Job Done in Kep, Beauty – Key to Kep’s Economy

It is indeed my pleasure to be able to come and hand out the land titles for our people in the province of Kep. It is our understanding that, unlike in other provinces, the mission of land measuring and titling for the people has now completed. There is no need for me to assign someone to go on handing out land titles. It is a great pride that the cadastre officials and the youth-student volunteers have made it today and some of them, especially the technical teams, have already left Kep’s province and headed on to Kompot already.

As is reported by the Governor of Kep, HE Keo Seddha, the process of setting up the city and province of Kep could be understood to be in two phases. Firstly, I was here to release fish into natural water system in 2009. I recommended a number of ideas on how to set up the city of Kep. Many people from far away have had their lands in the city but they do not care to develop them. That has led Kep city to lack of beauty and care. I have appealed them to build up fences or residences so that their land holdings would not take away the charm of the city.

According to the report, only 400 out of 1,795 land parcels that contribute to the improvement of the city of Kep and only 329 have responded with building fences and residences. This means that some of the landowners do not come or care about their lands or they may have abandoned them. We need therefore to issue a regulation that any landowners who leave their lands unattended and undeveloped would meet severe taxation and fine. I am appealing to those of you who own land in Kep to at least build up fences around their lots because we need to make Kep attractive to have more tourists for the Kep’s economy.

At the time, there was a cadastre information registration in the province. However, the issue remains. Pursuing effort within the framework of new actions based on the existing land possession and titling policy, which has been one of its radical reforms conducted by the Royal Government, requires us to measure lands for the people and legalize their land possessions.

Conflict Resolution – Constructive Collaboration

It is a fact that being here for the first time was not an easy moment. It is a beach area close to the sea and it was in the rainy season too. As I said, thanks to the care, cooperation and participation of local authorities as well as the people of Kep province, the cadastre officials and the youth-student volunteers have successfully put those hardships behind and fulfilled their missions. We could have fulfilled nothing if there were no cooperation from our people. I have seen an outstanding achievement where two families, related to each other by blood, had land conflicts among them for some twenty years already but they finally accepted the reconciliatory effort of the youth-student volunteers and cadastre officials.

This is an outstanding reconciliation and we should try to get more of this. Once they are on good terms, the cadastre officials and the youth-student volunteers can gather them together and seek their cooperation in showing their land boundaries. We consider conflict resolution a constructive collaboration for the mission. With the two families – brothers by blood, understand and reconcile themselves, thanks to the effort to get them on good terms with each other by the cadastre officials and the youth-student volunteers, the problem of failing to have the land measured and to get the titles is averted.

Handing Out Land Titles to 681 Families

Today we are handing out titles to people in the city of Kep and four communes of the district of Damnak Jang Oeur. Land measured and titling here do not involve those overlapping with the land economic concession. Some 171 hectares of them are cut off from the National Park of Kep and 959 over 1,109 hectares has been transferred from public to private state land for providing for the people. I am so grateful that our cadastre officials and the youth-student volunteers, thanks to the support and care provided by our people and the authorities, have finished the job neatly.

We have here 681 families coming from seven villages in four communes of the district of Damnak Jang Oeur and the city of Kep to receive their land titles. The total land size is 994 hectares with 1,054 parcels. As I have said earlier, the titles issued are for the lands that we have trimmed them out of the forest coverage and National Park of Kep to legitimize our people’s land possessions. It is clear to everyone that Kep is not a big province and its economy depends largely on tourism.

Salt Production and Tourism

It is true that HE Keo Seddha mentioned about the salt production of 18,000 tons per year over a land area of 1,043 hectares by 22 producers. This has become a part of our efforts to ensure salt production along with what we can do in Kompot’s province. I have made the case about the need for salt production and supply from Kompot to the late President of the Republic of Korea HE Roh Moo-Hyun so that he could make a positive decision in helping us rebuild the National Road 3.

With present construction efforts, we have noticed that some 600,000 tourists, 35,000 of whom are foreigners, have come to the city of Kep in the first eleven months of this year. As of this time, however, as far as tourists are concerned, there is no differentiation between local and foreign tourists anymore because local and foreign tourists now stay in hotels and spend more or less same amount of money. I therefore urge the local authorities of all levels and related institutions to pay attention on crop cultivation so that what people grow here in Kep will be serving the need for tourism development.

Though on top of the Mountain of Bokor (Bokor Mountain Resort) there is a hotel that provides over 400 rooms and there has been expressed plan to build thousands more, I wish to have your attention that tourists come to Kep and Kompot for the fresh sea fish. Tourists stay in hotels in the Bokor Mountain Resort but they came down to enjoy the swim and food in Kompot and Kep. From this argument, it is important for restaurants to supply food for various hotels down here. I may clarify that by crop cultivation I do not mean only rice but I urge you to think of the market demand that is responding to the need of tourists.

Links between Restaurants/Hotels and Green Belt or Farms

Tourism has brought income of over 2 billion USD for our country but between 400 and 500 million USD has leaked away. We have to import many things to supply for tourist demand in the country. It is true that we cannot supply certain kind of food such as foie gras (fat liver), cheese, butter, caviar, etc. We have to import them. The leakage of our income, to our regret, is the fact that we import vegetables from other countries to meet the need of local restaurants. The foreign exchange has then leaked out. It would be better if we could hold them inside the country for our people.

On this note I am sure you agree with me that we have to come up with a plan to connect between restaurants and services with farms. When our people could grow and provide for the restaurants, we would eventually be able to reduce import from outside while creating more jobs for the people. It would not be a bad idea to set up green belt in the area not far from Kep and set up a link with restaurants and hotels. There is one thing I should remind you. Please keep the right standard for all your produce and refrain from overusing chemical preservatives.

Make Cambodian Tourism More Competitive

Another element of tourism is being competitive. First, we are talking about regional competition, namely ASEAN, where every country is doing their best to attract tourists. We therefore need a correct tourism policy. It is good that we have come up with slogans, for example:  Cambodia – Kingdom of Wonders, and Clean City, Beautiful Sites and Great Service. Service is the most important element in making tourists coming back again. Advertising on TVs and publication is a good thing but what is even more important is when they go back, these tourists will tell their relatives/friends to come. That is the success of tourism.

Everyone involved in tourism industry should have a better idea on that. In former days, tourist industry to the Cambodian beach was not that competitive because we only have the beach in the province of Preah Sihanouk. Everyone flocked the city of Preah Sihanouk, no matter how expensive the service and hotel would be. Now, thing is different. People spend one day in the province of Preah Sihanouk and then they come to Bokor, to Kep and Kompot. Sometimes, they even go up to Koh Kong too. I also urge restaurants and hotels in Kep to remember that they are in a competitive industry.

Cambodia’s Sea Festival Postponed to Next Year

This year we are not going to organize the Cambodia’s Sea Festival, which we first celebrated in 2011 in the province of Preah Sihanouk after Cambodia became a member of the most beautiful beach club in the world. In 2012, we were to celebrate the festival in the province of Kep. However, because we are mourning the demise of Samdech Ov, the King-Father, we have declared that the organization of the Cambodia’s Sea Festival is postponed to late 2013. We did the same for the water festival, which also includes boat racing, in Phnom Penh. It is not that bad to skip it one year.

The Royal Government postponed the organization of the water festival, which our tradition from the old days, to keep the country calm. It would not be polite that millions of people would go to the Royal Palace and shout in joy while our former King-Father is still lying in state. It is an appropriate action that we cancel it this year.

Long-Term Heritage from the RGC

Getting back to land measuring and titling, I am so grateful for the cadastre officials and youth-student volunteers for making great efforts to get the job done. However, since some of you never live in separation from your parents, I am sure that some of you have burst into tears. This reminds me of the time when I fled from Pol Pot to Vietnam. Coming with me and weeping the most were HE Nhek Huon and Nuj Than. I have a wife in pregnancy, so I also burst into tears but I did not let anyone see it.

Indeed, this has reflected even more the heroism of our nephews and nieces (youth-student volunteers) in making efforts in relation to the people’s supreme interest. I hope that the land that the Royal Government is giving today will serve as a heritage for the people and their families for a long time to come.

I have designated HE Bin Chhin to hand out land titles on my behalf in the province of Stoeng Treng, Lok Chumteav Khuon Sodary to the province of Preah Sihanouk. We will soon finish the job in Svay Rieng, then in Takeo. What we have been doing is in fact in the nature of land reform. We have ended the state of uncertainty on land possession, while establishing people’s trust and confidence in their land and cultivation plan. As I said on various occasions, we first did the land handing out policy in 1979, and continued to do thereafter. Now we are doing it still. We have the social land concession on our agenda too. Cambodia is agricultural country, so we must give land to the people for them to work in agriculture./.

CNV Team – 11 December 2012