Sunday, December 27, 2009

Keynote Address at the 11th Anniversary of Cambodia’s Day of Disabled Persons and 27th Anniversary of the International Day of Disabled Persons

National Education Institute, December 3rd, 2009

Your Excellencies, Senators, Members of Parliament, and Members of the Royal Government,

Your Excellencies, Ambassadors of Friend Countries to the Kingdom of Cambodia,

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen Distinguished National and International Guests,

Dear Disabled Compatriots, Teachers, and Students!

I am delighted today to be here in the 11th Anniversary of Cambodia’s Day of Disabled Persons and the 27th Anniversary of the International Day of Disabled Persons being held on December 3rd, 2009. May I take this opportunity to praise the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation and related institutions, Disability Action Council, Cambodian Organization of Disabled Persons, NGOs, the private sector, and other donors for organizing this event, as well as for the contribution in the sector of persons with disabilities and rehabilitation efforts. This shows that we strongly support persons with disabilities and encourage them to fully participate in national development effort.

I would like to take this opportunity to extend my deepest gratitude to His Majesty KING NORODOM SIHAMONI OF CAMBODIA for supporting people with disabilities. I would also like to extend my profound gratitude to His Majesty KING-FATHER NORODOM SIHANOUK OF CAMBODIA and Her Majesty KING-MOTHER MONINEATH SIHANOUK OF CAMBODIA for the kind assistance given to their people with disabilities. I would like to wish His Majesty KING, KING-FATHER and KING-MOTHER healthiness and strength to remain as the umbrella of all Cambodian people.

The theme “We all Participate in the Enforcement of Law on Protection and Promotion of Rights for People With Disabilities” of the 11th Anniversary of Cambodia’s Day of Disabled Persons and 27th Anniversary of International Day of Disabled Persons reflects our commitment in protecting the rights, freedom and benefits of disabled persons, eliminating discrimination against them, promoting mental well-being and restoring work ability to ensure they can fully and equally participate in social activities.

To address the disability issues, the Royal Government has done its utmost to integrate disabled persons into the society by promoting their access to basic needs, especially protecting their rights such as the right to life, receiving education, getting jobs, and moving around freely to enable them to fully participate in social activities to realize an inclusive social environment which is free of discrimination and based on respect of human rights and dignity.

To support this vision, the Royal Government has put forward an array of disability policies, and in particular, adopted the Law on Protection and Promotion of Rights for People With Disabilities on July 3, 2009. Moreover, the Royal Government signed the Convention and Protocol on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on October 1, 2007, joined the 2002-2013 Biwako Millennium Framework, and added its own 9th millennium development goal which is designed to accelerate demining UXOs and provide assistance to victims. Recently, the Royal Government has adopted the plan to assist landmine victims and established a national committee, chaired by the Minister of Social Affairs, Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation, to oversee this task. This task is indeed essential and helps realize the objectives stated in Biwako Millennium Framework which is to integrate persons with disabilities into the mainstream society through inclusiveness and barrier-free treatment for persons with disabilities. It also complies with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Royal Government’s Policies and Rectangular Strategy.

According to the Second Population Census, the number of persons with disabilities has declined from 2% in 1998 to 1.4% in 2008. Drivers behind this decline include:

- The end of war which brought the country with full peace has helped to completely eliminate the number of disabled people from war. Along with that, high economic growth, general change of people’s living standard has also contributed to the reduction of the handicaps’ rate.

- The prioritization of the Royal Government on the sector of social works, cultures, education, health, agriculture and rural development…etc, has been fruitful such as the disability prevention program for all people, pre-pregnancy, during pregnancy, and neonatal health care, the allocation of vaccines for handicap related diseases, medical treatment, reflexology treatment, mental treatment and physical rehabilitation education, the elimination of the Polio since 1998 reduced the disability from birth.

- The result of de-mining work and the assistance provided to handicaps of mines, have remarkably reduced the number of mine dangers. In reality, the number of people involved in mine related accidents in 2005 was 875 people, 450 people in 2006, 352 people in 2007, 269 people in 2008 and 199 people in 2009, in which our goal is to continually reduce this figure.

- The strengthening of preventive measures against the traffic accidents and disability, the strengthening of traffic law enforcement, the establishment of dissemination and education measures, the creation of law enforcement mechanism, the inspiration of wearing safety helmets as well as ensuring the social order and security, the prevention and suppression of other violence in the society that lead to the disability, have also contributed, to some extent, to the reduction in the number of disabled people caused by traffic accidents.

- The strengthening of work safety measures at the construction site, factories, enterprises, and handicrafts, has also been paid attention to. The on-the-job accident insurance regime for civil servants and employees and employers of the private sector, have also been put into operation continually.

- The Ministry of Social Affairs, Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation has prepared the implementation of comprehensive policies for people with disabilities with fruitful outcomes. The provision of workability service for people with disabilities has been delivered for free and many disabled people have received vocational training, have been working in factories, companies with professional ownership and also contributed to the production of goods for market demand. Along with that, the talents of people with disabilities in the sector of arts, cultures, handicrafts have also been abundant, the masterpieces that cannot be done by normal persons. The Cambodian handicapped sportsmen and sportswomen have participated in the national and international competitions and have also brought back a number of successes.

In actuality, these successes do not just only reflect the intensive struggle of the handicapped people in implementing their own rights as well as improving their living standard in families, but also show their participation in implementing the Political Platform and Rectangular Strategy-Phase II of the Royal Government.

In order to assist the handicaps to participate fully and equally in the society, the Royal Government has been boosting and encouraging in providing opportunities for handicaps to be more competent in joining the competition of the labor market, which is more lucrative to ensure sustainability of their living with ownership and dignity. In this regard, the Royal Government has been encouraging and supporting the preparation of organization or self-help group of the handicaps in order to mutually support, learn, depend on each other as well as mutual financing in jointly solving the life issues or challenging environment that they cannot solve by themselves in the framework of individual. The attention to the community basis where the handicaps are living, is greatly significant in looking for issues and real needs that handicaps are facing and jointly solve the problems and those needs are at the local community they are living in, in order to effectively contribute to the poverty reduction and vulnerability of the people.

The Royal Government has continued to promote the method of supporting the handicaps on humanitarian aid to be the supporting mechanism based on the rights of the handicap as stipulated in law on the prevention and enhancement of handicaps, especially the establishment of social safety nets in order to insure the welfare of the handicaps, which is a better way than depending on only the humanitarian aid, which cannot ensure the sustainability of the service delivery for the handicaps. In fact, the handicaps do not want to live dependently or by aid forever, but, they want to have skills and proper jobs in order that they can be more independent. The Royal Government has continued to promote the prioritized policy for allocating the social concession land for the poor families and vulnerable people, whom the handicaps are of high priorities. The Royal Government has allocated many hectares of social concession land in the Veal Thom Village, Treng Trayeong Commune, Phnom Sruoch District, Kampong Speu Province for the handicaps of about more than 300 families to build houses, do plantation and other cultivation. Recently, the Royal Government has put out the policy on the allocation of the social concession land for the retired armed forces, those who lost their working ability, become disabled, and the sacrificed families in order to improve their living while being transferred to be civilians.

My wife and I have built houses for people with disabilities at Taken Koh Sla, the bordering community between Kompong Speu and Kampot Province. We also funded US$ 1 Million for house buildings for people with disabilities in Koulen District in Siem Reap Province. The Royal Government of Cambodia has also included in the Public Investment Program for its three rolling years of the people with disabilities village development’ projects in five provinces and other house building projects in some communities. Moreover, through the Cambodia’s Veterans Association, we have built fifty houses for people with disabilities who contributed to the defense of the nation. This project will continue annually.

We have done and achieved a lot for people with disabilities, but they are still facing many obstacles in their lives that need our strong support to solve those obstacles gradually:

1st, Physical Barrier:

We should strengthen our rehabilitation services to help people with disabilities such as providing necessary tools to support their body, health services, reflexology treatment as needed with comfortability. At the same time, we should think carefully on a step by step basis on how to assist people with disabilities such as having entrance-exits for people with disabilities at public and private places, such as transportation means, at works, on the streets, at leisure areas, cultural centers, academic institutions, hotels and hospitals etc.. We should have ramp, at rest rooms, signs, including visual and vocal signs and reserved parking lots for people with disabilities.

2nd, Communication Barrier:

We should provide necessary tools to support the blinds and deaf people to communicate and receive information about our society such as education, vocational training through Braille and Sign Languages at training centers, transmitting via media channels and increase the use of information technology to people with disabilities.

3rd, Legal Barrier:

We must prepare legal documents relating to Law on Protection and Promotion of Rights for People with Disabilities such as the preparation of sub-decree, directive, Prakas of Inter-Ministerial, Ministerial Prakas for effective and timely implementation of law. We should propose for adding, changing or amending any legal document that may bar people with disabilities to fully participate in the society.

4th, Social Barrier:

We should raise awareness about the disability to local communities to prevent, reduce and abolish all forms of discrimination and stigma against people with disabilities. Moreover, we must encourage the multi-parties’ participation in the promotion of rights for people with disabilities.

In fact, we have many duties to carry out, to act together to resolve any problems for people with disabilities so that they can fully participate with equity in the society, to be able to compete freely, independently with dignity in the labor market.

Within this context, I would like to raise some recommendations as follow:

1.Strengthen and expand the disability preventive measures more effectively by reducing the venerability in the society, preventing violence, traffic accidents, work related accidents, strengthening health system, demining and UXOs, strengthening of workability rehabilitation and raising awareness on the prevention of disability.

2. Effectively promote the Law on Protection and Promotion of Rights for People with Disabilities. I strongly support the theme of People with Disabilities’ Day 2009 that goes “We all participate in the enforcement of Law on Protection and Promotion of Rights for People with Disabilities”.

This law is the most meaningful legal instrument that response to the urgent needs as well as long term needs of people with disabilities. This law will change the humanitarian like handicap’s services to a systematic social insurance services for people with disabilities.

To implement this law more effectively, the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation must raise the awareness of this law comprehensively to all people across the country. Similarly, we must prepare relevant legal documents and mechanisms for law enactment in a timely manner. The Ministry of Social Affairs, Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation is a key implementing agency in making sure all articles of this law is respected accordingly and effectively.

3. The key to handicap related tasks is to strengthen and to increase the spirit of ownership of people with disabilities. Within this regards, May I urge all people with disabilities to sharpen their braveness, hope and self-confidence, using their remaining physical ability to overcome any difficulties, raising their standard of living independently as well as contributing to the national development.

4. Continue to mobilize resources to develop the welfare sector for people with disabilities. I encourage development partners to support the disability sector and to consider creating the disability policy which focuses on providing services to people with disabilities. Similarly, I encourage the private sector to participate in disability related works voluntarily and obligatorily as stated in the Law on Protection and Promotion of Rights for People with Disabilities by including the disability issues in its activities and help people with disabilities integrate themselves at the maximum level.

5. The Ministry of Social Affairs Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation and relevant ministries/institutions of all levels must efficiently and sustainably continue strengthening handicap related tasks and improving workability rehabilitation and be focal point for implementing national policy for people with disabilities and promote effective enforcement of Law on Protection and Promotion of Rights for People with Disabilities. Sub-national administration of all levels must pay attention to handicap related tasks, incorporate it into the action plan of sub-national administration and ensure its efficient implementation.

6. Continue humanitarian activities for poor people with disabilities who are facing real hardship at local areas, in this sense I would like to appeal to members of the government, national assembly, senate and the kind-hearted to keep helping and supporting poor people with disabilities at local areas, who are in bad need of support

7. Continue strengthening and expanding sustainable physical workability rehabilitation service to people with disability. According to information I received, international organizations who are managing 11 physical workability rehabilitation centers will complete their projects in 2011 and will transfer the management of the centers to the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation. The transfer has been gradually started since 2008. On behalf of the government I would like to convey my deep appreciation to 5 organizations namely Veterans International, Handicap International Belgium, Handicap International France, The Cambodia Trust and International Red Cross for support for 11 physical workability rehabilitation centers and left with basic material, human resource and technique...etc… for sustainable conduct of the centers.

Finally, May I wish all Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, national and international guests, dear compatriots, teachers, students and veterans the four Gems of Buddhist Blessings: Longevity, Nobility, Health and Strength.

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