Friday, June 26, 2009

Address at the 2nd Anniversary of Cambodian Veterans’ Day, 21 June 2009

Phnom Penh, 20th June 2009

Excellencies, Lok Chum Teav, Members of the Senate, the National Assembly and the Royal Government

Excellencies, Lok Chum Teav, Ambassadors, Distinguished National and International Guests

Dear Participants!

Today, it is my great honor and pleasure to participate in this solemn 2nd Anniversary of Cambodian Veterans’ Day, 21 June 2009.

In order to recall the greatest and priceless gratitude of the veterans for the nation, the Royal Government of Cambodia has decided to set the date of 21 June every year as Veterans’ Day, which is conforming to the date of establishing Cambodian Veteran Association. Cambodian Veterans have actually had the history of nationalism long time ago and the set of this date stems from the comprehensive policy of solidarity of the Royal Government in the sector of veterans where soldiers from different factions have been integrated into a national veteran fold, which is acceptable by all with delight.

During this historical event, on behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia and in my capacity as President of the Veteran Association, I would like to bow to respect the soul of the veterans, who have bloodily sacrificed themselves for the cause of protecting our beloved nation in all stages, in particular the brave veterans, who have sacrificed their lives protecting the territorial integrity at the Preah Vihea temple site so far.

I would like to take this opportunity to convey the visit and appreciation to every veterans and families, who have been actively pursuing to restore and develop the nation, and express warmest congratulation to the veterans, who have had elite masterworks in implementing the Competitive Movement of 3 Good Deeds, which has been prepared by the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation and Cambodian Veteran Association.

This anniversary is organized to enhance the awareness of bravery of the veterans, promoting the whole national movement, supporting and enhancing the spirit for veterans. Taking this opportunity, I would like to appreciate the civil servants of all levels of the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation, the leadership and members of the Cambodian veterans, municipal and provincial authorities, commanders of armed forces of all related ministries/institutions, who have paid much attention to the veterans, especially organizing the Veterans’ Day in all cities and provinces as well as the solemnly national celebration today.

I would like to welcome the presence of Excellencies, Lok Chum Teav, Leadership of the Royal Government, National Assembly and Senate, Members of the Central Committee of Cambodian Veterans and all Delegates from the Municipal/Provincial Cambodian Veteran Association, who have participated in this auspicious celebration. As the countrymen and the veterans have known that our nation has been through wars and genocidal regime more than two decades, causing a great deal of serous disasters in both physical infrastructure and human lives, leaving behind a lot of handicapped, widow and orphans. In order to liberate the country, protect the territorial integrity and prevent the return of the genocidal regime and for the sake of peace, reconciliation and security for the people, Cambodian people have sacrificed their children, husbands to join the army and fight against the enemy and some of them have lost their lives and become disabled.

Conforming to the policy of reconciliation and success of this “Win-Win” policy I have set out and implemented successfully in 1998, the ex-soldiers have been integrated from all Cambodian ex-factions into national veterans. Our nation is greatly indebted to the veterans, who are the symbol and spirit of sacrifice for the sake of our beloved nation as well as the true compatriots through their own practical actions and the Cambodian veterans are also the witness of the Cambodian heroism.

Based on the report made by H.E. Ith Sam Heng, we have the veterans including the handicapped, repatriated returnees, people with disabilities, and families of the dead of approximately 90,000 people and the dependent of approximately 300,000 people, whom will be responsible by the Royal Government in solving the policy allowance in order to support their living. Currently, the Royal Government of Cambodia has constantly paid attention to the on-going improvement of policy allowance for veterans according to the ability of the national budget. As for the 4th legislature of the National Assembly, the Royal Government has been promoting the establishment of national social safety net fund for veterans.

I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation for well implementing the recommendations of the Royal Government by appropriately delivering policy allowance to veterans and their families and eradicating all kinds of misconduct that happened in the past. From 2005 to 2009, 8,128 veterans who are no longer eligible for policy allowance and their 129,305 dependants have been deleted from the list, saving a big amount of national budget. More than 90% of veterans receive this policy allowance as main source of family income; also selling and pawning of policy allowance are almost completely prevented. Public service deliveries were given priorities to veterans and their families such as people with disabilities receive workability rehabilitation and training free of charge. Suffering veterans always receive support from the Government and the donors. A number of Commune/Sangkat Veteran Development Committees have been established in a number of provinces in order to promote programs that are beneficial to local veterans.

With respect to establishment and operation of the Cambodian Veteran Association, in my capacity as President of Cambodian Veteran Association, I would like to convey my compliment to the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation for directly linking activities of established associations to tasks of the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation, which enables the association to be smoothly operated, achieving sustainability. I am also proud of achievements, which the association has made in promoting spirit of mutual support, in particular at time of member’s death and participation to community development.

So far, I have paid great attention to activities of the management of the association who always have shared condolence to and provided death allowance directly to family members of the death veterans, which is a very good attitude that is not only to help relieve suffering of the veterans’ families, but also to intertwine emotions of the management of the association and its members. Over the last 2 years, Cambodian Veteran Association has provided financial assistance to 452 families of the death members, amounting to 1.848 millions Riels.

The inspiration of the three contests, which Cambodian Veteran Association and the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation are currently practicing, is the good source of motivation to our ex-soldiers to let them be independent with their living and local development. I am very pleased to present Gold Medal Award together with a Residential Houses costing from US$ 3000 to the 25 best contestants among the three competitions from whole country and Silver Medal Award to 24 members with US$ 500 package. Beside this, in the municipalities/provinces there are 1000 members who have received the Appraisal Certificates and Letter of Appreciation from the Ministry of Social Affairs Veteran & Youth Rehabilitation and Cambodia Veteran Association together with some amount of money reward. This is the beginning of the positive result from the Movement of 3 Good Deeds.

In fact, Veteran Fund is a good initiative to give away necessary loan to ex-solders with low interest rate for the sake of family development. It also assists them to resolve any difficulties to improve their living condition. This practice will replace the activities of buying, selling and pawning policy, which could affect the benefit of ex-soldiers.

Along with that, my wife and I are very pleased to be directly involved in building Ex-Soldiers Residential Development Area of 275 houses in Taken Koh Slar and contributing US$1 Million through H.E Tea Banh, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of National Defense, Vice Chairman of the Cambodia Veteran Association to build ex-soldiers residence in Siem Reap.

This Veterans’ Day is also intended to inspire patriotism and solidarity from Cambodian people to support ex-soldiers and soldiers who are currently on mission in the battle field to protect the sovereignty of our beloved Angkor motherland. Taking this opportunity, I would like to also express my appreciation to our brave heroes who are currently in armed unit protecting our country sovereignty, people safety in all areas, and Cambodian mine-clearing soldiers, who join UN mission oversea.

I do agree on the ex-soldiers strategy report, given by H.E. Ith Sam Heng, Minister of Social Affairs, Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation and the Secretary General of the Cambodia Veteran Association. Taking this opportunity, I would like to also add a few more tasks as follows:

1. Continue to promote model heroics and sacrifices made by veterans in the cause of the nation and people

The Ministry of Social Affairs, Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation; the Ministry of National Defense; the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Information must document and publicize all model heroics of our veterans in the cause of the national protection, peace and security in the society, international duties and national development in order to promote patriotism among the people, especially the youths. Along with this, we must revise people movements to permanently visit and provide support to our soldiers in border areas and closely link the battlefront with the people.

2. Continue to properly implement veteran policies

The Ministry of Social Affairs, Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation must ensure timely payment of policy allowance to veterans. We must strengthen the capacity of inter-ministerial working group which is tasked to identify veterans and their families, and comprises of the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation, the Ministry of National Defense, the Ministry of Interior, and municipal/provincial level working groups. This group must work harder to increase efficiency and eliminate drawbacks, especially regarding the commercialization of retirement pension by related officials.

3. Establish social safety net for veterans

With regard to this task, the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation must draft a Royal Decree on social safety net and Sub-Decree on the establishment of national social safety net fund for veterans in order to increase the efficiency of pension payment and accelerate the establishment of social safety net in accordance with economic condition. Along with this, we must strengthen the enforcement of the Law on Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by managing public services outlined in this law to ensure benefits for disabled people, especially veterans.

4. Development plan for veterans

A. Housing development: based on the experience in Taken Koh Sla and in Siemreap, I have recommended the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation to establish housing development areas in other provinces. The Ministry of Social Affairs, Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation has included housing development projects in the public investment program which was approved on May 29, 2009 in order to expand this project to other provinces in accordance with our budget. The housing grants for veterans who have been outstanding and possessed own land represents good experience. We have built 25 houses this year, and I now declare that we will build additional 26 houses as my donation in 2010. This task will be implemented by municipal and provincial Veteran Associations; each province/municipality will receive one house, except Kampong Cham that will receive three houses.

B. The Ministry of National Defense must continue to implement all policies stipulated in the “White Book” of the Royal Armed Forces with regard to the distribution of social concession lands to laid-off soldiers who need lands for building houses and farming in compliance with the Sub-Decree on social concession land.

C. Related institutions and all levels of local authorities, especially municipal/provincial, district and commune councils must ensure veterans’ access to public services within their institutional competence such as the distribution of social concession lands, vocational training, health services, rehabilitation and so forth. Local authorities should consider selecting one acknowledged veteran to lead various communities such as fishing community, water-use community, and to act as village head on the basis of his/her capacity.

D. The Ministry of National Defense, Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, the National Police High Commissioner, Commander-in-Chief of the National Military Police, provincial/municipal and district armed units, and local armed units must cooperate closely with social affairs sector to permanently provide assistance to nearby veterans regardless of their ex-units and must take care of veterans as if we take care of ourselves.

5. Strengthen all levels of Cambodian Veteran Association

I now declare that I will be the head of Cambodian Veteran Association forever, as I am also a veteran and I will do whatever required, making this association sustainable. I would like to congratulate all 19 new members of the Central Committee of the Cambodia Veteran Association who have been recently appointed. So far, the total number of the members of the Central Committee has reached 95 comprising of leaders from various ministries, institutions, municipalities and provinces. I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to Excellencies to contribute more to the Cambodian Veteran Association, especially to motivate veterans to participate in three good movements orchestrated by the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation including:

1. Using policy allowance appropriately because although the funding remains small it is the government’s effort and pure benefit for veterans. Therefore, it should be used for the sake of themselves and their families.

2. Promoting livelihood of themselves and their families. Despite hardship, families should live together in harmony, avoiding family violation, sending children to school to receive other social services, be hard working and creative in earning a living or looking for jobs and should not leave their homeland for uncertain jobs.

3. Joining to better develop their locality. Participating in various activities at their living locality although lacking of resources you may contribute physically and spiritually according to the ability and must not commit any fault to the society. If possible, you will be treated as good model for local authorities and people.

In this spirit, the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation should continue to cooperate with Cambodian Veteran Association to annually praise and reward to veterans, who participate in the Competitive Movements of 3 Good Deeds, according to the masterworks such as Medal, Congratulation Certificates, Awards such as Tools, or Budget, Domestic or Oversees Tour Package, or Housing...etc as provided today.

At the same time, veterans should comprehensively take part in this self-help movement of the ex-soldiers, because the Royal Government, National and International Organizations or Donors could help you only when you have to help yourselves first.

On behalf of Cambodian Veteran Association, I congratulate the relationship between Cambodian Veteran Association, Vietnam Veteran Association and Lao National Veteran Confederation. I hope that cooperation as brotherhood between veterans of Cambodia, Vietnam and Lao will be further strengthened, contributing to good neighborhood relation and collaboration. Along with this, Cambodian Veteran Association should continue to extent cooperation with various Veteran Associations of other countries for the common sake, particularly with ASEAN Veteran Associations.

Finally, May I wish Excellency, Lok Chum Teav, Ladies and Gentlemen, National and International Guests and all Veterans the four Gems of Buddhist blessings: Longevity, Nobility, Health and Strength.

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