Rebuilding the Market of Koh Thom after Fire Disaster

I am so pleased to be able to come and meet our people here in the district of Koh Thoom, Kandal province, to celebrate the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the Cambodian-Chinese Friendship Bridge at Koh Thom of 415 meters. The bridge is to connect Jroy Takeo on the eastern side of the Basac River to the commune of Prek Thmey, at the western side of the river in the district of Koh Thom.

Please allow me to express my sympathy to vendors in the market of Koh Thom, which was on fire in February 2013. However, it is my joy to see and join all of you in putting the market back into business. We are sorry for the loss of property that occurred. Based on the report of HE Sun Chanthol, HE Chhun Sirun, who is the head of the Cambodian People’s Party working group in Koh Thom, and with me as the motivator, financial contribution for the reconstruction of the market has reached 280,000 USD. In fact, the cost of reconstruction would need only 270,000 USD. Let’s build one floor market so that our vendors could restart their business soon.

A New Achievement, Seek for More

On my way here, I talked to senior people on that side. I told them to keep their health fit so that they can cross the bridge, which is one of the major achievements scored by the Royal Government of Cambodia using financial assistance from the People’s Republic of China. As is said by the Ambassador HE Pan Guang Xue, this is the seventh bridge that is under construction after we already put into official use the Cambodian-Chinese Friendship Bridge of Sekong, the Cambodian-Chinese Friendship Bridge of Prek Kadam and the Cambodian-Chinese Friendship Bridge of Prek Tamak. The Cambodian-Chinese Friendship Bridge of Stoeng Treng –Mekong, the Cambodian-Chinese Friendship Bridge of Takhmao and the Cambodian-Chinese Friendship Bridge of Jroy Janva are under construction.

This is not yet the end. I would suggest HE Pan Guang Xue take note on that. Cambodia already presented some projects to the Chinese side. I have planned a visit to China’s Hainan province to participate in the Boao Forum for Asia 2013, where, according to schedule, I will have the chance to meet with President Xi Jinping in Boao on April 7, before the Cambodian delegation proceeds to visit Beijing, where I will have the chance to meet with Premier Li Keqiang.

Firmer Cambodia-China Comprehensive Strategic Partnership

I am so happy to see that the Cambodian-Chinese relations have grown stronger from one level to the next since 2010. The comprehensive strategic partnership between Cambodia and China has been in implementation and in the near future the two will put out comprehensive action plan to guarantee success of the strategic partnership. I hope that the Cambodian-Chinese friendship will be as firm as the concrete of the bridge we are witnessing the construction today.

Such relations have long been established and promoted since the time of Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk with many Chinese leaders like Chairman Mao and Premier Zhou Enlai, etc. Now it is the time of HM the King Preah Boromneat Norodom Sihamoni and me, and we have continued these relations with the Chinese leaders from the time of President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao to the current President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang. As for me, I have the chance to promote the Cambodian-Chinese relations with former President Jiang Zemin and Premier Li Peng, and Premier Zhu Rongji. On this auspicious occasion, I would like to depend on Ambassador HE Pan Guang Xue to convey our thanks for the assistances provided by the Chinese friend to the Kingdom of Cambodia.

Roads for Economic Development

Interaction from infrastructural development with financial assistance from the People’s Republic of China and other development partners has ensured Cambodia’s economic growth over the last nearly one decade after Cambodia regained complete peace. We may state that all this started from 1998 or about 15 years ago. It is the first fifteen years that Cambodia, thanks to the win-win policy, enjoys peace and is free from internal division. I could recall that in early 1999, I made a visit to the People’s Republic of China. In one of the negotiations with Premier Zhu Rongji I proposed to the Chinese friend to provide financial assistance – in grant or interest-free or soft loan to Cambodia. HE Zhu Rongji responded positively and his response has now become the base for implementation in the relations between our two countries.

Premier Zhu Rongji later visited Cambodia and participated in the ASEAN Summit and ASEAN plus Three Summits, which included also the ASEAN-China Summit. His response both in Phnom Penh and in Beijing had been that the Chinese loans for Cambodia must base on economic efficiency appraised by Cambodia. Should Cambodia have appraised economic efficiency, Cambodia could just present the project to China as Cambodia wished. That was very special. Let me reassure this position with Ambassador HE Pan Guang Xue that as a poor country, Cambodia always wants financial helps in grant or loan from either China or other countries but we also want independence. Having stated that, I want to reassure that if the project studied was not a priority for Cambodia we would not bring it up.

Some projects that are not corresponding to the country’s priority we also do not bring them to the attention of our Chinese friend. HE Ambassador might understand that Cambodia did not approve the project to seek financial assistance in IT. My point is whether Cambodia uses IT or other physical infrastructures to speed up the economy. For me, between IT and roads/bridges, I take the latter. The Chinese friends always agree to our decision. When Cambodia points to the need for a bridge in Koh Thom, the Chinese friend approves. That is what a country like Cambodia wishes to have.

Planning Another Bridge for Sa Ang District

We are so glad to have enjoyed such sympathy. No one knows Cambodia more than the Cambodian does. Though we may have common view on economic efficiency, no country could have known the Cambodian situation better than we could. We have conducted surveys and priority assessments to figure out what we need, where and when we need or what comes first. Take for instance this bridge is not the only one in our plan for area along the Basac River. We already built a new Monivong Bridge across the Basac River with the Koh Pij Development project of Oknha Pong Khieu Se.

The construction of the Cambodian-Chinese Friendship Bridge of Takhmao is underway. The bridge would save our people on both sides of the river in Svay Rolum, Takhmao, etc. from long journey or getting a ferry just to get to the place on the other side. At the time we launched the groundbreaking ceremony for the Takhmao Bridge, I told our people that we would soon build one for people in Koh Thom. When Minister of Transport and Public Works HE Tram Iv Toek told us that the construction will take 39 months, I heard our people’s exclaiming voice. It takes this long because the Bridge is not made of bamboo. I assure you, however, that our Chinese friend has always completed the project ahead of schedule.

The Chinese always gives longer time in planning but completes it before the projected timeframe. They talk less but do more. It is better than doing less and talking more. Well now getting back to our plan, after this Cambodian-Chinese Friendship Bridge of Koh Thom, feasibility study will be made for another bridge in Sa Ang district between the communes of Prek Koy and Svay Proteal and Troey Sla. Why do we need so many bridges along the river? You should know that the number of people in Koh Thom district of Kandal province is equal to the number of people in Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri provinces combined.

The number of people in Sa Ang is roughly in the same trend. The economic efficiency from the project in this area is high. More still, my ambition relating to the development of infrastructure for people along the river area is that we need more bridges across the smaller rivers in addition to those for big rivers and sea tributaries. We have replaced ferry service and those bamboo bridges with Bailey bridges. In addition to fee paid to the ferry service, people also faced with risk of drowning too. More so, for people who are in health emergency, taking a long time to get to the hospital would endanger their survivals.

That is my vision to put an end to these hardships for our people. The friend we are seeking help from for these projects is no one but China again. In fact, there are 11 ferry crossings in Koh Thom. While pursuing this vision, I wish to beg our ferry crossing contractors their understandings that the project will suspend their services. However, they can change their job from administering the ferry to driving taxi.

Since Samcdech Ov Time, No Pocket Money

I do not know about others but in my term of leadership, I would pursue these ambitions no matter who would say against it. We do not have policy to give people pocket money. I doubt if any country in the world is doing that. Probably there is none. People who used to say the policy under Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk, while he was head of state, was correct could probably clarify if Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk was giving people then pocket money. He did not. Samech built asphalt roads, canals, community villages and homes. He did not give money to people directly. If they were to blame then Royal Government of inability, those people also blame Samdech Ov (Preah Norodom Sihanouk).

All he did, Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk gave out only cloth imprinted with the symbol of Sangkum Reast Niyum (Popular Socialist Cmmunity). However, to continue from what was achieved under Preah Norodom Sihanouk, we also have the bridges of Monivong and Jroy Jangva. You may reason that despite so many achievements when Cambodia made advanced progress compared to other countries in the region, they removed Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk by a coup on March 18, 1970. Today is March 25, a week from the date. If Cambodia were to be under his leadership, it would have made tremendous progress. Unfortunately, it was not so.

Sixteen Bridge Projects – The Hun Sen’s Policy

I must reassure the Ambassador that building bridge is indeed gaining merit. Please allow me to say a few words about how many more bridges we need. Since these new bridge projects are under study, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance HE Keat Chhon has not yet incorporated them into the proposal. According to preliminary study, we need one bridge in Sa Ang, between the commune of Troey Sla and Svay Proteal. In Cambodia, not to include the bridges along the sea tributaries, in the Mekong Basin area only, which includes the Rivers of Mekong, Basac and Se San, we have in all 16 bridge projects. Among them seven already completed, five are under construction and four are going to be under construction. Among them, China owns 11 projects.

I may need to illustrate here so that our people understand the policy of the Cambodian People’s Party and the Royal Government, especially Hun Sen policy vision in the development of infrastructure in the previous terms. People can imagine, how much more can be achieved if Hun Sen were to be re-elected for another five years in office from 2013 through to 2018. We have completed the Cambodian-Chinese Friendship Bridge of Se Kong (1,057 meters) in Stoeng Treng province, the Cambodian-Chinese Friendship Bridge of Mekong (1,731 meters) also in Stoeng Treng, which also connects Stoeng Treng to Preah Vihear by the National Road 9. We have projected the Cambodian-Chinese Friendship Bridge of Kratie for 2015 together with a new road 60B to run from the city of Kratie to Kompong Thmar of Kompong Thom.

To be projected for 2015, we will have a bridge built across the Mekong at Kroch Chhmar and Stoeng Trang districts in Kompong Cham province, which is a part of the NR 71C, which runs through the districts of Tbong Khmum and Kroch Chhmar and crosses the Mekong to Jamka Loeu of Kompong Cham. This project is also calling for China’s assistance. The fifth bridge project is the Cambodian-Japanese Friendship Bridge of Kizuna in Kompong Cham. We have the bridge of Koh Pen of 779 meters in the city of Kompong Cham, which is financed by national budget. The engineering unit of the Ministry of National Defence is implementing the project. The bridge will link the island of Pen and adjacent islands in the Mekong to Kompong Cham province.

The 7th bridge was the renovation of the bridge built under the Samgkum Reast Niyum and broken by the 1975 war. The Japanese friend helped rebuild it. The 8th bridge project is the Cambodian-Chinese Friendship Bridge of Jroy Jangva (719 meters) in Phnom Penh, making it another bridge standing along with the Cambodian-Japanese Friendship Bridge of Jroy Jangva. One of the bridges will serve traffic in and another will be for traffic out of the capital. The Cambodian-Chinese Friendship Bridge of Prek Tamak (1,066 meters) is the project number 9 and already completed with the help of the Chinese friend. The bridge number 10 (820 meters) in the village of Prek Phnov, Kandal province, invested by the Lyong Phat group, is already in operation.

The eleventh bridge project is the Cambodian-Chinese Friendship Bridge of Prek Kadam (975 meters) in Punnhea Loeu district of Kandal province, also already in operation. We will have the longest Cambodian-Chinese Friendship Bridge across Tonle Sap, 3,500 meters, in the city of Kompong Chhnang, which will be part of the construction of the NR 50C from the market of Phsa Kraom, the village of Roka of Kompong Chhnang to the commune of Srayov of Kompong Thom province. We have projected this road and bridge with the assistance from the People’s Republic of China. The 13th bridge project, which is under construction, is the Cambodian-Japanese Friendship Bridge at Neak Loeung (2,215 meters). We also have completed the bridge project of Preah Monivong Thmey, which is number 14 and 269 meters. The fifteenth bridge project is the Cambodian-Chinese Friendship Bridge at Ta Khmao, which is also under construction.

From the bird’s eye view, I have seen the bridge construction from both sides and perhaps I will be invited to come and close the last gap as usual. That will be fine. I am ready to come. One thing you will have difficulty to do is to invite me to dinner. Having said that, I may seek an apology to diplomats in Phnom Penh that I am not a dining and chatting man. My dining time lasts about 5 to ten minutes only, while diplomatic dinner last two hours or so. In this instance, I would seek the understanding of all diplomats, from whatever country it may be. I cannot neglect my duty though when I have to welcome my counterparts in a banquet. However, I notice that in China, the banquet goes on from first to last course, there were no walking from one table to the next to hit the glass.

The Cambodian-Chinese Friendship Bridge at Koh Thom is the project 17. We will build the NR 23 that runs from the eastern side of the Cambodian-Chinese Friendship Bridge at Koh Thom to the district of Loeuk Dek on one side and on another side to the district of Prey Kabah of Takeo province. It is an ambitious plan but feasible. The Shanghai Road and Bridge Construction Company is conducting a study. I am sure the economic efficiency is high and people in Takeo’s Prey Kabah would not need to take a long detour as before to get to Loeuk Dek district.

Asphalting 300 to 400 Kilometers of Rural Road Per Annum

It is true that we will rebuild the NR 21 under the loan procedure of the Republic of Korea. I have an instruction that while waiting for the reconstruction, repair must be in operation as I noticed part of it is not under asphalt but only soil. It is so dusty. The Ministry concerned should proceed. Please do not wait for money from elsewhere (World Bank) to start the project in Siem Reap province like before. The same is true here, before the Korean starts the project, concerned ministry and agencies have to maintain the road condition. We also will have a bridge across Jrey Thom, where Vietnam and Cambodia will each share half the cost.

We have completed so many projects between Sa Ang and Koh Thom. We have the NR 110, NR 21 and NR 23. The NR 129 will commence in a few days under the presence of HE Sun Chan Thol. I also thank the Cambodian People’s Party working group for building the Bailey bridge and concrete bridge at Wat Jroy, Loeuk Dek commune. We also have the Bailey bridge of Prek Aja Ti, concrete bridge of Prey Russei, the Bailey bridge over the river tributary of Koh Thom. We have also projects of concrete road construction for the villages of Prek Thmey, Tralaj, Kompong Dar, Jroy Takeo, Prek Ta Khin, Prek Ta Leng, Prek Ta Sek, Doem Po and Prek, etc. As I mentioned before, we will strive to asphalt between 300 and 400 km of rural roads by both help from development partners and own budget.

I would like to take this opportune moment to thank every working group for taking their time and efforts to help our people. I must reiterate our thanks to the government of the People’s Republic of China for continuing to provide further assistance and will soon implement the NR 44 project. I thank the Ministry of Public Works and Transports, the Ministry of Economy and Finance and concerned institutions, the sub-national authorities, the armed forces as well as our people for their efforts contributing to getting the project started.

Land Title for Inundated Land

I would convey a message from here to people throughout the country in relation to the inundated bush land area after my instruction for a study some months ago for people who work on land along the Mekong, Basac and Tonle Sap rivers. I am not talking about those who work on land in the Tonle Sap area yet. In this area, whether study needs to go on, people already benefit from two of the three rights already. The three rights are the rights to use, to benefit and manage. The majority of people in this area, where inundation is between three and six or seven months, have enjoyed two rights already – the rights to use and to benefit from cultivation.

After issuing on March 8, 2012 the deregulation of the fishing lots in the Tonle Sap lake area and allowing people to fish in the lots for household consumption, while keeping certain areas for fish recuperation, I emphasized that we should keep the decision on area 3 and 2 for the future. People can have two of the three rights. However, for people in areas like lower Tonle Sap river, Mekong river, they will enjoy the three rights. This will apply for people in Koh Thom, Loeuk Dek, Sa Ang, Lovea Em, Mok Kampoul districts on the total area of almost 10,000 hectares. I made it clear that people who cultivate in the area will enjoy their full rights. Along with this, I would urge them not to infringe further upon inundated land area. All I need from you now is:

(1)   No more claiming of inundated land area, while whatever size they have now, let’s measure for them. Take for instance people in Tuyo Prasat all live, work and die here. Let’s give them the tenure.

(2)   Do not fight each other for land. Whatever problem they may have, please settle them peacefully.

(3)   Do not place trellis of any sort in your land. This would create problem for fish circulation and boat traffic as well. Let’s sort this thing out so that we all can make business together. We already did that in Prey Veng, where HE Sar Kheng presented the land titles already. The situation is more or less the same. If people have the feather mark imprinted paper indicating their lands, they can show that and exchange for the new title.

While measuring the land, we will soon get to the elections day. We may not be able to complete the task. We will continue the task after the elections. The right to manage the land is the one that people can transfer their lands to their children free of tax, which we have already placed in the budget law. This message is very important and not only for people in Kohn Thom but for the whole country.

Now I am saying this again for the third time. With my leadership representing the Cambodian People’s Party, people enjoy peace and security. As Prime Minister, I decided to build you roads, bridges, canals, and people in Koh Thom also will have their market soon. I just ask you to cash your vote on 28 July 2013. For any problem at all, house on fire, market on fire, bridges broken, etc, people asked for help from Hun Sen. Now, in return, if you really love, pity, have satisfaction of and trust in Hun Sen, would you just give your vote to the Cambodian People’s Party. That is not hard to do. With your vote, we will be able to continue to work on more projects. This would include the land measuring mission too. If Hun Sen is not going to be re-elected, you cannot be sure that anyone would care to continue the project of measuring land for you.

The rank number of the party listed on the voting paper will take place soon. No matter what number we will get for the Party, it would not be a matter. Last time when we got number 4, they rhymed the sound of four in Khmer (that we are) to bring the Vietnamese into the country. The Cambodian People’s Party controls over two-third of the seats in the National Assembly and I still believe that it will maintain the two-third advantage./.