US Elections Congratulation, Working with US in ASEAN Framework
I am so glad to be able to hand out diplomas for the first time to those of you – 1,164 students – who have graduated from the Chenla University. As I was in Vientiane (for the Ninth Asia-Europe Meeting) from November 5 to 6, we planned to be back, if not in the evening of November 6, on November 7 the next day. I took a nap on the plane and had to deal with a heap of paper works as I was away for some time.

Today, the people in the world, the people of Cambodia also included, not just the people of the United States of America, are waiting for the results of the US Presidential elections. Now we know that the incumbent President Barack Obama has been re-elected for the second term. On behalf of the Royal Government and people of Cambodia, I would like to offer him my congratulation for the President’s success, reflecting clearly the democratic elections in the United States of America. We are content that the US Ambassador to Cambodia as well as the Royal Government of Cambodia’s representative have clearly affirmed prior to the elections that no matter who would be elected, the US-Cambodian relations would not be reversed and we hope to expand the relations further.

As chair of ASEAN, I have focused my attention concerning the United States of America in the framework of strengthening partnership relations between ASEAN and the US. Since the time when President Obama came to power, the ASEAN-US Summit, never existed before, has taken place every year – only that we had it convened in different venues. In 2009, we had the ASEAN-US Summit in Singapore, after the APEC meeting. In 2010, there was this second ASEAN-US Summit in New York. In 2011, we had the same summit in Bali, Indonesia. In 2012, the US President will come to Cambodia to participate in the ASEAN-US Summit and the East Asian Summit as well.

The United States of America became member of the EAS in 2010 and the first top-leader summit where the US President Obama attended was in 2011 at Bali. This 2012 is the second year that the US President participates in the same forum in Phnom Penh, if there is nothing more important enough to alter his plan. This has clearly shown that partly the US foreign policy’s pivot to Asia Pacific would be a contribution for regional development through constant partnering relations between ASEAN and the US. We wish to see continued relations between the two sides, its participation in the EAS, in the next four years of the second term of President Obama. Cambodia will be working together with the US within the ASEAN framework.

Learning to Know, Not Just to Get a Diploma

Concerning the Chenla University, according to the report by Mr. Soeng Khandi, the Rector, this is the first time that we have this graduation ceremony and I am so happy to hear that the University will extend further to the province of Battambang next year. I am sure the University will be able to expand its facility and service while building further infrastructure and strengthening training quality. I would hail the plan of the University and appreciate the efforts by the governing board as well as professors in providing education and training for the country’s human resources.

Quality of education is indeed a primary issue. There is a basic difference between learning to get knowledge and to pass the exam. In general, students of the tertiary education should be aware that their study and research would not end even after their graduation. If anyone were to ignore this fact, s/he would find him/herself irrelevant and lose their chance of moving forward. The same is true for those who already are in the job line, without accurate information, they would face with darkness and cannot find their way ahead. We – every individual or leader – need to keep abreast of the situation, news and information so that we all will stay attached to the world and to be on top of the situation.

Progress of Human Resource Development

I would like to take this chance to express my sincere congratulations to all graduates, including also the Buddhist monks and I strongly hope that you all will make further efforts in this study endeavor. According to the poll, about 97% of the graduates got their jobs of some kind, among them 72% are government positions. We should note that the rest 18% are working in private companies and 7% are pursuing self-employment careers. We should be proud that that the education service provided here has contributed in new human resources to the state institutions.

Together we will certainly be able to establish a new situation totally contrasting to the previous one when we had insufficient human resources. We regretted so much that nearly all of our human resources that were available before the wars had been killed and many of them were in Tuol Sleng extermination centre (of the Genocide). You can achieve a building in one or two years of construction but the human resource development would take much longer. Take for instance you need to spend 16 years studying until you get a bachelor degree, 18 years to get a master and sometimes even over twenty years to get a Ph D.

The destruction of human resources in the course of our country’s history has been so severe and to get back to a normal state, has not been that easy. We all know that under the time of Samdech Preah Borom Ratanak Kaod, Cambodia had been able to train and gain so many of its human resources. We still had many in the wartime but Pol Pot took their lives when he came to power. Numerous students coming back from studying abroad were killed and only a handful of them have been able to survive the genocide.

In the past 33 years, we have traveled far and widely together. The human resource development has also progressed from stage to stage, making more and more human resources available now. We also have more ability to strengthen institutional as well as human capacity. This should gradually address the world integration demand where human capability is the most competitive element.

Narrowing Knowledge Gap

There was a time when I had the chance, in my capacity as chair of ASEAN, to talk with those in the ASEAN Economic and EAS Research Institute when they did bring me certain recommendations. I said the reduction of development gap among ASEAN nations based on property would be a difficult job to achieve because, take for instance, Cambodia would not be simply able to match personal income equally to that of Singapore or other developed countries. However, we can make reduction of gap between us in the sphere of gray matter. Each country will have to make effort in development of its human resources, invest more in education, from primary to tertiary education. I am sure there will be a small gap between us.

However, to achieve property gap between countries like Cambodia, Laos or Myanmar to countries like Singapore or Brunei, would require more time. In general, no country on this earth has made everyone to be rich yet. We only have example of the Pol Pot’s regime that in effort to make everyone equal, they chased people out of the cities, left the concrete buildings and built cottages, created collective kitchens and meals. Despite all these, they could not abolish still the gap or different status between the heads of communes, cooperatives, district, region and people. People had nothing to eat while those communal, cooperative, district, regional officials had plenty for themselves.

In the United States of America, in the course of electoral campaign, there was a message by some factory owners or managers to the workers that if Barack Obama was going to get elected, s/he would close down the factory and the workers would be jobless. That was tantamount to a threat that Obama is going to get elected, the workers will no longer be allowed to work in the factory. It was a threat from the part of the factory owners or managers. I call it a neo-method of threat in the US election history. I have no idea if they consider that as a threat or not. However, Barack Obama already has won the election and become the President of the United States of America.

Diversifying Educational Chances

Reducing the gap of spirit or knowledge would be able to achieve, though not completely abolished. The other day I attended the congress of the Union of the Cambodian Youth Federation and I made a clear statement that the future of each youth would depend on the youth him/herself. S/he should know how to make use of chance. The Royal Government provides them the favorable condition, but it is she or he has to seize the moment/chance to advance forward. While a great number of young people are graduating or pursuing their studies here and in other educational institutions, we still have news of young people using drug in various places. That may be an option to them. That is a wrong one.

We have tried the best in using our economic ability to diversify educational chances for the need of different jobs and careers. For example the cadastre officials would need what to fulfill their missions/jobs, and so would the soldiers, police, military police, teachers, etc. Well, having come to this I once again urge you all to keep on developing your knowledge and skill and give the graduates my congratulations. I never refuse to preside over the graduation ceremony only in last March that I could not go to the graduation ceremony of the Royal University of Phnom Penh due to health condition of my father.

Phnom Penh People Will Show Dignity for ASEAN, EAS and Related Summits

I would like to take this opportune moment to express my sincere thanks to the University for providing 144 scholarships on my behalf from 2009 through to 2010. I also thank the University for allowing some heroic student volunteers to measure land for the people. Those young lads are in the group 115 led by a leader Mr. Chun Chhun.

As we are going to host the 21 ASEAN Summit and related summits, the East Asia Summit, I would appeal to the people in Phnom Penh that since we all are the chair of ASEAN,and Phnom Penh is the place where we organized the event, to play host to the participating heads of states and governments. The Minister of Education has proposed closing down some schools along the roads that the delegations will frequently travel. I agreed to the request and the closing date will be from November 16 through to 21. I am sure the people in Phnom Penh will be showing their dignities as the host nation of ASEAN.

Measuring and Titling Without Retreating

I talked a bit about the heroic student volunteers. Last night I discussed with my wife and my son. We came to conclusion that we will provide 200 Kg for each group of the heroic student volunteers and the same amount for each of accompanying cadastre official team. So, for a mission of two groups together, the heroic student volunteers and the cadastre officials, we will provide 200 Kg of rice per month to each of the group. The rice must be of good quality. Phka Khnhei would be a great choice. I also have Phka Khnei for meal every day.

We have learnt that the measuring and titling preparation process for the province of Kep is now completed and the teams will be moving into the province of Kompot. It seems that not much work left in Takeo province and once they complete their tasks in Takeo, those teams will be moving into Kompot and Kompong Speu provinces. We have come to achieving this goal after we are spreading our work simultaneously across the country. Land measuring and titling for the people will continue without retreat. We will also continue to further the land for social concession program so that our people will have sufficient land for cultivation. The policy of farmers get lands is a move without retreat.

We have completed the work in the rainy season and are getting work done in the dry season. However, the weather seems to be hanging in between dry and rainy season. The breeze from the north (Tibet) does not seem to come. Rain continues to fall, mostly in and around Phnom Penh. However, we also noticed that our people in some places also harvested rice in water-filled fields. We probably are experiencing the climate change effect – aren’t we?

Memory of November 10, 1976

Tomorrow is the 59th Anniversary of the Cambodia’s National Independence, which reminds us all about the soul of Samdech Ov, Preah Norodom Sihanouk, who had led the crusade for and won independence on November 9, 1953. We also are celebrating the 59th birthday anniversary (14 May 1953) of Preah Karuna Preah Boromneat Norodom Sihamoni, King of Cambodia. We will observe a holiday tomorrow to celebrate the Independence Day. The body of the late Samdech Ov is still lying in state until February 2012 when we will conduct the cremation. I would take this opportune moment to express my sincere appreciation and thanks for all TV Channels for instructing their presenters to wear black and white ribbons as a sign of condolences over the demise of our beloved King-Father.

As we celebrate the 9 November as a great day altogether, one day later, the 10 November, is one of the sad days for me. Normally I refrain from traveling or doing anything in particular. It happened some 36 years ago – November 10, 1976 or it was the Year of the Dragon as this year too. It was the day when I lost my first child. My wife and I can never forget this day. I was so worried about my wife’s pregnancy and delivery so I brought her from Anchanh, Koh Thmar to the hospital. Unfortunately, the day that she delivered our first child, I had to go to Peam Jilang with my commander. I took a break from the journey to come see her. Someone told me about my child’s death as I arrived at the College of Mehmot. I saw my dead child’s mouth filled with blood as he felt off to the ground when they were placing him back in bed.

As my son was already dead, I requested my commander that I should stay and burry my son as well as console my wife. He denied my demand. He said, “even if you stay, your child would not be alive again. As far as your wife is concerned, you are not a doctor.” I contained myself and did not do what I was about to do because of anger. If I were to shoot the commander, there would not be Hun Sen today. As one of the main actors would not be there, the Cambodian situation would have developed into a different direction. My child was dead before me, my wife was shivering in bed, and my demand to bury him and to attend to my wife was denied.

Two Correct Political Decisions

I wrote songs – “My Poor Child” to remind of his death, “Ill-Fate Mom” to narrate the love story in time of turmoil, “Broken-Hearted Woman for Being Separated from Husband.” That is why I said November 10 is a terrible day for me. I have the feeling that the soul of my child is near and around me. I was married in the Khmer Rouge’s marriage style in which there were thirteen couples. One of the questions that they asked me, I could remember, was “if I could transform my wife into a proletarian.” The reason they asked me the question was the fact that she has white complexion. One week after the marriage, they separated us. We tried to meet each other until she was expecting a child.

After five months of pregnancy, we were separated again. Arriving in Phnom Penh, my child called me “uncle.” It took him two months to get used to calling “Dad.” However, comparing to many Cambodian people, I consider myself lucky because I am alive, my other son and wife are alive then. Some people lost the whole family. My family’s tragedy is just a small part of the tragedy of the whole country.

However, I am later proud of two of my decisions – firstly, on November 10, 1976, I did not resort to using rifles on hand to relieve my sadness and anger in relation to the loss of my child and the denial of my commander for me to stay look after my wife. Killing a person would not solve the problem. Though I am a soldier, killing was not my choice unless I had to protect myself. It was good that I had myself, and my arms under control.

Again, on June 20, 1977, I also controlled myself successfully when I did not order to fight in the district of Mehmot. At the time, if I were to allow my soldiers to engage in fighting, we could have won the battle and occupied, but briefly a week perhaps, the district of Mehmot. I backed off and retreated bringing with me only a few people. I may be a bad-tempered person as some people said, but with major political decisions, I always make them right.

Unfortunate Situations, Driving Force

My story has been very pitiful. However, those unfortunate situations have become a driving force for me and perhaps for other Cambodians to involve in liberating the country and move one phase after another in putting an end to the war among Cambodians, starting from the Sihanouk-Hun Sen’s negotiation in France’s Fere en Tardenois on December 2, 1988. In various forum later, we reached the signing of the Paris Peace Agreement on October 23, 1991. The signatories of the Agreement are myself, Hun Sen, Hor Namhong, Im Chhunlim, Tia Banh and Dith Munti from the party of State of Cambodia. We also have Ieng Sary, who is now in the Extraordinary Chamber in the Court of Cambodia’s custody, Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranaridh and HE Ieng Mouly.

Other signatories who already passed away are HM the King-Father, HE Son San, HE Sin Sen, Son Sen. Just to remind you that it was the Sihanouk-Hun Sen’s negotiation that brought about the signing of the Paris Peace Agreement. Without that meeting, there would not be this Peace Agreement. Whatever different from this that other people talk about would be a lie. I also have my witnesses here along with fully recorded negotiation process. The pitiful life has brought me here to end the Pol Pot’s regime, to prevent it from returning to power and to conduct national reconciliation and negotiation to put an end to the war among Cambodian warring factions, and to achieve a complete peace that UNTAC (United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia) had failed to do. We have reconciliation based on the win-win policy to allow our country to move up today. Please do not take all this as political message. It is just my revelation of the bitter past and experience./.