Saturday, July 11, 2009

Address at the Closing of National Forum on "Food Security and Nutrition: Social Safety Nets in Cambodia"

Inter-Continental Hotel, July 7th, 2009

- Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
- Distinguished National and International Guests!

Today, it is my great honor and pleasure to be here in the closing of this important National Forum on “Food Security and Nutrition: Social Safety Nets in Cambodia”. Taking this opportunity, I would like to commend the Council for Agricultural and Rural Development for working with related ministries/institutions, development partners especially the World Bank and World Food Program to organize this national forum. Along with this, I highly appreciate Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen for taking your time to attend this two-day event. This forum is held at the right and vital time, which is a response to the Royal Government’s priority policy and to the global financial and economic crises.

Along with this, I would like to thank the management and all level of officials of the Council for Agricultural and Rural Development, development partners, and all participants for having exchanged insightful ideas on agricultural and rural development and on future direction. In particular, the development partners’ support either in terms of cooperative financing or material, financial and technical support have been instrumental in our effort to rehabilitate and development agricultural and rural sector in Cambodia in order to improve agricultural productivity, diversify agricultural products, and accelerate land, fisheries and forestry reforms by systematically addressing agricultural techniques, rural infrastructure, such as roads, irrigation and clean water systems, loan market and export processing. Through this, I think that agricultural development is the core of rural economy which acts as the foundation for strengthening and sustaining growth, and accelerating poverty reduction.

I recall that in previous conferences and forums, I have given some recommendations to address the negative impacts of the global economic and financial crises on Cambodia. Those include macro-economic policies which were designed to ensure macro-economic stability and conduciveness for growth through the implementation of pro-growth financial policy, flexible monetary policy, and vigorous implementation of systematic reform to improve domestic investment and business climate to regain confidence from the public, attract investment from both domestic and foreign sources, especially to facilitate trade and promote fast-yielding economic activities. Without a doubt, if the Royal Government fails to take measure appropriately and on time, the effect of the global economic and financial crises will be the cause of the downfall of Cambodia’s financial system and economy.

We have closely and attentively observed the development of the global economic crisis which is producing a severe negative impact on Cambodia’s economy. What matter most is that last year’s economic challenges cannot deter Cambodia from its long-standing path of multi-party democracy. In particular, under difficult economic circumstance, the Royal Government was brave enough and determined to held successfully the election to select councils for the capital, provinces, municipalities and districts which was deemed fair, free, and just by national and international organizations. The storm of the global financial crisis is indeed amplifying its effects on the world economy and Cambodia might suffer from this effect in the medium term.

The Royal Government is well aware of this matter and is issuing various complementary, interconnected and flexible measures to prevent and relieve the negative impacts produced by the global financial crisis on Cambodia’s financial system, economy and society.

The Royal Government is willing and determined to resolve various negative impacts originating from the global economic and financial crisis. Through this, the Royal Government has firmly implement the policy to sustain its economy, to build social safety net to support vulnerable groups through the implementation of various measures such as food, emergency assistance, social allowance, special support fund, vocational training.

The Royal Government takes the global economic and financial crisis as a lesson, an experience and an opportunity by figuring out strategic means and selecting policies and mechanisms to accelerate socio-economic development. In this purpose, the Royal Government has been actively strengthening and expanding its collaboration with development partners, the private sector, and the civil society to improve people’s living standard, speed up poverty reduction and ensure food security as stipulated in the national development strategy of the Royal Government of the 4th Legislature of the National Assembly.

In this context, the strengthening of “Social Safety System” for rescuing and supporting vulnerable groups is the Royal Government’s major strategy to tackle the negative impact and risks arising from the global economic crisis. Although, we are implementing deepened and comprehensive reform measures to realize Cambodia’s social-economic development target in the long run but we cannot afford to ignore risks and challenges arising from global warming and pandemic especially the outbreak of swine flu (H1N1) which is taking root around the world. These represent additional burden of the Royal Government and require us to take preventative measures and tackle under all circumstances.

In sum, social safety net or social protection is not a new issue for the Cambodian society. Indeed, the traditional social safety net has started and taken deep root in the Khmer’s culture for a very long time ago, particularly in the forms of food sharing and providing mutual support among neighbors and communities in time of emergencies, and during various types of ceremony and this culture still continue to exist until now. Generally, in the Cambodian society, at pagodas, monks play significant roles as important mechanism in implementing an efficient social safety net, aiming at joining with the Royal Government in educating and providing support in social affairs for poor people, which include providing food supply and temporary shelters to the vulnerable people, elders, handicapped and so on. On the other hand, this culture of sharing has been playing an important role as an unofficial social safety net, which we have always observed that rich people, businessmen, and officials of the Royal Government alike have always given out their personal capital to sponsor social affairs for those people in need. In addition, the Cambodian Red Cross, a fundamental humanitarian agency in the society, is also playing an important role as the mechanism of a major official social safety net in carrying out the unconditional culture of sharing for the cause of humanitarian acts, the spirit of living with the most vulnerable people at all time and places without discriminating against social classes, color, sex, religious belief, and political tendency.

At the same time, the Royal Government has initiated the social safety net in order to help the poor, homeless, victims of human trafficking, and victims of natural disasters in line with the spirit of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia and the Rectangular Strategy- Phase II, which describes the government’s intervention in social affairs such as the creation of employment opportunity, the provision of emergency aid to people, especially in time of natural disasters, the expansion of rehabilitation program for disables, elders, orphans, female victims, homeless, veterans and their families…etc. Furthermore, the Royal Government continues to strengthen good governance in providing social safety service through institutional enhancement and cooperation with development partners, including further expansion of social services and comprehensive rescue program. In order to effectively respond to the social protection intervention, the Royal Government will continue to pay high attention on strengthening firm enforcement of law and critical regulations such Labor Law, Insurance Law, Law on Social Security, Sub-Degree on the Creation of Social Security-National Fund for civil servants.

To achieve the above mentioned goal, I would like to request all concerned ministries/institutions to strengthen cooperation, especially improving relationship with development partners, private sectors, and relevant institutions. In addition, in agriculture sector and rural development, we are required to continue to strengthen facilitative mechanism, cooperation and good dialogue among various national and sub-national ministries and agencies, especially, dialogues between leaders and civil servants of ministries and agencies at all level to ensure that development programs are being timely and effectively prepared and carried out; and resources, which are provided by development partners, are being used with transparency, accountability and timely responding to the needs of the people.

At the same time, I acknowledge that the efficient state’s intervention on social affairs through social safety net or social protection require coordination and closer and inter-connected cooperation among relevant stakeholders, because, projects and programs for social assistance have been separately implemented by respective ministries, institutions and development partners. In this regard, The Council for Agriculture and Rural Development will play the important role in facilitating and mobilizing resources to successfully apply the social safety net in Cambodia with effectiveness and efficiency.

It should be noted that during the Third Legislature, the Royal Government has accomplished proud achievements in saving and providing vocational training to the homeless women and children, and the victims of human trafficking, families affected by disasters and the handicapped to be employed with personal profession. The Royal Government has been firmly implementing the labor law and various international conventions on the roles of the labor unions to truly ensure the rights and interest of the workers, employees and employers. The Royal Government has cooperated with the national and international organizations and various institutions to enhance working opportunities, and to reduce the vulnerability of the poor. Along with this, the Royal Government has improved and strengthened social safety net for ex-civil servants as well as veterans through the increase of salary and other allowances. At the same time, the Royal Government has given priority on the improvement of the working conditions of workers and employees in order to continue promoting the implementation of social safety net policy, laws on social security regime, implementation of pension allowance scheme for the disables and the people who are in burden, ensuring that all employees receive the insurance for work related accidents. Moreover, the Royal Government will continue to strengthen the support for the handicapped and veteran families, who have sacrificed their lives for the nation. Along with that, the Royal Government will continue supporting the militant and retired civil servants through the implementation of a pension system, which is more comprehensive by promoting the enforcement of the National Fund and Social Security.

Once again, I would like to encourage the Council for Agricultural and Rural Development to actively and intensively continue implementing its duties in coordinating with this social safety net system by further closely cooperating with relevant ministries/institutions at all levels and all development partners in order to look for the possibility of preparing a joint social safety system strategy with high efficiency.

Taking this opportunity, I would like to appeal to the related ministries/institutions and all development partners to take the outputs and recommendations, which are the fruit of this forum, into consideration to become a practical implementation. Along with that, I would like all development partners to continue practicing the good culture of closer cooperation with the Royal Government and providing further support to Cambodia in expanding the programs and implementing social safety net projects, aiming to help the poor and vulnerable in the society by intervening and responding to the crisis timely, objectively and effectively.

Finally, before closing the “National Forum on Food Security and Nutrition under the Theme of Social Safety Nets in Cambodia”, I would like to wish Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished National and International Guests, and the Whole Forum a great success with 4 Gems of Buddhist blessings: Longevity, Nobility, Health and Strength.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Address at the “Inauguration of the National Road No. 67”

Address at the “Inauguration of the National Road No. 67” Stretching over 131 Kilometers from Anlung Veng to Siem Reap Financed by a Loan from the Royal Government of Thailand

July 4th, 2009

Your Venerable Monks,
Your Excellency Suthep Thaugsuban, Deputy Prime Minister and Representative of the Royal Government of Thailand,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Compatriots!

Today, it is my great pleasure to meet all the compatriots here in the “Inauguration of the National Road No. 67” stretching over 131 kilometers from Anlung Veng to Siem Reap, with junction roads to Kulen Mountain and Banteaysrey Temple. On behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia, I would like to congratulate Your Venerable Monks and all compatriots living in and around this area who will benefit from this road. This road indeed will relieve the people’s hardship, facilitate daily business activities and bring about countless benefits to Cambodia as a whole.

Taking this opportunity, I would like to show my appreciation to the management and officials of the Ministry of Public Work and Transport, related institutions, especially the Ministry of Economy and Finance, all levels of competent authorities and armed forces, and the construction and consulting firms for their joint efforts to rebuild the National Road No. 67 from Anlung Veng to Bakong Temple in Siem Reap.

In general, this accomplishment reflects our steady progress towards rebuilding the transport infrastructure as stipulated in the Royal Government’s Rectangular Strategy-Phase II which regards the transport network as “the engine of growth” and veins interlinking all parts of Cambodia to form an economic organism to accelerate its integration both internally and externally into regional and global economic blocs. This road links our internal transport network with neighboring countries’ to make our transport service more convenient, more stable, safer, more economically efficient, and at low-cost, to facilitate trade, promote tourism sector, accelerate rural development and integration into the regional economy and to serve the purpose of national defense.

So far, the Royal Government has always prioritized economic development, especially during the global financial and economic crises. Along with this, the Royal Government is doing its utmost to ensure peace and political stability that are keys to development, growth, and poverty reduction. In particular, building transport network is deemed to strengthen the socio-economic’s backbone. Through this, we will continue to build our road networks to interlink the capital, provinces, municipalities, districts, communes and villages together to form a vibrant economic organism in order to realize our development targets.

In particular, the Royal Government over recent years has built roads and bridges to catalyze economic recovery, overcome constraints during the global economic downturn, and take part in sustainable development. I have often raised that wherever there is Road there will be Hope and trade transactions, production, artisanal work, services will boom. This vibrancy indicates that the body and social veins are working and acting as the breathing path for economic growth. Also, people can travel and exchange products and services which in turn will boost the social sector. Internal and regional facilitation of trade and transport are the prerequisites to attracting more investment into Cambodia.

Partly, the Royal Government has set this sphere as an important tourism pole of the country. So far, this area has been gradually developed from being a war front line during decades of civil war to be a tourism site and center for agriculture, production, trade through building various supporting infrastructures, especially the construction of the national road No.67, which is linked from the Angkor–Banteay Srey to another historical and tourism site, the district of Anlong Veng of Uddor Meanchey Province, which is the last military base of the Khmer Rouge leaders Pol Pot and Tamok. Along with that, the Royal Government has completed the reconstruction of the national road No. 6 from Phnom Pen to Siem Reap in 2006 by using the joint budget of JICA, Asian Development Bank and World Bank and in the year 2009 we are finalizing the partial block of the national road No. 6 and No. 5 from Siem Reap-Sereisophorn to Poi Pet town of Cambodian-Thai border, which is scheduled to be officially inaugurated soon. As for the area of Siem Reap town and at the Angkor site, a lot of new roads have been built in order to facilitate the transportation, trade and tourism in the area. These infrastructure networks are our joint achievements and bright success. These achievements stem from the “Win-Win” policy and this policy has enabled us to receive bright peace throughout the country and enabled us to internally integrate ourselves fully, in which there was the integration of Khmer Rouge soldiers into the national fold, internal integration, and regional integration with equity and equal rights with other countries in the region and the world.

Based on the report by H.E. Tram Iv Tek, Minister of Public Works and Transports, this geographical location is both a natural forest area and lower land linked to Tonle Sap lake and this area is also fertile, favorable for farming and plantation. On the other hand, this area is also rich in cultural, historical sacred or worship site and many traditional temples, built by our ancestors as perfect heritage for the young generation descendents and currently these areas have become a significant base for tourism development. In this aspect, we have seen that these areas already have natural and historical potential to serve the tourism sector by simply increasing more supporting infrastructures. Through this, in order to truly make this area into the tourism pole of Cambodia in the future, the reconstruction of the national road No. 68 with the length of 113 km from Kralagn-Samrong-Osmach at the Cambodian-Thai border, is seeking for a new loan which will contribute to additionally support the achievement on the national road No. 67.

In this sense, I believe that the successful solution to the supporting infrastructure issues will provide these localities with tremendous potential in further expanding the basis of production, agriculture, trade and tourism. In addition, the infrastructure network will help us accomplish our long-term vision, which is to ensure socio-economic efficiency and is binding with the national defense strategy trough “Transforming the border areas into industrial, production and tourism zones and changing the ex-war fields into development sites”. Indeed, the Royal Government has turned this vision into real actions by transforming the border areas into industrial zones such as Bavet in Svayreang province, Phnom Din in Takoe province, Chamyeam in Koh Kong province, Stoenghav in Preahsihanuk province and Poypet in Banteymeanchey province so on. The vision has also transformed war zones into development sites such Chormksan, Anlongveng, Malai, Pailin, Sampoyloon and so on.

In general, physical infrastructure is the strategic priority and effective mean for reducing poverty and also the lever of economic growth and ensures fruitful distribution of equity growth to every citizen. In this sense, the Royal Government has been actively striving further, especially in rehabilitating and developing infrastructures including the restoration and construction of physical infrastructure at remote areas, aiming to promptly improve the standard of living and health and also to ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of Cambodia’s socio-economic development.

Indeed, those national roads located in the sacred land of Angkor of Siem Reap province, are actually being supported by concessional loans from Thailand. In this regard, on behalf of the Royal Government and Cambodian people, I would like to express my sincere thank to development partners and friend countries, which always provide timely mental and physical support to Cambodia in order to rehabilitate and develop its socio-economy.

In this auspicious occasion, I would like to remind to all leaders of ministries, agencies and authorities at all level to closely cooperate to monitor, especially, roads-bridges, aiming to ensure that local people can use them for long time. Once again, I would like to express my sincere thank to Excellency, Lok Chum Teav, leaders, officers of the Ministry of Public Work and Transportation, ministries-agencies concerned, competent authorities, arm forces at all level, the construction companies, consulting firms and the technical monitoring companies for pooling their efforts to cooperate and accomplish the construction of National Road 67, which is being inaugurated today.

Finally, with the Official Inauguration of the National Road No. 67” Stretching over 131 Kilometers from Anlung Veng to Siem Reap, I would like to you’re your Venerable Monks, Excellency Suthep Thaugsuban, Deputy Prime Minister and representative of Thailand, Excellency, Lok Chum Teav, Ladies and gentlemen, national and international guests, officials, arm forces, students and all compatriots 4 Gems of Buddhist Blessings.

Address at the National Fishery Day Veal Vong Dike, Phnom Leav Village, Pong Tek Commune, Domnak Changeer District, Keb Province

1 July 2009

- Your Venerable Buddhist Monks,
- Your Excellencies Ambassadors to the Kingdom of Cambodia,
- Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished National and International Guests,
- Dear Compatriots and Students!

Today, I have a great pleasure to join you all in the celebration of this auspicious 7th National Fishery Day and I would like to pay my respect to the all Venerable Buddhist Monks and extend my greetings to all our compatriots, students and all level of civil servants who are here today. Every year, I highly value this event and join in this meaningful event which is organized by the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry (MAFF) to appreciate its officials and share my vision and recommendations in order to promote fisheries sector.

Also, in this occasion, let me express my sincere appreciation to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, especially the Fisheries Administration for their close collaboration with the Secretariat of the National and International Ceremony Organizing Committee and provincial authorities in their efforts to organize the 7th National Fishery Day in order to promote the protection and conservation movements as well as the development of our invaluable aqua resources, in particular to raise the awareness among all citizens, civil servants, government institutions and the private sector on the importance of fishery resources and to ensure its sustainable use and management.

Cambodia is very rich in fresh water fishes and the Tonle Sap Lake, which exists for approximately 5000 – 6000 years, is the heart and breeding ground for those essential fishes in our country. The production of our fresh water fishes is ranked 4th in the world after China, India and Bangladesh according to the data from Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. However, with respect to the annual fish consumption for each citizen, Cambodia ranks 1st because on average, each Cambodian citizen consumes around 52.4 kg per annum, more than three times compared to global consumption per capita of 16.5 kg. Moreover, the fishery sector provides full-time employment to around 1.4 millions fishermen and to approximately 6 millions people in fisheries-related activities and part-time fishing. Thus, we could consider Cambodia as the fish eating society since fishes are the source of more than 81.5% of total protein that Cambodians received in general. River fishery contributed around 80% to Cambodia’s total fish production and 1/3 of Cambodia’s population earn revenue through fishing and fish sales.

Furthermore, we can consider fish and other aqua life stock as an essential staple food for Cambodians after rice and in addition, rural inhabitants could get easily with little efforts and cheaply from nearby rivers, pounds or lakes. In addition to domestic supply, Cambodia has a long history of exporting aqua products abroad. Beside this, it should be noted that fishery production contributed around 25% to the country’s agricultural production, while subsidiary crop production, animal production and forestry production contributed 52.7%, 15.5% and 6.9% respectively.

Cambodian population currently rise to 14 millions and 80% of whom live in rural areas. Most of them are involved in fisheries or other natural resources exploitation to feed themselves. In the fishery sector, the number of fishermen has increased rapidly. This surge, coupled with limited capability to provide education on the usage of modern technology in fishery sector, and limited public awareness on the importance of natural resources, environment, regulation and the concept of sustainable development, leads to lower aqua resources and other resources, and is still the main constraint to achieving the policy of sustainable use and development of fishery resource and other natural resources in general. National research revealed that Cambodian natural resources have undergone dramatic changes for the last 5 years, especially fishery and forestry resources.

To enable people participate in the management and sustainable use of fishery resources, the Royal Government, in late 2000, implemented the reform in fishery sector by transferring control to rural communities to enable them participate in decision-making and formulate action plans and development programs for their own localities, and assume responsibility of natural resource management. In particular, the reform has transferred more than 500,000 hectares of fishing space to local communities, 468 fishing communities have been established and the poor can now benefit from this reform.

However, after assuming responsibility, fishing communities still need technical assistance to organize community structure to ensure sustainable use of the resource and better welfare. This reflects the Royal Government’s effort in poverty reduction, promotion of sustainable use of natural resources and equitable distribution of growth by strengthening community-based resource management. Through the establishment and creation of fishing communities, fishery resources have been improved, and that is the starting point of participation from the community in natural resource management and decentralization. We can regard this as a successful accomplishment of the Royal Government’s Rectangular Strategy.

Currently, we are working hard to promote agricultural production growth, in terms of quantity, quality, competitiveness and efficiency. Moreover, the Royal Government has considered a number of sectors relating to natural resources management and biodiversities, including fishery sector, as a priority sector among other sectors in the reform program.

Along with that, we have recognized that the inundated forest is the life of fishery sector and without the inundated forest we cannot be rich in fishes. On the other hand, we all have known that fish is a main source of protein for the people living in the community and of course, all communities have used fishing for food or for earning additional income. Moreover, due to rapid growth of the population around the Tonle Sap River as well as along the Mekong River we have witnessed the over-fishing, which is seriously threatening the types of fishes, which are economically vital. Beside this, there have also been other anarchic actions, causing the loss and degradation of the fish’s shelters. The building of dams, digging of canals for illegal land ownership, resettlement, the transformation of the forest land into agricultural land, the burning of natural forest, and the increase in illegal fishing pressure are also the most serous threatening factors.

Nevertheless, we have to consider that the efficient and sustainable management of natural resources is attached to the appropriate business and will also have to consider about the conservation of fisheries. Reforestation of the inundated forest and the protection of fisheries environment are the significant tasks and most valuable to sustain human lives, animals, plants and other biodiversities for serving the current consumption as well as for our next generations.

In this sense, the increase of willingness, commitment and high responsibility of the authorities at all level, civil servants in the related ministries, especially the local authority and the participation from the local people through the support in all form from the related technical institutions, which have to pay high attention to, under a single vision, which is poverty reduction of the people and the sustainable reservation of the fisheries resources.

Taking this opportunity, I would like to thank friendship nations, international organizations and all development partners, who have actively participated in the agricultural development projects, especially this important fisheries sector for the cause of development and poverty reduction of the people.

For the basis of consideration on the management and development of the fishery sector, I would like to provide some recommendations to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries as well as the fisheries administration, local authorities and concerned ministries for implementation as follows:
1. Although, we have actually achieved many positive achievements, we should not forget the cooperation from local authorities and the joint report from people to the nearby competent authority aiming at contributing to crack down on illegal fishing and other related fishery offenses. In this spirit, we have to continue to preserve the conservation areas appropriately, and continue to curb illegal fishing and take all measures to cooperate with relevant agencies to comprehensively prevent those highly dangerous fishing offenses such as the use of electric instruments and nets.
2. Take firm measures against offenders, who destroy the inundated forest at every place, particularly, in the areas around Tonle Sap Lake, by pushing to create the map for identifying, educating the people about, and protecting the inundated forests, because they are very vital for the fishery sector. At the same time, we must prepare fields for growing inundated trees and set up annual ceremony for replanting inundated trees. We should also consider the building of paths inside the inundated forest to prevent fire on the forest, which always happen yearly.3. Encourage farmers to dig a small pond for their families, aiming to preserve water for family’s usage, vegetable watering, animal and fish raising, in all places, particularly at places where there is shortage of water and fishes, by encouraging and promoting small scale family fish farming across the country.
4. Encourage the establishment of ore fish ponds communities at local villages-communes across the country, because it is a strategy to increase the amount of fish. Strengthen the existing fishery communities and establish the reservation sites at each community to well protect the natural fishes for long-term use. The fishery sector is sustainable and stable, depending on the fundamental fishery resources; it means that we have to safeguard fish spawning areas, so that the amount of fish could be reproduced and increased. On the other hand, we must pay attention on establishing additional reservation sites at public fishing sites as well as fishery communities, because the reservation site is the last safe place for fish breeding.
5. The Fisheries Administration should provide guidance and techniques to all owners of fishing lots to set up an appropriate reservation site in their lots, aiming at conserving some main fish seeds for upgrading fish stock for years to come. At the same time, according to past experiences, all stream and lake fishing lot businesses have formed their fish hatching sites, aiming to release small fishes into their lots to increase the fish amount and production.6. Competent agencies have to use their utmost effort to collect the revenues from the fishery sector and all resources, taking strong measures on lot owners, who violate the agreement and the record books.
Once again, I would like to highly evaluate the achievements of the Ministry of Agriculture, forestry and Fishery as well as the Fishery Administration has recently achieved. Please continue the tradition of close cooperation with agencies concerned, local authorities, development partners and the local people.
Finally, I would like to wish Your Venerable Monks, Excellencies, Lok Chum Teav, Ladies, Gentlemen, National and International Guests, Students and Compatriots the 4 Gems of Buddhist Blessings: Longevity, Nobility, Health and Strength.