Monday, March 9, 2009

Comments during the Visit to the Tjaret Dam, Pursat Province

08 March 08

I have a great pleasure to come to this huge dam of Tjaret which is under construction. HE Lim Kean Hor already told you that I was supposed to be here since May last year to look into some of the needs and suggest their solutions. But because of early flood in the water system here due to heavy rain, the visit has been rescheduled until today. As we all can see that the construction has indeed taken shape for about 62% and I would take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation to HE Lim Kean Hor, Minister for Water Resources personally and to workers and experts who have taken their time and efforts to fix the system at the time we had a major breakup of the dam. Thanks also go to the CPP working team under the leadership of HE Suy Sem, Minister for Industry, Mines and Energy.

I ordered the study the Tjaret dam for water reservation but we did not have the resource needed to develop the system. Fortunately, in my visit to Australia last year, in signing the Mondulkiri Bauxite Exploitation Agreement, the Australian side has set aside a sum of 2.5 million US dollars for what is called “fund for social assistance” along with the agreement.

I have decided that the fund must go into building this dam and in case it is not enough we will have to use additional fund from our own budget. The same was true that when I visited the Republic of Korea in 1996, the former President Kim Young Sam told me he gave me two million dollars and I was free to choose in any form I like. I told him I would take a set of heavy machinery for construction equivalent to the given amount. The machineries are now under the control of the military engineering team used in making roads and water canals everyday.

No matter what will happen after the signing of the agreement, the project will continue to go on. When Hun Sen decides that it is to be constructed, it has to be done and no withdrawing is to be allowed. We have learned about the interest this project will be giving to the people here from what HE Lim Kean Hor said in his report. We already have built the Damnak Ampil irrigation, which is covering an area of 27,000 hectares of rainy season rice and between 1,500 to 1,600 hectares of dry season rice cultivations.

The area under coverage has increased also to some part of Svay Daunkeo and Neak Ta Tvea of Battambang provinces. This allows our people in the said area to swap their cultivation of floating rice to dry season rice. As we have achieved that we now are working to develop the Tjaret water dam which is projected to cultivate 11,000 hectares of rainy season rice and 3,500 hectares of dry season rice cultivations, plus 210 hectares of orchards. Because we have the dam here we could reserve higher level of water in the Pursat River so that we can mobilize our pumping machines to help people whenever they face with drought. I would say before it was our dream but as of today it will be a true possibility.

I have so many imaginations when I was young. I dreamed of walking across the Mekong River because it had taken me and everyone too long to wait for the ferry to take us from the other side to get to Kompong Cham town. This has been realized (by the construction of the Kizuna Bridge). Along with this we also have more bridges under constructions across the Sekong River at Stoeung Treng, the Mekong at Prek Tamak, which in just a few days I will be presiding the ceremony to place concrete in the first central pillar. We also have the bridges across the Tonle Sap at Prek Kdam, etc.

We have built and are going to build a length of 1000 kilometers of asphalted roads in the third term of the Royal Government. Some people came out and said there has never been a road like that passes by their places in the past. It is not an imagination anymore. It is real. As of this project here, we will continue to dig the second canal at the length of 5,500 meters as well as 34 kilometers of sub-canals with many more water ditches.

In principle I would urge the digging of canals to extend the irrigation from Kandeang to Krakor districts and to Kompong Chhnang as well. What I want back from it though is that we have to foresee the extensive use of the dam potential. We have now used the Pursat River potential, upper part of which we have developed the hydropower at Ta Tai, Russei Chrum, Cheng Reng, etc. We have called them the power battery in Pursat or we could say that finally the people in Pursat has got a huge power battery for almost the whole country because the electric current could be transmitted through wire from here to Kompong Chhnang and Phnom Penh or even back to Battambang province. We also might take the electricity to Siemreap and other places because we have over 800 megawatts.

Just now HE Lim Kean Hor used a term in his speech "expansionism" on water issue. It is correct because we have done our best to expand the irrigation area. I have a regular report from HE Lim Kean Hor on the construction of this dam as well as in many more projects throughout the country. Each construction site have employed some workers at a cost of 10,000 Riels for a day. With the project in place, in the future we will lessen issue of migration through the establishment of new work opportunity and also in the development of agricultural opportunity. In our country resolving water issue is to provide more work to the people.

Take for instance, once we have harvested the rainy season, without irrigation advantage, our people will leave the land uncultivated and left the villages in search for work. But with water in the system, they could turn their free land into second cropping. I have just asked HE Lim Kean Hor to think of building concrete bridges so that people could cross from one side of canal to the other. Having achieved this goal we will also see the potential for local tourist visit because during the last Khmer New Year we have recorded a number of 30,000 visitors to the dam.

It is also noted about the cost of land has gone up from the value that was almost nil to the current high price. Take for instance the area near Anlong Chrey that is near the National Road 2 costs around 100$ and 150$ per square meter, whereas before building the bridge it cost only 6 or 7 dollars per square meter. One critical factor for this development has indeed stemmed from the fact that the country is enjoying peace and stability, and our people would take the risk of losing the value-increasing trend if there were no stability.

As today is the International Women Day I would offer my best regards to women. I would also note that in our country we have this long-standing system of women being the most important. Look we have women holding key to all incomes in every household except in one song that I recently hear they sing with the title "the heartbreaking woman whose husband hold the money."

Just now the soloist Kompul Pich sung a song describing the benefit of charging no tax on land. As the campaign is approaching, politicians will come around and tell our people that if they get elected they would not levy tax on land. Our people could tell them right away that Samdech Hun Sen did not charge tax since 1979 on land. If they tell you they will build you schools, canals, etc. I am sure our people know what to say to them because they see how many schools and canals have been built by Hun Sen and the CPP teams.

This morning there was a piece of news that HE Koem Sokha, head of the Human Rights Party suggests for a debate on TV among the candidates for the post of Prime Minister. I thought to myself what he suggested took the model from the United States or France where people vote for the President, and not for the political parties. In Cambodia, adopting the proportional voting system, we vote for political parties, the winning party from which will then appoint the Prime Minister.

However, in response to his challenge for the debate, I would stress that I do not see the need for me, as the incumbent Prime Minister to go into that event. My political Program has been made known and implemented to the people's knowledge and consent already. What I have said, are being implemented - take for instance the Tjaret dam. My platform has so far realized many schools, roads and bridges throughout the country. You should not take it that Hun Sen is fearful of joining debate. It should be reminded that Hun Sen was a one-against-three negotiator during the period of peace negotiation. The three were the best of their kinds - Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk, the late Mr. Son San who was the Prime Minister in the 1960s and Mr. Khieu Sam Phan who was then the head of Democratic Kampuchea.

It would be better that I have a debate with our people here as I learned from the people what they want and tell them what has been done in the country. I have brought the whole country to unity and peace whereas you candidates of the Prime Ministers have to debate among yourselves about your plan, etc. People know my plan already. Some people had a difficult time in keeping a family, group or party under control, how could they preach about getting the whole nation to reconcile? What is the most important of all is that whether anyone can live with these politicians, as they do live with Hun Sen, or not, if they happen to get elected.


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