Imams of Islam, Excellencies and Lok Chumteavs, HE Governors of Tay Ninh and Binh Phuoc provinces of Vietnam, who have taken their precious time to attend today’s ceremony. My wife and I also convey our deep respect to elderly, uncles, aunts and compatriots. Today, we are so happy to be able to join with all of you – people and Buddhist monks and compatriots in the groundbreaking ceremony to build the administrative building and needed infrastructures of the provincial city of (the newly established province of) Tbong Khmom. As we are passing the year 2014 to 2015, and the forthcoming celebration of the 36th anniversary of the victory on 7 January 1979-2015, please allow me to wish you all the four Buddhist wishes.

5 January – Kompong Cham Province Liberated

I am so glad today that we are meeting here on the same old land with new achievements. First of all I would like to affirm that why do we choose 5 January for this ceremony, after HE Sar Kheng, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior presided over the groundbreaking ceremony to build on 2 December 2014 the Heng Samrin University. The choice is meaningful for the people of Cambodia but especially for the people in Kompong Cham province, which is now split into two provinces – Kompong Cham and Tbong Khmom, where we are now.

Senior citizens may have remembered that on 5 January 1979, Kompong Cham province was liberated along with the provinces of Stoeng Treng, Ratanakiri, Mondulkiri, Kratie, Prey Veng and Svay Rieng and as part of the move toward liberating the capital of Phnom Penh on 7 January 1979. It was that day that we survive until today. Without it, the liberation on 7 January 1979, we cannot ensure these achievements to have happened since we could not keep even our lives.

I am so honored that people of the village of Jrab still recognize me. I met some of them over there. HE Uk Bun Chhoeun present here may have remembered that day, at this hour, that my wife and I were in a wedding ceremony in the village of Jrab, about five or six Kilometers from here. We have been married 39 years now and our kids thought of throwing a wedding anniversary for us. I told them to wait till the 40th anniversary turns up. Some of the sisters over there said my real self is younger than the one they saw on TV. From our marriage, one child died, and five remain. We now have 17 grand children. I may have broken the record of the one with the most grandchildren in ASEAN.

Tbong Khmom – Former Capital

However, the reason why we are here today is not because it is my wedding anniversary. The main reason here is the fact that the two provinces of Kompong Cham and Tbong Khmom that was liberated on 5 January 1979. Just now the meeting participants have heard the reports of Deputy Prime Minister HE Sar Kheng and the Governor Prach Chan in relation to the separation of formerly Kompong Cham province into two provinces. The main reason here is to move administrative service closer to the people. We have noticed that Kompong Cham is a huge province. If I am not mistaken, we have since 2007-8 thought of establishing the new province of Tbong Khmom. However, we kept it aside. Later on Deputy Prime Minister HE Sar Kheng brought the issue up again.

We have noted that there are close to two million people in all over the province. Therefore, local administrative service is not always within people’s reach. The best way to deal with this issue is to establish a new province. It may be a new set up here but this place used to be one of our oldest provinces too. Those of you who have learnt history may know well that in older time, on the Eastern side of the Mekong river, two provinces appear to have known to exist – Tbong Khmom and Ba Phnom. Tbong Khmom then became the capital in the reign of Hluong Preah Sdech Kan between 1514 and 1524. It was also from here that the country printed the Sloeung banknote, according to records in the country’s history.

I met HE Prach Chan when he was transferred from Battambang to Tbong Khmom and my first question was if HE Prach Chan knows how to swim? I just wanted to have his attention that working in this province, it would more frequent to travel on water than on land. We often have flood in the districts of Kroch Chmar, Tbong Khmom and a part of O Raing Ov. It is wise for anyone to work here to know how to manage with the flood.

Getting Tbong Khmom’s Infrastructure Ready

As for the division of the former one Kompong Cham province into two, I wish to express my sincere thanks and appreciation for HE Sar Kheng and related institutions. We have proceeded with this project by first issuing a sub-decree and requesting for a Royal Decree to allow the country to have one more province. We then had to wait for the provincial council to decide this matter. When they approved the proposal, the work proceeds to dividing so and so districts for former and new provinces. Number of seats in the provincial council also determined. Though we had appointed a governor for the province but he had to swear the oath to take the jobs on 2 June 2014 together with the provincial council.

We also had to send administrative affairs to the province of Kompong Cham in that period. I am grateful and appreciative with concerned sectors and levels under the leadership of HE Sar Kheng with regard to choosing this area to setup the provincial headquarters. We cannot work on Suong, a small town nearby, into provincial capital.  I also dropped by to see the master plan and I am grateful to HE Im Chhun Lim, Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction for his involvement in the whole architectural preparation process.

According to the report of HE Sar Kheng, various steps have been mentioned. I have seen that there have been 16 works to carry out or in other words we have to look into issues of water, roads and electricity. Briefly, these are the core issues to get everything going or we would not be able to talk about other works. This area was in fact my operation zone in between 1970 and 1975. We then operated from Snuol through to the northern side of National Road 7. I rarely had chance to walk. Most of the time, I ran.

Well-Chosen Location

It shall be reminded that on National Road 73, from National Road 7 through to the district of Dambe, no less than 40 tanks of the Nguyen Van Thieu-Ngueyn Cao Ky army were either blown up or put to fire. There had been many hot battles in the area.  The US soldiers, those of the South Vietnamese regime and Lon Nol stationed in the area and when they withdrew from here, they bombarded the ground, including also the market of Suong. I was somewhere there having Khmer noodle, at about 430pm, the bomber came blowing the ground. I had a run all the way to Po Choeung Khal.

There were huge Teak trees in this area and I just gave ownership to people in 2006/7. I reasoned then why do we need to keep it under state property since people already grew rubber in it. We could not go on claiming it was under listing of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries any more. There used to be 4800 hectares but we now have only 300 hectares. In those days our people would refuse to take up land. We gave them for free. In between 1986 and 1987, we even provided people with money to claim land. It is now different. They would do it for free and sometimes in anarchic way. Their slogan has been if they win, land they will get, if they lose, money they earn.

A Master Plan for 20 Years to Come

As is reported in the report by HE Sar Kheng, the groundbreaking here today will start the construction of every concerned infrastructural projects, except one that he already did – the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of Samdech Heng Samrin – Tbong Khmom University. The main projects are to build roads, water network and administrative buildings. Without water, roads and electricity, other projects would not be able to commence. With the state budget, it is a priority to first have small and big roads built. It is also important to make sure the water source and treatment will respond to the need. The construction site that may be quiet before will not be so once it is done. It will be crowded with people.

It is also important that the master plan for the city development should have a vision for the city development of another 20 years to come. The master plan shall be guide for later developers to follow so that the city of Tbong Khmom will prosper according to plan and as a well advanced and developed provincial city after it was once the capital of Hluong Preah Sdech Kan in the 16th century. We have discussed and continued to discuss on this city development. We have come to an idea that the state cannot do it all alone. The state will invest on roads, electricity, water network, school and human resource development.

We also brought to the attention of our development partner – the People’s Republic of China in a discussion last 30-31 December regarding the construction of a hospital. People with serious health condition now have had to travel all the way to Kompong Cham. If we were to have a good hospital here, people in Kratie, Chlong and along the National Road 73 will be able to benefit from the medical service here. As for the development of market or housing, I am appealing to the private sector to make a feasibility study of their prospective investment.

Some may want to invest in the development of the special economic zone where factories would be a good fit for the province’s agro-industrial potential and transform it into agro-commercial one. Our people, after working in their rice fields, do not have to send their kids far away for jobs in between. Tbong Khmom has got many good things for investment for export. In line with these, we also have National Road 7, 73, 11 and 8, which are excellent for transportation. Soon, we will have the National Road that runs through Sre Siem, Tbong Khmom, Kroch Chmar and cross the Mekong by another bridge.

I wanted to have your attention that this is also an area where the ASEAN railway is going to pass through. Investors of some sorts may look at the possibility of resorting to port facility in Vietnam, which for some area the distance of transportation is shorter. We will also have to look at businessmen interested in building market. I learnt that some traders have already purchased land for market investment. Some may have bought the piece for investing in property development. I therefore appeal to everyone involved to develop this city into a sophisticated one. We should also look at the possibility of opening a new road linking the city of Tbong Khmom to access NR road point in addition to the NR 73. That will save us time.

Participation by private sector and other development partners, generous people in the construction such as the Heng Samrin University also included, will respond to the need for education and strong growth of the city. That is what I have in mind to talk to you about our groundbreaking ceremony today. Please forgive me for not having the time and chance to meet some of the friends and relatives whom I have acquainted in this area. I left this place in April 1975. I had my eye wounded and because of the wound I was allowed to get married before reaching 30 years of age.

Importance of 7 January, Work Efficiency Is Prime

Please allow me to say a few things in addition to the official speech on the anniversary day of 7 January. If we did not have 7 January 1979 in our history, there could not be the Paris Peace Agreement, our present life. That is the truth in our history. We should all think again about what happened under Pol Pot’s time. Were there any Buddhist monks? No one could be a monk. Pagodas were occupied and used as military bases throughout the country. That was the taste of war from 1970 through to 1975. When Pol Pot liberated the country from the Lon Nol regime, tragedy occurred throughout the country.

Under Pol Pot, the province of Kompong Cham was divided by a river into region 20, 21 and 22. The province was in fact divided into six provinces. After the liberation, we returned to former administrative borders and in 2014 we decided to divide the province into two. What did we have after the liberation in 1979? Let us all look back. It was so difficult that almost no one could bear. In 1979, after liberation, we had only five to six million people. We now have 15 million. We have a high birthrate. Take Laos as example, when I visited Laos in 1979, they have some five million people. They now have over six million. As for Cambodia, for the same period, the birthrate from five million to fifteen million people is amazing. What can I say when my wife and I have five children and up to 17 grandchildren.

There has a report of falling birthrate now. However, it is the fall in urban area. The rate is still high in rural area as they do not practice birth spacing. This has called for rapid growth of the economy. Compared to the situation in 1979, now we have moved far away from that point to a time when there is more and more need to respond to. Take for instance the need for enlargement of roads for traffic, while in 1979, there was no such need at all. The National Road as large as the one called NR 7 was big already. After the liberation the roads, no matter how small or big they were, were empty. On the contrary, these days, traffic accident haunts us every day. We have here in Tbong Khom some roads as large as 60 meters. Hope with this wideness, accident would not happen.

As today is our historic day and the official celebration of the groundbreaking ceremony, I hope the city of Tbong Khmom will be an attractive city. According to plan, there is going to be a golf course too. If we were to go for that, there has to be a growing tourism with hotels, etc. I also learnt from the master plan that there will also be football courts. I thank Excellencies and Lok Chumteavs for coming from all provinces for the celebration. However, when you all go back, please do not propose to change your city. Please keep the old one and work on it. The most important thing here is the work efficiency. With work efficiency, though working under building with thatched roof, development will be feasible. Without efficiency, though in five star building, no progress can be expected. I urge the officials in government ministries and institutions, provincial officials included, to respond efficiently to the people’s demand.

Squeezing Out Political Profit

The sub-national level authority must provide people with effective and efficient public services, whether it is a provision of ID or issuing a birth certificate, etc. As far as the reform result in the fifth mandate of the fifth legislature is concerned, from January on ward certain salary review will be carried out. Some people have promised the provision of 40,000 Riels/month (USD 10) to people from 60 and above in exchange for their votes. Whether they can do it or not is another matter. I doubt if they would stay (in power) longer than six months (if they were to do as they promised). In fact, every Prime Minister would want their people to live in peace, good living condition. What do they need the money for? The question here is because this is how much we can make.

Some people made profit from politics. They went to Mehmot, Jamkar Loeu, they have their pepper grown. They bought more now in Kep province. Some people sold their chicken to help (the party) and finally their leaders became the rich men. Some have got or are unable to treat their skin diseases, but starting the New Year, they blame so and so. Though the persons have involved in making blames for quite sometimes now, I still adhere to dialogue culture.

Cambodia Did Not Make War to Achieve Peace

Cambodia did not make war to achieve peace. We toppled the Khmer Rouge but we also chose our next step to seek a political settlement to the Cambodian issue. Samdech Preah Borom Ratana Kaod Preah Norodom Sihanouk and I were the ones to start chance for negotiation and proceed to the Paris Peace Agreement. The United Nations Transitional Authority for Cambodia (UNTAC), we all should not forget, failed to bring Cambodia a complete peace, though spending up to two billion USD. Cambodia was left, after UNTAC moved out of the country, with two divided parts and continued fighting from 1993 through to 1998.

The (Khmer Rouge’s) policy to cause steel to rust finally met with the win-win policy, which covered those in Pol Pot’s political and military organization. Should their political and military organization stay on, there would not be peace on the land of Cambodia, even if we brought down their government. We would then have no means to cease the war. We could not place our hope on the United Nations as they already pulled out, after they could not even enter the Khmer Rouge’s stronghold at Pailin.

We have integrated and developed the border areas from Pailin through to Kamrieng, Phnom Proek, Sampeo Loun, Malay and Anlong Veng in the province of Preah Vihear. On Monday, 12 January, I will go to Koh Kong to put into official use of the 300 MW hydropower station of (Russei Jrum Kraom).

I may reaffirm that 7 January is not a monopole victory of the Cambodian People’s Party. 7 January is a common achievement of the Cambodian people, who hate the genocidal regime. Whoever opposes the 7 January is automatically in alliance with the Khmer Rouge or the genocide. In the ASEAN-US Summit in Myanmar I spoke to the Secretary General of the United Nations that Your Excellency, the US and allies are fighting against ISIS, the regime of Assad in Damascus. If you were to weaken the Assad’s regime, it would lead to making ISIS stronger. I said the same thing to the US (President Barack Obama). I got the answer from the UN that it is like a mathematics in which one minus one, nil is the result. However, I remind that we should not apply this in Cambodia. They hate Pol Pot but they also oppose those who brought Pol Pot down./.