round of ASEAN chairmanship or until Cambodia chair ASEAN again in 2022, which member country of ASEAN will resolve the matter?
Cambodia cannot foresee its role to measure land for concerned parties or the General Secretary of ASEAN in Jakarta to decide here or there is the land of Vietnam or of China, of the Philippines, Brunei, etc. They have got to work together to hold their hands and measure the land together. Whether there is COC, each and every country has got to rely on own self. As one of ASEAN leaders, I have the responsibility for peace in the region and the comprehensively strategic partnership relation between China and ASEAN. I hope the ASEAN leaders mull over reasons that I have stated earlier. I thank Sultan of Brunei and Prime Minister of Malaysia, who despite being a party concerned, did not cause me any hardship on this matter.
On this occasion of the Khmer New Year, my message on foreign policy is that the South China Sea issue is a hot piece of stone, not just hot potato. Sultan of Brunei and President of Myanmar said to me please try and cool the stone down from the summit in Phnom Penh. President of Myanmar told Sultan of Brunei to put out the fire of the stone. Sultan of Brunei just did not bring the issue up. President Thein Sein whispered to me that he was ready to pass the stone to Najib. And I am sure it will keep going like that. Now it is not Cambodian chair why the COC has not been realized? Cambodia is ready to help once it is resolved. Cambodia will not represent China or Vietnam or the Philippines. Cambodia is only one part of ASEAN and needs to keep solidarity with ASEAN with a task to safeguard the Sino-ASEAN relations.
I appreciated the positions of two former French Prime Ministers who visited Cambodia – HE Francoise Fillon and Jean-Marc Ayrault, who praised Cambodia for taking a stand in 2012 on the issue of South China Sea. If the conflict were to happen, they would have said that Hun Sen sold his head to China. Hun Sen will not sell the Cambodian sovereignty and foreign policy that is seeking good relation with every country in the world. Being a Foreign Minister for thirty years, I could have known the depth and shallowness or coldness and heat of international issues.
Today we have here HE Pol Ham, from CNRP, who is here representing the third Committee of the National Assembly on issue relating to agriculture. I appreciate his presence. I also encourage you to ask at some points later to HE Ouk Rabun, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and HE Say Sam Al, Minister for Environment, how much have they realize the recommendations of Prime Minister. I just wanted to remind the head of the committee of the National Assembly that to look into the share of expense on agriculture, you may have to look at both agriculture and water resource together.
Sometimes, those who do not understand may think that expense on agriculture is small from the GDP. In fact, we also have a big expense on water resource, which before was only one small department of hydrology. We promoted it to a General Directorate of Hydrology. Still, it has taken longer time to get the funding to needed hydraulic projects I then created the Ministry of Water Resource and Meteorology. They have bigger projects, for instance the Vaiko rover, funded by both local and foreign sources financing. As far as logging is concerned, here is the Minister of Environment to refer to.
Culture of Dialogue, Thank Foreign Nations for Help
The culture of dialogue that HE Sam Rainsy and I have been pursuing is not to be carried out between us but also for the lower rank to work together. I am sure they do as they all work together at the communal, district and provincial levels. We work together and replicate to a wider audience of culture of dialogue. Whatever happens, let us dialogue. As of tomorrow, reform concerning the election will be done. I have talked with the Japanese friends about the system of registration to guarantee that no one will be missed from the voters’ lists. We do not want to experience duplicate names either. I think we can only look for assistance from Japan and European Union and Australia.
I wish to express my sincere appreciation to the working groups of the Cambodian People’s Party and the Cambodian National Rescue Party who have worked hard to achieve this. Please allow me to set light on this issue that some people misunderstand – the difference between composition and candidate. Some do not understand their meanings. Please let me clarify. Tomorrow, we will vote on a list of all nine candidates and not each individual. We will decide on all listed candidates as whole. The coming Khmer New Year will be a happy one unlike that of last year. People were worried last year as the political situation was tense. This year, people can go out and enjoy all sorts of traditional Khmer events./.