30 November 09
My wife and I are so happy to be able to come see you all in the Buddhist pagoda of Angkor Knong, Dauntei commune, Punnhea Krek district after my presence on February 26, 2006, when I initiated some reconstruction projects. Our meeting today shows a strong solidarity between our Government and provincial officials, the armed forces, politicians and our people from all walks of life in rehabilitating an historic site which is 499 years of age now, as it was built under the reign of Hluong Preah Sdej Kan in 1514 – 1516 and was abandoned later in 1525. The place was also neglected there later by various regimes, especially destruction caused by the Pol Pot’s regime. Today we celebrate the inauguration of the Wat Angkor Knong temple, which was before known as Wat Prasat or Wat Preah Ang Khmao.
In 1976, my wife and I stayed in one of the monk’s residences. My wife was sent here on her education (hard labor) mission. She had her morning sickness of our first child here. She worked in the field to help to improve levees, as a cook and a medical practitioner. I joined her here to help her with in that very difficult time. Maybe it is not too exaggerating to say that the sole of Preah Sdej Kan was there to help me out in those days though I have no idea then that it was the former city of Hluong Preah Sdej Kan.
In showing my interest on national heritages, and freedom from judgment on who is who in the past of Cambodian royal reigns, I have initiated reconstruction of two former cities – Veang Jas and Sralob Dautei Pijei Prey Nokor. The Veang Jas (old royal palace) under the reign of Preah Baat Ang Duong, in 1840, has been restored. The area for public hearing hall (Deva Vinichai) has been preserved and I am of the thought to invite HM the King to inaugurate the scene that was left by HM who was his great-grandparents, as his grandsons had been Preah Baat Norodom and Preah Sisowath.
As for this part of the country, we have come to discovering a former capital of Hluong Preah Sdej Kan where there left a monastery under the French, under the Sangkum Reastr Niyum, and the Republic Khmer periods, only by then it was liberated by the liberation forces already. In 1990, HE Lan Chhan, who formerly was Governor of the district of Punnhea Krek and currently Chairman of the Governing Council of Kompong Cham province already rebuilt the Buddhist temple here.
On February 26, 2006, I came here and our people proposed so many projects. There had been a proposal to build a bigger temple. But because I wanted to preserve former form and style, we then decided to build it on former foundation.
Aside from contributions made in rebuilding monastery and other achievements here, the Royal Government invested a sum of 11.638 billion Riels etc. We have incorporated in the 2010 budget draft for building an asphalt road of 11.685 kilometers from national road 7 through to the western entrance of the city barrack.
As far as the Ministry of Water Resource and Meteorology is concerned, HE Lim Kien Hor invested a sum of 710 million Riels in two different steps to restore canals around the barrack and to build some water control systems. The project would be able to irrigate some 2,932 hectares of land. I am sure this has enabled the area to become an ago-tourism. So this is what is termed the state investments in road and water system and I would suggest that we register in our festivity calendar that on November 30 annually we celebrate boat race at Wat Prei Nokor or Angkor Knong.
Maybe I should mention a bit, but not to make judgment, on what happened here in the history of Cambodia. We had come through so many major internal conflicts and therefore I wish that you all keep in mind to be cautious. Our neighboring countries have scolded and cursed their natives of bad manners to get born as a Khmer. Now it seems the spell has taken a reversal effect to them.
I would not need to bring into light today all seven major conflicts but one that was concerning the division of Cambodian territory into three areas of control and again two areas of control with two Kings that in those days were called – HM the King in the east, who had been living here, and HM the King in the west. The conflict was between 1475 and 1486, or about twenty years between a son of HM the King Punnhea Yat, Prince Soriyotei and Preah Srey Raja and Dharma Raja, which in the end Dharma Raja had won with intervention from Siam. Srei Raja and Soriyotei were arrested and taken to Siam. According to “Éksa Moha Boras” (Documents of Great Men), David Chandler and Adhemar Leclere, a conclusion has been drawn Preah Srei Raja died in Battambang, whereas Soriyotei died in Ayudhaya.
The second conflict arose in between 1504 though to 1525, another twenty years. It could be said to have started from when Dharma Raja came to the throne and later had a son named Srei Sokunbot. After his father’s death, the half-Siamese Srei Sokunbot took over the throne and moved the city to Khsaj Kandal where he met and married Srei Sar Chhor, who had a brother whose name was Kan.
The conflict arose in 1508 and started with a dream, which caused turmoil in the whole country and lasted for four years. Sdej (King) Srei Sokunbot dreamed of being threatened by a dragon. Fortunetellers and bad royal officials came to a conclusion that there was a man who had been born in the year of dragon planning a throne coup. This had brought King Srei Sokunbot to a decision that his brother-in-law, Sdej Kan, who was born in the year of dragon, be killed. A plot was prepared secretly but Srei Sar Chhor happened to have heard it and let it be known to Kan to get himself prepared for the danger.
As was planned, Kan was asked to accompany HM the King to fish, and net was tricked to be caught down in the water. Kan was asked to go down and remove the net from there. Once Kan submerged, more nets were thrown to his direction aimed at causing him accidental death. Thanks to information leaked to him by his sister, Kan did not stay under water to be caught by nets but swam away. In revenge, Kan conducted a people’s uprising against the King which could be compared to a people’s democratic revolution.
In those days Cambodia had what it called “God Sevants” or “Pul Preah” and they have their generations to serve God for 5000 years. Because he had a beautiful sister who became HM the King’s wife, Kan was lucky to become HM brother-in-law. In his revolution, Sdej Kan said “if you people supported me, I would give you all equal rights.” So here theory on class struggle came to being since 1508 once Kan started his struggle. Maybe class struggle could not be said exceptionally to have happened first in France, but in Srei Santhor and Khsaj Kandal of Cambodia.
It was because of this that Sdej Kan could mobilize a lot of people and overthrew Srei Sokunbot and killed him in 1512 at Stoeung Sen in Kompong Thom province. After the victory, Sdej Kan took the throne in 1512 at his age 29 years old. So he started his struggle when he was 24 and the two indicators have been identical to my life. I started my struggle against Pol Pot also when I was 25 years old. Sdej Kan became the 39th King after killing Sdej Srei Sokunbot. He was called “Preah Srei Jeddha Dhiraj Rama Thibdei” or in short Preah Srei Jeddha.
Historic records and composition seem to have mixed a bit because according to Leclere, the French Governor General identified the place as only Kan’s barrack. But according to various other studies, that of Ros Chantrabot, Ph. D, a conclusion could be made that Prey Nokor Knong was indeed a city because at the time we had no Jadomuk or Tuol Basan at all. He first came to the throne in Tuol Basan but in 1514, Sdej Kan moved the city to Sralob Dautei Prey Nokor. There have been three versions of how the place or city is called.
The city is between the province of Ba Phnom (a district of Prey Veng province now) and Tbong Khmom (a district of Kompong Cham province now). At the time of construction, Hluong Preah Sdej Kan also built a black Buddha statue here, which because of that the pagoda was once named after the statue. The fact that Hluong Preah Sdej Kan chose to build the city here has proven to be a strategic location too. It is 60 kilometers from the Mekong River and there are roads that are easy land access for transportation but water has been a major scarcity here. That was why Hluong Preah Sdej Kan ordered that water reservoir be built with road accesses from here to waterways at Tonle Bet via Pam Jang, Thmor Pij and Moat Khmong of Kompong Siem (at Mekong River).
Having done so, Hluong Preah Sdej Kan appointed four senior officials – Vieng, Viang, Lumpang and Sral to take care and manage the four main directions, whereas Oknha Vieng took care of the southern water reservoir, Viang the northern, Lumpang the western and Sral the eastern reservoirs. So, to commemorate to those four major commanders, aside from Hluong Preah Sdej Kan, we will see to it that four more statues to be made because we are now using water from reservoirs that were before built, managed and taken care of by them.
Some people have said that I am the reincarnation of Hluong Preah Sdej Kan. It is not my thought. However, I am not the one to threaten or take over the throne. I am a faithful defender of the throne and the monarchy. I wish that people do not confuse my presence here today as a move to declare myself Sdej Kan. Look, what I have done to Veang Jah (Old Palace) that was a place where ancestors of the current King stayed. I am the one to maintain and preserve the place. This should not be misunderstood and as we have learned from history, because of a misunderstanding, which was illustrated as a dream in the Sdej Kan story, the whole nation was brought to turmoil.
I would assure our people of no worry of that sort. Before the elections, everyone could see, the opposition had said that if the Cambodian People’s Party came to power again, the CPP will consolidate its power and the monarchy would eventually doom. To your knowledge and observation, the monarchy in Cambodia is getting stronger by the day in parallel with the CPP’s strength. No one could threaten the monarchy. In the press, though, a member of the Royal family has said about inappropriate manner of our Majesty and we will let this be internal matter of the Royal Palace. I would warn anyone of the Royal family against making critical remarks on HM the King and/or Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk and Samdech Preah Akka Mohesei (the Queen Mother).
Another good thing of this historic place has been the fact that the first Cambodian currency – Sloeng, which were coins in gold, silver … were minted here in 1954. French researcher and author Leclere noticed further that the city was named Krong Sralob Prei Nokor Bura Riej Thiani, where three years later there lived a bigger population about twice the initial number. He also noted there were foreigners coming in to do business, which could be translated that the city was in peaceful life or Sdej Kan had made a peaceful living real for the people. This was written by the French researcher and I just said what has been concluded by him.
The place had in fact been a trade center with Sdej Kan’s currency that was minted in dragon sign. HE Chea Chanto, Governor of the National Bank of Cambodia, has helped in copying these coins and I have shown it to my visitors that Cambodia has got its coins or currency a long time ago. In fact, Preah Baat Ang Duong also had his currency minted too and it was symbolized by a bird - Hang.
Now let me talk a bit about Cambodian-Thai relations. Our people may have heard about a diplomatic note that has been brought to your knowledge by the Cambodia media. It was sent to our counterpart in Thailand on the fact that Cambodia has sought a termination of a sum of 1,400 million Bahts or about 41 or 42 million US dollars for the restoration of the road segment between Krolanh district of Siemreap to O Smaj of Uddar Meanjei or national road 68 with a total length of 117 kilometers.
To cut a long story short our spokesman said that Cambodia has got its own money to build the road itself. However, I would like to take this chance to clarify the matter to you. First I would recall for you that on November 27 I sent HE Tia Banh, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defense to inform HE Prawit Wongsuwan and other Thai army leaders at a meeting in Pattaya that Cambodia would like to return to Thailand the 1400 million Bahts loan that Cambodia has been asked for the construction of national 68 and Cambodia will proceed to build the road itself on December 5. About 7 minutes after the notification, contact was established from Bangkok through to me.
Firstly, HE Suthep Thaugsuban, Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand, wished to send a letter to me directly. I had not had a chance to talk with him on phone. In between 4 and 7 pm, during which I had a meeting with the Lao delegation, including Head of State and Prime Minister, there was another contact and when I came out of the meeting, I was informed that HE Abhisit Vijjajiva, Prime Minister of Thailand wanted to talk to me urgently. It was the first time that the Prime Minister called to me. This has been new because normally I had phone contacts with all former Prime Minister of Thailand – from HE Thaksin, Surayuth, Samak through to Somchai, but not with HE Abhisit until November 27.
He asked me right away if it is true as it was conveyed by HE Defense Minister to HE Prawit (Defense Minister of Thailand) that Cambodia would send (the Thai Government) a letter to return the money. I told him it was true because Cambodia has had a moral impact that you have said to cease assistance and loan. He said it was not true. I said if it was not true, why didn’t you deny it if the press said it wrongly. I told him I need a letter from him to clarify this matter because act of revising what had been said has been too frequent. So the two sides agreed that we would exchange letters and he proposed that Cambodia withdrew its diplomatic note first and he would send me the letter through HE Prawit confirming that the loan continues.
It was planned to exchange letters at 10 am on November 28. Before appointment time, three calls were made to me via my assistant’s phone and because he was far from me the call reached me in Siemreap. Abhisit said because of prior engagement in Songkhla province, and he could not be Chiang Mai, so the letter exchange should be rescheduled to Monday. I just wanted to have the attention of HE Prime Minister Abhisit on one point. You can deny it whichever way you may see fit, but is it really necessary to fly to Bangkok from wherever you were to sign a letter in this modern world of communication technology?
This fact has brought us to a suspicion that there has been a higher degree of political and diplomatic confrontation in Thailand. Why does Cambodia take this position? I wish to inform our people that Cambodia could not longer take the shame and underestimation from the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Thailand. If HE Abhisit needs proof Cambodia could provide him with that because we have compiled a rather good documentation of what had been the discussion and broadcast in the Thai media. We have in our file also what Kasit Phiromya had insulted me when he was with the yellow-shirt protestors.
On November 5, 2009, in response to a suggestion by Surakiat (former Foreign Minister of Thailand) to initiate a reconciliatory gesture to negotiate the differences with Cambodia, Kasit said “Cambodia is the one who started the issue and should therefore resolve it …” Surakiat even suggested that in Copenhagen, it would not be a loss of face if Prime Minister Abhisit should ask to see Prime Minister Hun Sen. Kasit said it all began by Cambodia that appointed Thaksin and refused to arrest him. I would like to clarify this matter to Kasit Pyromya that all has started on July 15, 2008, when Siam invaded Cambodia. This is not to be confused. It is not Thaksin issue which is a year after all that.
It was Kasit, who led the yellow-shirted protestors and abused the Preah Vihear temple of Cambodia. You called me gangster in the Thai parliament. When Pheu Thai got you on that and I demanded an apology, you revised your version to have said that I was “a person of brave heart.” To reaffirm this “it all started when you invaded my country …” You promised to protestors that you will take Preah Vihear and it is there to stay with you. Cambodia would not be finding peace as long as these ambitious Thais are in power. It is totally up to the Thais to decide. It is a government coming out of minority and a military coup, so there is nothing to be concerned about ...
On November 5, 2009, … On November 11, 2009, … On November 12, 2009, Abhisit said after the National Security meeting … considers measures to apply more pressures … On November 13, 2009, Abhisit said ... more measures are being considered, include the 1,400 million Baht loan … Here Abhisit himself involves the money issue ... Abhisit argued annulment of MOU on overlapping areas along the sea … On November 16, 2009, The Nation, Abhisit threatened to take further measures … that might include cutting off financial assistance … On November 17, 2009, Reuters, Abhisit told the press he has more time to think about slashing financial assistance and loan ... instructed the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs to gather bilateral cooperation projects so that the Cabinet works out a response to Cambodia.
On November 28, 2009, after the phone discussion, according to TNA, Abhisit reasoned that Cambodia cancelled the loan request in advance because it misconceived that the Thai Government could reverse its loan of 1400 million Bahts …
Look at it again. It is because you have ordered to pile up all cooperation agreements so that they could be used to apply pressure on Cambodia. Have you used all your measures? Border closure, as I have said many times already, would lead to all forbiddance of Thai products for Cambodian market. I would seek Thai people’s understanding on this matter. They should understand that it is the current Thai Prime Minister who has incapacitated our market relations … Cambodia could not be affronted anymore. Professors in many Universities in Thailand have said that in fact the road to be built will also be used by Thai trucks to take goods in and out of Cambodia too. I would reaffirm that though the road is not going to be built by the Thai money, but Thais also can use the road for their transports. I never declare myself enemy of the Thais along the border or the whole Thai nation at all. It is the current Thai Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, who have underrated us extremely ... I have the duty to explain to my people as to why Cambodia sees it a must to return your offer.
Cambodia may opt for imports from other markets, if ever border closure is to be applied. We have not forbidden Thai fishing boats yet despite your claim we did so. We needed them to register properly. Once again I may need to inform the Thais that Cambodia does not seek to apply border closure at all but will reciprocate in kind to whatever irregular measures to be taken by Thai authority. They had in the last few days fooled Thai companies that Cambodia would confiscate the air catering company and my daughter will take it over. That was how stern they could be and never had they given us their excuse.
I told Abhisit I have worked with ten Thai Prime Ministers already – Chatichai Chunhavan, Anan Pannharachun, Banharn Silpa Achar, Thaksin, … and Abhisit, is the most difficult to work with among all. Deepest Thai division could also be noted under his reign. None of the former Prime Minister ever threatens to cut off assistance. I would instruct Cambodian institutions to review if they have any projects relating to Thai assistance. They may return them so as to free ourselves from the Thai leader’s negative judgment. That may also include sending students to Thailand. It would not be too late if we have to wait till Thailand has a new Government. We could find them good schools in the country.
Negotiation or no negotiation is up to them. Your decisions at Hua Hin prompted my response. You allowed 17 NGOs that the Government did not consent and an opposition MP to be seated in the ASEAN venue. A newspaper in Thailand said that Hun Sen slapped in the face. Some of our people could not imagine too that the Cambodian Prime Minister took such a strong position while on Thai territory. Well because it was about right time to respond to their provocations.
In light of this I would like to inform our people in Siemreap and Uddar Mean Chey that in my capacity as the Prime Minister, democratically elected, and not power-plundering minority politicians like others, I would declare responsible before the Cambodians on my national and external policies to revoke the loan request, which as a matter of fact they would not give us anyway. I have my and Cambodian honors and dignity to maintain. You might threat the tripartite coalition Government that took shelter in your territory before . But you may not do so with me.
They have inferred that in a demonstration … there had been foreign involvement. Who do they mean? Cambodia would not be so naïve to be contracted soldiers in the Southernmost of Thailand. I made this point clear to Prime Minister Surayudh in 2007. If you have problem managing your country please do not point your finger at others for the mistakes you did .