Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen distinguished national and international guests,
Beloved Veterans and Families,

It is my honour and pleasure to be at this auspicious commemoration of the 6th Anniversary of the Veterans Day. This event is a mark of our deep gratitude to the veterans, members of the armed forces and patriots who have sacrificed their flesh and blood in the cause of the country and people of all generations. I would like to take this opportunity to praise all branches of armed forces for bravely and firmly defending the territorial integrity and pay tribute to the soul of the deceased who sacrificed their lives in the cause of national defence.

I also wish to extend my warm welcome to Excellencies Ambassadors and military attachés of friend countries, ladies and gentlemen nationwide representatives the Cambodian Veterans Association attending this event. In addition, let me congratulate the winners of the “THREE GOOD Contest” movement jointly organized by the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation and Cambodian Veterans Association. Overall, the attention to veteran affairs encourage greater participation from all stakeholders to continue promoting the value and welfare of the veterans, create a favourable condition and opportunities for them to capitalize on the concessions provided and build capacity to ensure their full integration into all socio-economic development activities.

Taking this opportunity, I would like to commend all levels of officials of the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Your Rehabilitation, related ministries/institutions, Cambodian Veterans Association, capital/provincial authorities, all branches of armed forces and veterans for supporting the organization of  and taking part in this nationwide commemoration. Moreover, I convey my warm regards and appreciation to members of all branches of armed forces at all levels, including the Royal Cambodian Armed Force, National Police and Military Police who are defending the territorial integrity and maintaining peace and social order everywhere in the country. I also take this opportunity to convey my warm regards to members of armed forces who are on peacekeeping and humanitarian demining missions in foreign countries as well as those who are being treated in hospitals.

Along with this, I deeply thank all veterans for supporting the Cambodian People’s Party in the past legislatures of the National Assembly, and I strongly hope that you will continue to support the Cambodian People’s Party in the upcoming election of the fifth legislature of the National Assembly and beyond, enabling the Cambodian People’s Party to stand by you and realize further socio-economic development.

Without a doubt, peace and development experienced today is the outcome of the invaluable contribution of all veterans. The country is indeed indebted to them. They are symbol of the sacrifice and patriotism spirit. I would like share what I have achieved with all veterans, including respect, appreciation and honour at national and international level, meaning that these also belong to all of you. In the spirit of repaying this indebtedness, Cambodia has intensified all activities in the implementation of the national policy for veterans and paid high attention to measures that result in significant achievement in the veteran sector. In particular, the Royal Government has created a sustainable social safety net aimed at enhancing the living standard of veterans so that they can live in harmony in the society. This work includes vocational training, employment service, social land concession, provision of housing, assistances to retired, demobilized and disabled personnel, families of the deceased, veterans and their families to provide them with assets, lands and houses so that they can make a living from agriculture or other jobs and contribute to development.

Moreover, the Royal Government has paid attention to adjusting allowances for veterans according to the condition of the national economy.  Practically, based on the report by H.E. Mr. Ith Samheng, Minister of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, currently, there are 91,580 veterans with 203,429 dependants receiving allowances from the Government, and the allowances have been increased from time to time according to the increase of the salaries of the civil servants and armed forces, equalling to 235% of base salary up to 2013. At the same time, we have also increased monthly allowances for the wives/husbands and children of the disabled and retired personnel as well as compensation and monthly allowances for families of the deceased. In addition, compensation provided under the social security fund has been gradually modernized by switching to the use of IT and banking systems, expected to come into full operation in early 2014.

In particular, the Royal Government has paid attention to the strengthening of related legal framework and regulations, including the Law on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of the Disabled, Sub-decree on the Establishment of the National Social Fund for Veterans etc. to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of service delivery for the veterans. In addition, we have set up the competition movement of THREE GOOD among veterans including “Good at Developing Family Economy”, “Good at Assisting Each Other to Reduce Poverty”, “Good at Developing Associations and the Society”, in order to motivate those who work hard and are good at the above three.  Moreover, international relations of the Cambodian Veterans Association have been significantly expanded, reflected through good cooperation with veteran associations in other countries and membership in the ASEAN Veteran Confederation and World Veterans Federation.  Therefore, the veterans sector has achieved significant progress, their living standard has been greatly enhanced and the solidarity and unity among them has been also strengthened. In this connection, I would like commend the management and all levels of officials of the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, Cambodian Veterans Association for being at the forefront of this effort and help Cambodia achieve significant progress in this sector.

Cambodia has gone through many turning points, falling from prosperous era to darkness, climbing from darkness back to prosperous era experienced today. During the prosperous Angkor era, our ancestors left us Angkor Wat and other monuments, heritage representing the prosperous civilization at that time. Under the crusade led by King-Father Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia, Preah Borom Rattanak Kaud, Cambodia gained independence from France on 9 November 1953 and became popular socialism state from 1954 to 1970. Lon Nol’s coup d’état on 18 March 1970 ignited war and destruction. After toppling Lon Nol regime, Pol Pol regime ran the country from 1975 to 1979, during which millions of people were massacred and the country was totally destroyed.

While the people suffered, only the Cambodian People’s Party stood up to liberate people from the cruel Pol Pot’s regime. At that time, the Cambodian People’s Party not only prevented the return of the Pol Pot regime, but also managed to dismantle political and military structure of the Pol Pol regime and brought those responsible to justice. The Cambodian People’s Party liberated the people and the country on 7 January 1979 and started rebuilding the country since then.

In particular, the Royal Government achieved great success in the implementation of the Rectangular Strategy-Phase II by managing to maintain political stability and macro-economic stability. Last year, in spite of some challenges, such as the impact of the global financial crisis, natural disasters, outspread of new diseases, Cambodia managed to achieve growth rate of 7.35%. Agriculture, garment, tourism, construction and other sectors achieve significant progress. The Royal Government also intensified its reform programs, such as fishing reform, land reform through “old policy, new action” and so on.

In addition, Cambodia successfully hosted the ASEAN Summit, East Asia Summit and other sideline meetings in 2012, which is our pride as the Chair of ASEAN. At this hour, Cambodia is also proud to welcome 1,465 distinguished delegates from 127 countries who participate in the 37th Session of the World Heritage Committee, which this year is chaired and hosted by Cambodia. In addition, Cambodia successfully held the election of the senate and election of commune/sangkat council in 2012. My 5-hour explanation about the border issues, land and sea demarcation between Cambodian and Vietnam, the approach of dealing with the issue of land nearby Preah Vihear Temple by maintaining good cooperation along border and using both diplomatic and legal means, more specifically, requesting the International Court of Justice to interpret the Judgement of 1962 on Preah Vihear show both national and international audience that the Royal Government of Cambodia is taking the right path to protect its territorial integrity.

Taking this opportunity, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the King of Cambodia, His Majesty Norodom Sihamoni and Her Majesty Queen Mother Norodom Monineath of Cambodia, for their constant attention to the wellbeing of the people, especially for supporting veterans and families of the deceased with compassion. In addition, I also commend Samdech Kitti Prit Bindit Bun Rany, President of the Cambodia Red Cross, and the management and all officials of the Cambodia Red Cross for paying great attention to the livelihoods of our soldiers and their families, veterans and their families, and especially providing assistance to the veterans, the disabled, widows, and the families of the deceased and so on. At the same time, I also would like to thank development partners, NGOs, and all the donors for providing both spiritual and material supports to our veterans.

In spite of great achievement of welfare for veterans and progress of the Cambodian Veterans Association, there remain challenges that must be addressed. Those include the continued strengthening and expansion of vocational training services and their access to credit to enable them to enhance their living standard. In this spirit, I would like to take this to share some of my views for the implementation as follows:

First: Cambodian veterans must maintain the spirit of bravery, living up to your name as good son/daughter of the country and show a model of heroic spirit in the society although you are now veterans. The people and country will never forget your sacrifices and valuable merits of our veterans. The veterans have to understand that being a model of heroic for youths and soldiers of the later generations is invaluable.

Second: The Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation needs to prepare the 10-year National Strategy for the Development of Veteran Sector 2013-2023, aimed at creating additional framework of policies, regulations, laws, action plans and mechanisms to broaden the veteran sector. Along with that, we need to continue enhancing the role of veterans to appropriately repay our indebtedness to them by providing mental support, ensuring their dignity and helping promote their living standard according to development progress.

Third: Continue promoting the use of IT and banking system in the implementation and disbursement of compensation of the Social Security Fund for Veterans to complete it in early 2014 as planned and transform it into a public entity for providing social security services to the veterans, a non-bank financial institute that contribute to the development of financial sector of Cambodia and create social safety nets for our veterans and society.

Fourth: Continue promoting distribution of social land concession to veterans and their families by continuing to strengthen the identification procedure of veterans and their families who are entitled to social land concession. The National Inter-Ministerial Committee on Identification led by the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation needs to cooperate more closely with capital/provincial Committee on Identification to identify eligible veterans.

Fifth: Continue strengthening the sustainability of the 3 development areas for disabled soldiers, including the Village for the Development of Disabled soldiers Ta Ken, Koh Sla, Kampot Province, the Development Center for disabled solders 317 Khu Len District, Siem Reap Province, and the Development Center for Disabled Soldier Phnom Chhat, Banteay Mechachey Province. In addition, there is a need to assess the possibility of setting up other development centers for disabled soldiers in favourable locations, especially the four projects laid out in the public investment program.

Sixth: Continue developing residential areas for the soldiers’ families along our west border, in a sense, to help promote their livelihoods, and in another sense, to be part of national defence strategy. Along with that, there is a need to continue providing housing to poor and eligible veterans in communities in order to improve their livelihoods and integrate them into the communities.

Seventh: Continue enhancing access to public services such as healthcare services, work rehabilitation services, vocational training services, micro-finance services, employment services, emergency assistance services, receipt allowances for veterans and their families to elevate their economic ownership.

Eight: Select veterans with good qualification as leaders of communities such as fishery communities, water usage communities, agriculture communities and as local leaders, according to their capacity and ability. For disabled veterans who are able to work, we must allow them to take civil servant recruitment exams or recruit them to work in private sector.

Ninth: All levels of the Cambodian Veteran Committee need to follow and implement all activities tasked by General Assembly or stated in the Statute of the Cambodian Veterans Association. In that connection, we need to continue promoting the “THREE GOOD Contest” movement, continue constructing houses for the poor and eligible veterans, continue promoting activities of the veterans’ credit fund and life fund and continue strengthening and expanding collaboration between Cambodian Veterans Association with the Veteran Associations and Veteran Movements of friend countries in the region and the globe.

Before ending, I would like to appeal to the development partners, national and international organizations, and communities to provide good cooperation and support to the Cambodian Veterans Association to enable it to further progress. I firmly believe that relevant institutions and ministries, all armed forces and local authorities at all levels will continue your active participation to enable the implementation of veteran sector to be more effective and progress further.

Finally, along with the commemoration of the 6th Anniversary of the Cambodian Veterans Day at this moment I would like to wish Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, National and International Guests, Veterans and their families the fours gems of Buddhist Blessing: Longevity, Nobility, Healthiness and Strength./.