Cambodian Human Resource – Ready for AEC

I am glad to preside over the graduation and diploma presentation ceremony of our students at the BELTEI International University (BIU) and the inauguration of the new 15 storey BIU building. HE Ly Chheng, rector of the BIU has made a report on the development of this foundation – I mean you have BELTEI International Institute and BELTEI International University. I highly appreciate your active involvement in human resource development. According to the report, today we have 735 graduates for diploma presentation. As indicated in his progress report, up to 96.50% of graduates who learnt and used English as means have found employment.

This is very good point as we are promoting our labor force in face of ASEAN integration. Having said that does not mean every university abandons Khmer language in their curriculum. In Cambodia now, students learn a foreign language along with the Khmer language since before they enter the university. However, from experience I have with my kids, I urge that students must have a good working level of Khmer as well as foreign language skills. Among us, HE Hang Chuon Naron, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports, speaks three languages – Russian, French and English. In the framework of the Three ASEAN Pillars, the Cambodian Minister speaks more foreign language than some friends who sometime speak only one language.

As far as language is concerned, in term of political-security community, we have HE Hor Nam Hong who speaks French and English. In the economic community, before we had HE Cham Prasidh who speaks French and English, now we have HE Sun Chanthol who also speaks French and English. In the socio-cultural community, HE Hang Chuon Naron speaks three languages. That is how we have prepared our human resources. Last night I saw a book written about my wife’s biography in poem, prepared by the university and a student here.

Phnom Penh Bus Service – Subsidy

It is still a thought for me that if the Royal Government did not allow private sector to take part in human resource development sector, how we go about tackling this problem. There will be more students looking for chance to continue their education while the state university would not be able to respond to their demand. Thanks to our policy, we now have more private tertiary education institutions than those belong to the state. I still remember when the World Trade Organization posed us question about education service whether we would allow private sector to get involved, the country that posed the question so far does not yet get to where we are now.

We have liberalized various sectors and even subsidized. It is forbidden, in fact. As far as bus service is concerned, we have had to operate at loss. We will not leave it in failure. So far, we have allowed imports two times of a total more than 80 buses. We cannot go on with failing operation of the bus service. I have seen a good show the other day on CTN where TV moderator coordinated debate among representatives of the Municipality of Phnom Penh, police and NGOs. Operating bus service is hard to foresee profit. We should come up with a good plan to reduce losses. Any way I do not think the bus service will bankrupt the Royal Government. IMF or World Bank would say that the process is not in conformity with the WTO regulation but it will relieve our traffic congestion and contributes to travelling by disable, Buddhist monks, students, etc.

Climate Change, No Ebola in Cambodia

I may remind graduates that do not consider this graduation as an end to your study. World development and technology evolves every day. To walk no further means you are falling behind. Take for instance temperature, when it was usually 33 degree Celsius during the day and 23 at night in the dry season, now it has changed to 38 or 40 during the day but 25 degree Celsius at night. Seeds accustomed to the weather condition from before are no longer suitable anymore. There is a need for new variety of seeds. In the whole wide world, to bring down temperature, we have to shutdown factories for their emissions. We have got to get back to travelling by sailing ship instead of by planes.

On another front, the recent outbreak of Ebola has concerned us because there has not been any cure found for this disease. Scientists are busy working on it. While we have yet to cure HIV/AIDS patients, now we have a new Ebola virus. I appreciate measures taken by the Ministry of Health at every entrance. We have always taken serious measures in preparation for SARS, bird flu and swine flu.

Double Standard Discipline

I have one or two things to share. Yesterday, there was a protest in the US. As it grew stronger, they decided to deploy the military and impose curfew. The protest seems to go on and maybe the protesters wish to show deterrence to the administration. They went at the time of curfew. Well, the protest for whatever reason is the US affairs. However, it is doubtful why they arrest protestors who only throw drinking water at authority? Nobody says anything about it. In Cambodia, protestors burned vehicles, hurled and catapulted stones and iron balls prompting measures taken by authority, some came out say it is a violation of human rights. I do not mean to infer to the US. It is a different standard.

We took measure just to close down about half a hectare of land for security and safety reason for people in general, they blamed us for violating rights and freedom for expression. While in the US, introducing curfew for the whole town, there does not seem to be a concern sounded out by anyone. I do not know what could be the interpretation.  Having pursued the issue, on CNN I came across this throat-cutting story of a journalist. As far as this incident is concerned, I join President Barack Obama, the American people as well as peace loving people in the world in condemning that IS grisly act, while sharing the grief with family of James Foley.

I wonder, by pursuing man-slaughtering method, even if they succeed in establishing a state as claimed, which country would work with them? Having witnessed such atrocity we are more determined than ever to fight against terrorism as there are news that IS has some links in Southeast Asia too. I learned all this from watching news on TV. There were so many problems. There has this fighting in Ukraine and in Gaza, between Israel and Palestine. There is a sad incident that the Presidential candidate of Brazil also died in a plane crash. There are also more suicidal cases in Cambodia too, going through a few newspaper this morning.

I have not heard a word from someone who used to blame us, especially Brad Adams, to President Obama on this issue yet. I am sure he will say he is looking after human rights in Asia, not in the US. For the same story, there are different interpretations. It seems in the whole wide world we have no single, but double or triple standards. It was atrocious indeed that this beheading vengeance is real in the 21 century.

Clarification on Land Disputes and Relevant Approach

Let me clarify what I heard in VOA on August 20. There is an NGO official who said “it is a surprise that Hun Sen did not know (about the protest on land issue).” He went on to blame about the fact that there are security cameras (at Hun Sen’s home) or Hun Sen does not read newspaper, etc. Now that he knows, in his words, what would he do? Let me clarify those latest protests’ petitions have not reached me. I never waste time in resolving land problem.

A commentator of a French Radio did make a comment with professional ethic as he touched on this issue stressing on system to circulate the documents. Now that I knew, let me tell you, actions had been taken and everyone involved moved. The person who made the criticism is now living in peace because of this Prime Minister, who ended the war allowing everyone to go and do whatever s/he wanted, establishing non-governmental organizations also included.

The whole idea of the issue was that I wished to stress why the provincial authority, who knows the problem, did not resolve the case (of land conflict between people and company in Kratie). They came all the way to Phnom Penh and there did not seem to have anyone to deal with the issue here. They go from one place to another and they sent their petition to me. I was telling them I did not receive it. That was it.

There is what we call the provincial cadastre commission that will have its first say on the issue. If the issue could not resolve, it would submit the issue to national cadastre commission, headed by Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction. Should the national commission fail to resolve it, the commission would bring the issue to the attention of the land dispute committee. The issue here is that we have taken measures to resolve the 1.8 million hectares in what we called “new action in existing policy” with regard to land titling issue, where we had the help of the youth volunteers. We even legalize title for those who illegally occupied state land.

Conflict in illegal occupation of state land has been made legal. We have trimmed out lands in economic land concessions for our people. Take for instance the case of land dispute in Snuol district of Kratie province, out of more than nine thousand hectares we have trimmed about eight thousands for the people. Why are there still problems? The youth volunteers also already measured the land. They have not received their land title so far. That is why they came to Phnom Penh. While that is so, no one reports it to me. That is the question. I reprimanded this incident and issued an order for every provincial authority to take responsibility resolving land dispute within their jurisdiction. I will have a meeting tomorrow with certain leaders relating to land issue to review the matter. I doubted why he made such remark if it is not a part of campaign to take Prime Minister down.

Teachers’ Salary Ups, Removing Category D Salary

I would like to take this opportune moment to speak a few words about reform in the field of education. It is specifically about teachers’ salary in what we call mid-year budget implementation. You may have learned that I have instructed the Ministry of Economy and Finance to give priority to the Ministries of Education, Youth and Sports (MEYS) and Health. However, MEYS has finished its preparation before the Ministry of Health. I urge the Ministry of Health to continue discussing with the Ministries of Public Function and Economy and Finance. I give priority to the two ministries to review and increase salary for staff as priority.

I must beg those with higher salary ranks to understand that this effort is to increase the salary for those in lower salary ranks at this moment. We are in the process of building a real salary system. We started from a system that staff were paid in cash and in goods. You all could have remembered it. We are reforming it now. Until the recently passed term of the Royal Government, we had four categories of salary ranks – A, B, C and D. In each of the category, there were 30 steps or ranks. That would require employees to work 60 years to pass one category in a system that we review the rank every two years.

In our reform, we have now removed the category D and merged over 10,000 staff in category D into category C. The category C, where there were 30 ranks before, will now have only ten. We have trimmed the 30 ranks in category B to only 14. We do the same for category A. The new salary system will go into implementation in 2015.

I urge that institutions under the Royal Government not to recruit new staff as we should first finish the salary integration. As the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports has taken a step ahead, I urge that the Ministry of Health will go into discussion with relevant ministries. We have 180,000 staff, 110,000 or 60% of which are staff of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports. We have only 20,000 under the Ministry of Health. Putting the two ministries together, we have a little over 130,000 staff out of 180,000. In the new system, starting from September, those who work in office and have the lowest rank of monthly salary of 424,000 Riel will receive 505,000 Riel. In January next year, they will receive 507,800 Riel and from April onward, will receive 552,800 Riel.

For those whose salary rank gives them 1,067,000 Riel will not benefit from this readjustment. Now, for teaching staff, Primary School teacher receiving monthly salary of 482,800 Riel, starting from September will in all 550,000 Riel. From January 2015, they will receive monthly salary of 566,480 Riel until April when they will receive 646,480 Riel. For teaching staff in remote area, we will provide extra 60,000 or 80,000 Riel accordingly. Talking is easy but to get it done is hard. If we were to reduce our teaching staff to only 50%, we would be able to provide each with a monthly salary of one million Riel. However, what are we going to do with students?

For 33,803 junior secondary school teaching staff, those with lowest salary rank that receive 518,010 Riel per month will receive from next month 594,400 Riel. In January 2015, each will receive 636,000 Riel and from April onward, they will receive 666,000 Riel. Benefit for those who teach in remote area will be 80,000 Riel/month. For 8,525 senior secondary school teaching staff, those who are in current lowest salary of 669,180 Riel will receive from next month 778,800 Riel. Starting from January 2015, they will receive 784,400 Riel. For 729 tertiary teaching staff, each receives the salary of 726,930 Riel, will receive from next month 875,800 until January when they will start receiving 881,400 Riel per month.

Middle East and Africa Tension

There could be genocide in the Middle East in area between Syria on one side and Iraq on another side. We also have difficulties in Libya and Mali. It is the first time that our soldier died and injured from mining. There was another incident but no casualty. As we will soon send our troop to Central Africa, I would suggest HE Tia Banh to monitor the situation closely and carefully. There has a report that IS is now in Lebanon, where we also have our troops there. We also have our troops in Mali, where many from Libya fled to Mali too./.