Friday, December 4, 2009

Asia—Europe University Graduation and Diploma Conferment

27 October 2009

It is indeed a great pleasure that I have come to the University of Asia-Europe once again to preside over the graduation and diploma presentation for 2,313 students as reported by its Rector - Duong Lieng. I would like to take this opportunity to inform all of you here and our people in the whole country that Cambodia has succeeded in its mission to get elected as a partner in the framework of World Heritage Committee (WHC).

It is a new honor for Cambodia after our country’s seemingly disappearance. It has proven also that Cambodian reappearance plays active role not only within its national boundary but also in the region and the world as well. It is indeed the joy for the nation and an honor not separately for the Royal Government but also for the whole people of Cambodia.

Before talking more about this wonderful news, I would like to give my sincere appreciation to the progress made by the University, which has started its educational activities since when it was recognized as a non-governmental organization and thereafter, developed itself into a University that has the ability to provide educational services for Bachelor’s, Master’s and Ph. D degrees. The rector has just mentioned that whatever the University achieved is not by chance.

They have arisen from efforts made by the management and professors who have excelled in providing education for our students. I also think that we have fulfilled this work together because as I mentioned many times elsewhere the Royal Government of Cambodia has always developed and supported a policy that provide chances for the private sector to participate in human resources development.

One of the core values that concern us was how to sustain those developments. The University has proven to be not only sustainable but also expanded its role as a University with more sophisticated needs and developments in place as is described by the Rector. According to the report, there have been up to now 17,258 graduated students and 13,688 students are pursuing their studies.

What would happen to those graduates if the former Government of the State of Cambodia and the Royal Government of Cambodia were not taking and fulfilling this vision of allowing the private sectors to get involved in providing education services in place of limited educational facilities that are supposed to be provided by the state? It clearly reflects that if it were not for such a vision and policy development and implementation, thousands of students would not have had chances for continuing education.

The policy has not only a positive effect in resolving issue of providing chances for students but also increasing number of human resources for the country. Again if we were to have less educated people our society would be falling into chaotic situation. So I would place an appeal not only to this University but all, both state and private, to continue to pay attention on quality of education.

Back to the fact that Cambodia is elected member of WHC, last night I had to stay awake till 4 am for the election result. I am in Phnom Penh as a commander and HE Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, as chief of staff, in Paris, have been in constant contact. Once it is confirmed that we are elected I signed a message that the TV stations have broadcast later in the day. It seemed quite a routine for me that many important events in my life have taken place at night.

When I started my military career I was given task as a special commando who job had been to work at night on special intelligence mission to observe and determine tracks and directions. After that we had to work out a mapping. It was so hard during those days because you had to have a piece of paper and pencil in hand and be in hiding position because a reflection from a white sheet of paper could bring intelligence mission to a failure and danger. It is much better now that this job could be done with a GPS.

In those days a directional compass was the only technology that helped us with what we were doing. Take for instance, I had to set my compass that leads our direction at 180 degree, but when we decided to turn either direction, we had to measure its steps, from which a note had to be taken down so and so steps to left or right. We had applied signs to help us with that. A plus sign has been assigned to going left, a minus sign to going right, a multiplication sign going straightforward, etc.

When it comes to working for the political settlement and the Paris Peace Agreement, negotiations have taken us sometimes to 3 am. Then came this saying that with the hungry and sleepy ones, everything would be agreed upon fast and easily. But I had been firm in what I had to do for the country. The national interest has always been above anything else.

Maybe I should tell something about the background of the Paris Peace Agreement. It was indeed proposed by major countries. The tripartite coalition government (of Democratic Kampuchea) at that time supported the proposition unconditionally and without taking a look at the document.

The former State of Cambodia party responded that we would think about it. What happened later was the tripartite coalition parties had been disappointed. You may look at annexes of the Paris Peace Agreement once again, and you will see what I am talking about.

The tripartite coalition then relied on a point that the Supreme National Council (SNC) is the only source of power in Cambodia. But they neglected what has been bound in annexes. I brought this matter up because in a few days from now we will celebrate the Paris Peace Agreement Day. While anticipating that day it seems that so and so, who have never been a negotiator at all, are fooling our people around.

They demanded appointments four mayors – one from each party. I asked them if they understood what it means “existing administration.” I told them I had offered five ministries of my administration to be placed under UNTAC (United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia) control – National Defense, Interior, Justice, Finance and Information. If other parties have also their ministries, please let UNTAC control too.

The argument and response put them in offside position (hors jeu). Another instance, the late HE Son San requested for SNC money printing. I asked him if he had a look at the documents. He said he depended on what has been stated that SNC is the only source of power. Well I have put my negotiation partners in offside positions on many points and occasions.

In my encounter with the UN Representative and the French representative I asked them if dissolution of armed forces would in any way affect other forces such as police. He said no and only the army would be dissolved. The police forces and militia would not be affected. I came quickly to a sense that other negotiation partners would be in deadlock position already.

In the meeting everyone supported the idea. I asked questions in order. Questions repeated. The same response I got. Then I noticed the partners in negotiation were caught by surprise. That was how negotiation had been going in those days and that made me so exhausted.

It is important that we need our human resources in place as we have had increasing role to play in regional and international arena. For instance at Hua Hin, Thailand, we have been working with 15 other nations judging by the framework of ten ASEAN nations (Cambodia is one of them) and six other powerful nations – China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.

Cambodia sees that it is important to strengthen both capacity and quality of our human resources and participation in the meeting should not be for just being present but actively sharing with other partners.

Also there are many organizations working in Cambodia and I am sure they need local human resources as well. The more they could recruit and make use of our human resources they would be able to save their expense here because they do not need to bring in foreign experts here, which leads to having to pay higher salary. So going for job market is our aim and it will indeed help provide more jobs for our people.

I also like to take this opportune moment to give my appreciation and praise to graduates today. I mentioned many times before that knowledge could not be transferred by means of blood infusion but it requires absorptive capacity of individual fellow students who may have to exert more efforts. I also share this wonderful joy and moment with parents and/or guardians of our graduates today who have made efforts in any way they can to provide educational opportunity for their children and relatives.

Indeed we have been living in peace which increasingly provides more favorable environment for education. I see enormous opportunity out there and everyone has to make effort to get there and benefit from it. Unlike before when the situation had been hard and different.

There were so many school dropouts and many schools were ruined by bombardments, let alone devastation incurred under the Pol Pot genocidal regime. Where there were schools, there were not teachers or teaching tools. Where there were both, there were fighting incidents that prevented normal educational activities from taking place.

Ketsana typhoon has put many out of schools but this is a different kind of hardship – it is not war but natural calamity. War destroys everything. As water recedes actions are taken to clean the schools and then students will be allowed back studying. This again is different from the time of war, which there is no guarantee as to when and how one will come back to study. That is why peace a prerequisite for development to take place.

Now I should go back to membership of WHC and a few other matters of concern. In the coming months of October and November, there seem to be many works relating to foreign affairs. Last week, on October 15, I went to China to participate in an exhibition but also to have a negotiation with the Prime Minister of China, HE Wen Jiabao, on many works there are to be performed. I have brought out Cambodian needs for more infrastructural developments. We have bridges and roads to build. We need a new bridge in adjacent to the current Jruoy Jangva bridge so that we will allow to-and-fro traffic on two different bridges and lanes.

Upon my return, the visit of the South Korean President, Lee Myung-bak started. First it had been earmarked to have received from South Korea 120 million US dollars but when he was actually in Cambodia, the amount has been rescheduled to 200 million. It was a good timing that after the water festival, on November 5, I have the Japan-Mekong Summit to attend in Tokyo.

On November 8, there will be National Day and November 15, there will be a Summit between the US and ASEAN heads of states and/or Governments in Singapore. This is possible because of the new US administration policy whose President Barack Obama will be there present. Under George W Bush Jr., because of his policy of discontentment with Myanmar, such a summit was not an option.

The US has revised its policy that this kind of summit is possible. You see how thing relates to one another. Now I wish to say more about Cambodia being elected member of the WHC. The Kingdom of Cambodia knows quite well that it is inherited with numerous heritages and we also have had so many experiences in registering our heritages with WHC – both abstract and real (intangible and tangible). Angkor Wat and Preah Vihear are good tangible examples. There has been a consensus that we apply for a membership at WHC which will have four year term. I have sent letters to various heads of states/governments to seek their supports in that matter.

There were 30 country candidates for 12 seats, two of which would be given to countries without heritages and countries from East Europe. The elections had been rescheduled many times. Countries without heritages have been represented by United Arab Emirates and Russia has been elected representing eastern European countries. Only ten seats are left for actual elections. Twenty eight countries run for the ten seats. According to information I have acquired, as time has come for the elections, some countries have withdrawn their candidacies. Cambodia was voted in right at the first round, whereby Switzerland is number one in the list, Cambodia is second, Thailand is third, South Africa is fourth, France is fifth. Each candidate has to have 50 votes + 1 and Cambodia has got more than what is required.

It is indeed a pride of our nation and has also been an achievement beyond our imagination. The fact that we came second after Switzerland has really amazed us.

There have been some interferences or oppositions from some groups, though we never have done so against anyone. However, whatever they have done against us has brought them a shame. Those who oppose our membership claimed that Cambodian election as a member of WHC would only lead to tension along the border and so on. Cambodia did not give any concern to those preaches. We have done what has been obliged to do with dignity.

Cambodia is happy but at the same time knows of its responsibility and takes its international obligation seriously according to rules and regulations set out by this organization. We also would like to express our gratitude to those friendly countries for giving us their votes that Cambodia, on the basis of their supports, has become a member nation of the WHC.

More importantly I also express my sincere thanks and appreciation for the effort and support of HM the King (of Cambodia) to all matters relating to cultural and heritage issues.

A crucial part of support has also come from HM the King’s effort while he was Cambodian permanent representative to UNESCO. It was because of this fact that when HE Deputy Prime Minister Sok An met with other diplomatic corps, he has always been reminded of relations they had with HM.

Another token of my gratitude is for HE So An, Deputy Prime Minister and his colleagues who have been working hard on this matter. This has been a success of a long time work started last July in Paris, in London and Phnom Penh so that our support-seeking letters could be sent to right destinations and right time.

Having achieved this I must say that Cambodia has been recognized by our representative and also as a country among 28 that has been elected. In response, Cambodia is then affirmed its role as an independent state whereby our participation will be considered equal right and footing.

We have indeed achieved a number of successes. First we become a member of World Trade Organization (WTO) which is also not a simple matter too. HE Cham Prasidh, Senior Minister for Trade has led the affiliation effort and we came to a victory in July 2003. Because of a political stalemate in the country, ratification of the affiliation has been rescheduled to 2004.

The second campaign is when we apply for a registration of Preah Vihear as a world heritage in a serious competition that involved many countries.

These achievements have reflected our maturity in relationship, in national stability, capacity and efforts provided by roles of HM the King, the Royal Government and people of Cambodia. If we were to be a divided nation, we would not be able to do campaign but being rebuked as how they could support us when we were in internal conflict.

Cambodia will do its best as a member of WHC and will not be mistaken for its pride. Cambodia will go forward to contest for membership of the UN Security Council and other organizations, but for sure by 2012, Cambodia will be performing its chairing role of ASEAN.

We are putting a new building in place and hoping that the building will be ready for ACMECS meeting in 2010. I would also be able to host guests twice a day too. ACMECS is meeting of five countries – Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. The CLMV meeting of four countries - Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam will also be taking place in Cambodia also at the new Cabinet building.

By 2011, according to plan, Cambodia might be able to host a meeting of countries with issues of landmines and in 2012, to host the ASEAN and East Asia Summits. As we are approaching the annual water festival which includes boat racing, paying respect to the moon and water, I would like to have your attention on a number of points.

Firstly, despite economic slowdown, the number of boats to take part in the water festivities do not go down at all. This has maintained our calculations that there would be about two million visitors to festivities in Phnom Penh. So it is important that we have to provide the best security possible in the cities because unlike other festivities, whereby our people traveled out of cities, this festival will have more people coming to Phnom Penh. I would also appeal our people in Phnom Penh as well as who have come from provinces to take high sanitation precaution at times that we are under threat from AH1N1 flu. Masking is what I would suggest to all.

Secondly, I urge provincial authorities and sub-national authorities as well as those at various Buddhist monasteries with their boats coming to take part in the race to take serious measures in traveling to-and-fro during the festival. The water level this year is higher at this time compared to last year. There would be incidents of water twisting at some points whereby insufficient attention would bring about damages.

Another point of attention is concerning trafficking and the combat against persons with rebellious behavior, who have now been identified to be not only youngsters but also people of at advanced age.

HE Sar Kheng, Deputy Prime Minister, has led this campaign to achieve strict implementation of land traffic and preventing rebellious people from committing crimes. I wish and make sure that we have to slash off “culture of seeking intervention” no matter from whatever level. Everyone must be equal before law and my children will be the first to get punished if they are behaving rebelliously.

From today I declare whoever defiantly use so and so powerful person for intervention will have to be brought to primary attention. Absolutely, no one could claim to be in kinship with so and so generals or powerful individuals and place themselves above the law.

Law must be applied equally for both the rich and the poor. The country would be in disarray if double standard is there where the rich would not be brought to reprimand but only the poor would.

We are now coming to a stage whereby we will have to strengthen both democracy and rule of law. We will go forward and will not backtrack on this issue at all. My instruction here is a complete halt must be put to intervention. If local authority finds case of intervention difficult to solve, please pass it to me I will see to it .

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