50th Founding Anniversary and 30th Reopening Anniversary of RUA-Chamka Daung

I am so happy to be able to join all of you, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen on the occasion of this graduation and diploma presenting ceremony for 1639 students of the Royal University of Agriculture at Chamka Daung (RUA – Chamka Daung). I am grateful for the Minister of Education, Youth and Sports and the University’s rector for organizing this ceremony here (at the National Institute of Education), which is not far from my house and convenient to other honored guests. Coincidentally, the graduation and diploma presenting ceremony happens right at the time when the RUA – Chamka Daung celebrates its 50th founding anniversary (December 1964/2014) as is reported in the report of Dr. Uk Rabun.

Looking back to those years, before mid 1960s, Cambodia was also in a stage of development too. Unfortunately, those developments had been destroyed. It is very important to note that it has been 30 years now that the RUA – Chamka Daung reopens (1984/85 through to 2014). Many times that I was there, we always have celebration of the graduation but also inauguration of something new. We have two anniversaries to celebrate today – the 50th founding anniversary and the 30th reopening anniversary of the RUA – Chamka Daung. In these years, the RUA – Chamka Daung has produced achievement in the development of human resources needed for economic development, in which agriculture stays as a major part.

According to development of time, not many secondary graduates would want to study agriculture, now it is obvious that more and more students are interested in agriculture. We have those who study at RUA – Chamka Daung by scholarships and those who are fee-paying students. It has pointed clearly of increasing interest now because the number of fee-paying students has grown bigger than those studied with state scholarships.

Fuel Prices Alter in Global Markets

The need in agricultural sector is getting bigger. We could say that the global situation has changed. We have learnt the importance of food and energy security. However, one would not cease to exist for lack of energy but would for lack of food. Concerning issue relating to the Oil Producing and Exporting Countries (OPEC), it had been some years that they jacked up the price of fuel without giving any consideration to those producing food. Lately, as the price of fuel has gone down, in one of their meetings, OPEC declared no reduction in the quantity they produce, no matter how low the price of fuel might fall. If this trend were to go on, the fuel price in the global market would fall down, which requires local market prices to go down too.

HE Keat Chhon may need to inspect the issue immediately. A meeting with all fuel companies had been convened to discuss local price reduction. There has been an opinion voiced that the fuel price in the global market has gone down, but the price of fuel in Cambodia seems not to or falls down slowly. I would say, slow reduction is better than no reduction at all. We may have to understand why the fuel prices in New York are low. There was a reason that when the fuel price stayed at 100 USD/barrel, those companies in Cambodia bought and stock the fuel. If, for any reason at all, the price of fuel goes down the next day, like 70 USD/barrel, it will be a blow to those companies who purchased the stock.

We, however, seek the means to coordinate the prices from high to low. That is why the three local fuel companies in Cambodia, after a meeting among them, agreed to bring the price down. It was hard though for two companies from abroad to do so as they had to ask for approval from senior level in France and US. By the way, it is an issue worth giving consideration. Now that I would like to have your attention that though people always link up food and energy security together, they do not seem to actually talk about their connectivity or price coordination between fuel and food.

Once the price of fuel surged high, it definitely picked up the price of agricultural products because of mechanization, which already added up to the cost of production. I have raised this issue to the G20 Summit as the rotating chairman of ASEAN. Well it all depends on OPEC, as far as the price of fuel is concerned. If OPEC maintains its stand, the price of fuel could either be stabilized or going down further. If they were to reduce (their production by) 30% or 40% in order to jack the price up, (food producing countries like) us would have to bear a strong pressure. That is how interdependent the economy is.

A Thesis from the Field, Produce More for Local Demand and Export

The agricultural sector of our country has indeed gone into a new stage and it requires improvement in relation to technology, etc. I have noticed on the cover of the Review of Agricultural Science and Rural Development, which illustrates the graduation and diploma presenting ceremony in 2000, when we had to hire tents for the ceremony. I proposed that before ending your study here, I proposed that our students write their thesis in the field in the opinion that as it is for the sake of our student’s learning process but also for us to have better idea where and what a certain pane would need. It could give us information about what could plant where perhaps and what sort of infrastructure is needed in so and so area.

I would like to give my sincere appreciation to leaders of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries as well as those Universities for making their combined efforts to improve the quality of education in the field of agriculture. For our country, we cannot allow our agriculture to go on in ancient methods. We need to usher in a new and advanced agriculture, which is able to provide not only for local but also regional or global market. There are a good number of issues relating to agriculture. Early this month, an international fund for agricultural development organized a seminar in Siemreap on issue of agriculture and rural development. Cambodia hosted the meeting.

They have projected that people migrated to urban areas has grown and each country would have to seek the means to prevent their migration. The best way to do it is to improve development in rural area by providing better infrastructure and necessities for farmers to go on staying where they are. With this thought, our agricultural staff and technicians need to be present in local area aimed at speeding up agricultural development and ability to a certain degree for people to be able to feed themselves and to produce more for export.

Cambodia started from a country with status as food-importing country. Cambodia was a country that lacked food. Now, Cambodia has ensured surplus of food. According to the report of the Ministry of Agriculture, in a period of eleven months, we have exported 330,000 metric tons compared to target of one million tons by 2015. The gap is still far and wide. However, according to the report by HE Keat Chhon, who oversees issue of investment, Cambodia Development Council, investment in rice milling has increased our capacity to some three million tons, though some are under construction. This means that our processing capacity has grown better. We need to ensure the quality of rice that we export according to demand from foreign markets.

Lack of fund to purchase rice is also a major issue. Every company has got a difficult moment of rotating capital to purchase rice for stocking. We have achieved one step ahead in production but our investment has followed in a slow motion. This has resulted in loss of jobs and by-products from rice such as bran and husks as we shipped whole paddy rice to neighboring countries. We cannot prevent our people from selling as we do not have the fund to purchase them all. We need to come up with a thorough thinking. Aside from rice, we have more to count in like cassava, rubber, etc. We need to knock on doors on any markets. As for me I never forget to seek market. In Korea, I requested to Madame President Park Geun-Hye to export Cambodian rice and other agricultural products to Korea. Remember, we need to address issue of quality as required by the target market.

New Village Movement – A New Subject

I would like to take this opportune moment to express to graduates of all levels my sincere appreciation for making themselves human resources in this prioritized field of agriculture. I would join your parents and family on this joyous occasion. I hope that we will continue to make more gains. Just now HE Ouk Rabun mentioned about a decision that I already made to include New Village Movement into the curriculum as is proposed by the Ministries of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and of Rural Development. This issue has also been signed in the agreement between Cambodia and the Republic of Korea.

I have requested to the Korean side to create a University, where New Village Movement is among other subjects in its curriculum. As our first step, we will have this subject incorporated in curriculum run by agricultural establishments administered by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries – RUA at Chamka Daung, Agricultural School at Prek Leap and Agricultural School at Kompong Cham. The New Village Movement is in parallel importance to our movement of safe village and commune. We have the One Village One Product movement assisted by the Japanese and the New Village Movement by Korea. They both are useful.

We not only want anything to do with development in agriculture but every aspects of production, morale, sanitation, etc. to motivate and activate our rural area in area of socio-economics. I am calling on HE Chea Sophara, Minister of Rural Development, and HE Ouk Rabun, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to work with KOICA to develop the module for training.

Many Foreign Trips This Year and Next

In the last three months of the year, I was so busy. If I am now 70 years old, I would not have been able to do the job. Tomorrow I will set a trip to Bangkok for the Greater Mekong Sub-region meeting. I was on many foreign trips this last part of the year: to Milan, Italy for Asia-Europe Meeting, to Nay Pyi Taw for the ASEAN Summit and relevant meetings, to Laos for CLV meeting, to Korea for the ASEAN-ROK commemorative summit. Next year there will be many trips too, World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, also included. I never attend such meeting but it will be the ASEAN integration year and there will be five ASEAN leaders going. Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia will be giving speeches. It is a normal function of a sovereign country, where local and external affairs intertwined.

Incident of HIV/AIDS Infections in Battambang

Relating to the HIV/AIDS infection incident in the province of Battambang, I am appealing to all our people and those in the incidental area to remain calm. As for me this is still a beyond belief story. How come in a village where there are less than 1,000 population, and 100 of them are infected. I am urging thorough investigation and do not jump quickly to any conclusion. We must use every scientific means. However, we must provide safety for the barefoot doctor blamed for wide spreading the incident. I am calling our people not to take revenge on medical practitioner or we may lose every lead we have. I think there needs to have a close cooperation that now the Minister of Health and other relevant institutions are there.

We must keep cool and follow the study. As of this stage it is hard to think it is HIV/AIDS. We must see the importance here that any HIV/AIDS carrier must not spread it to the next person. There should not be any feeling of revenge from a man of HIV/AIDS carrier to a woman and vice versa in this matter. What really happened in Battambang province is a bit hard to believe. However, I am calling for calmness and leave the matter to medical experts to find out the truth.

Condolence Expressed to Deaths of Pakistanis

I would like to take this opportunity to express to the people and Government of Pakistan our deep condolences over the deaths of 141 Pakistanis, with over 100 maimed, in the school attack incident by the Taliban group. It was a massacre. We noted in recent days the terrorist incident in Sydney, Australia, the Taliban attack in Pakistan and also in Yemen. The regional and world situation has turned somewhat into a questionable one. They all are big stories and world related. Whatever relates to the world, it also relates to us. The world is in active debate of climate change, natural disaster, contagious diseases and terrorism.

As far as contagious diseases is concerned, the recently wrapped up ASEAN Plus Threes summit in Bangkok ascertains our stand and effort together in the fight against Ebola. Now we have the HIV/AIDS outbreak in Battambang province. It is hard to understand. As for climate change, our agronomists have very important role to play in this stage that the world temperature has grown higher making available seeds unsusceptible to the new environment. I am urging for further research and development on new seeds that are susceptible and resilient to the changing climate./.