Monday, January 18, 2010

Keynote Address at the Inauguration of “SOS Hermann Gmeiner Battambang”

Battambang, January 4, 2009

Your Venerable Monks,

Excellencies Foreign Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen Distinguished National and International Guests,

Mr. Helmut Kutin, President of the SOS Children’s Villages International,

Dear Compatriots, Teachers and Students,

Today, it is my pleasure to be here with Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen distinguished national and international guests, civil servants, armed forces, and all the compatriots to inaugurate the “SOS Hermann Gmeiner Battambang” in An Chanh Commune, O Char District, Battambang Province. First of all, on behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia, I would like to share the joy with all the people in Battambang for the notable development progress realized in this province. In particular, another achievement in our effort to support and provide basic services to orphans and unaided children will be inaugurated in a few moments. This great achievement indeed stems from socio-economic development spirit of Dr. Hermann Gmeiner which is being undertaken by the SOS Children’s Villages International. This astonishing and humanitarian mission will add a new dimension to the global effort to save orphans and other victimized children.

Taking this opportunity, I would like to extend my warm welcome and gratitude to Mr. Helmut Kutin, President of SOS Children’s Villages International for this donation. Also, I would like to convey my sincere appreciation to the management and all levels of officials of the Ministry of Social Works, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation for their untiring effort to serve the national benefits with high level of responsibility and effectiveness, especially strengthening cooperation with SOS Children’s Villages International to realize what we see today.

This achievement represents another pride of the Royal Government in improving children’s welfare and responding to Dr. Hermann Gmeiner, an Austrian national who has founded the SOS Children’s Villages International with overwhelm support from 132 countries, and the organization’s operation took off across the globe, including Cambodia. At the 11th anniversary of the fruitful Cambodia – SOS Children’s Villages International partnership, I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to SOS Children’s Villages International for its effort in improving children’s welfare. May Mr. Helmut Kutin and all officials of the SOS Children’s Villages International have good health, enjoy further successful tasks and realize more achievements for the cause of children across the globe, including Cambodia. I would also like to thank development partners and other development agencies for their financial and technical support in our effort to improve children’s welfare, in particular, SOS Children’s Villages Denmark and SOS Children’s Villages UK funded the construction of this SOS Hermann Gmeiner Battambang.

The inauguration of this SOS Hermann Gmeiner Battambang is held while Cambodia is preparing for the 31st Anniversary of the Victory Day of 7 January, a historical day marking the victory against the cruel Pol Pot regime, the day remembered by Cambodians as their second birth, the day of being rescued from Pol Pot genocide regime. Moreover, this day is the source of current peace, security and social order, a prerequisite to all opportunities as well as socio-economic development witnessed today. Even though 31 years have passed, we cannot erase the trace of this tragedy. What the Pol Pot regime did to Cambodian people were much worse than the Nazi Hitler did to women and children in Lidizair village of Czech and Orado of France.

Left behind by the Pol Pot regime is the death of husband or wife, loss of children and family separation. Children were forced to hard labor under burning sun and heavy rain, without adequate food, clothing, health care and education. The foundation of social, cultural and religious infrastructure was entirely destroyed by the regime. Although the regime was overthrown on 7 January 1979, the war extended by many years and Khmer Rouge took control of some parts of the countries even after the 1991 Paris Peace Accord and 1993 general election organized by the UN. Not until 1998, thanks to the “Win-Win” policy, we can proudly say Cambodia could steer clear of war and complete peace re-existed in the country. Through this we can see that war is the main cause behind vulnerabilities of children and long-term drawbacks in the society. Having gone through this unbearable history, the Royal Government is indeed moving in the right direction toward development and prosperity. In particular, the Royal Government has brought about peace and political stability, prerequisite to socio-economic development.

Along with that, the development of children in Cambodia has been clearly defined in the Rectangular Strategy of the Royal Government as: “children are future of the nation”. Therefore, the Royal Government will continue improving the implementation of the 4 basic rights of children according to the Convention of the United Nations on Children. Obviously, thousands of schools have been built nation-wide and being built and extended everywhere which ensures ever-developing foundation of national education sector. And the government has set the goal to have all students receive education at least for 9 years through implementation of education strategic plan “education for all” by centering on equitable access for all Cambodian children and youth in order to equip them basic knowledge which allow easy transition to technical and vocational education and training in case of not continuing to tertiary education. The mission that has been and being implemented at the present is to facilitate and shorten journey by students from home to school i.e. we are promoting construction of school closer to people’s dwellings. This is a way to reduce drop-out rate of rural students and to ensure full enrollment. Obviously, the Royal Government has been making utmost effort to build one junior high school at each commune and one senior high school at each district. For this purpose, the government has paid great attention and steadfastly keeps financing investment in this sector.

At the same time, the Royal Government always pays attention to health, welfare of people and child care through prevention and reduction of child diseases such as diarrhea, asthma, pale skin due to lack of iron, iodine, vitamin C, or nutrition, or due to HIV or AIDS…etc… Child health has experienced constant improvement and polio had been totally eliminated since 1998. Furthermore, the Royal Government has laid out concrete measures through 5-year national plan and gradually combated and eliminated trafficking of women and children, promoted enforcement of law and international regulations, cooperated closely with countries in the region and neighborhood in order to effectively prevent exploitation and violation to children in all forms.

Also, the Royal Government is also promoting provision of service to vulnerable children, children of poor family, and orphans. Apparently, about 11939 orphans are under care taken by the Ministry of Social Works, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation and NGOs. The government tried to solve problem of street children and a small number of families who habitually stay on street in Phnom Penh and public gathering places. Those families and children are vulnerable target and exposed to various kinds of dangers such health problem, drug usage, AIDS, prostitutions, misconduct activities and goal-free lives which destroy their future, human dignity and society.

In this spirit, the Royal Government is making further effort to strengthen and extend activities of the Cambodian National Council for Children (CNCC), to promote implementation of alternative childcare and expand child protection network at the communities. This task must be done in parallel to strengthening law enforcement, rehabilitation and vocational education in order to turn them into good citizens in the society in the future.

Duties that we must keep fulfilling in national development is to make investment in primary healthcare for children which is a key to poverty reduction and sustainable development for which we have to make utmost effort to help victimized families and children in order to allow and provide them chance to grow up in revamped social climate. Through this, on behalf of the Royal Government, I highly value SOS Children’s Villages International for having cooperated and been cooperating with Ministry of Social Works, Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation since 1999 and have made remarkable achievements such as SOS Children Village Phnon Penh Thmei, SOS Children’ s Village Angkor Siem Reap, SOS Hermann Gmeiner Kidergarten Angkor Siem Reap, SOS Children Village Battambang and SOS Hermann Gmeiner School Battambang that we are inaugurating today. Great humanitarian activities of this organization has reflected clearly effort of the management and all colleagues to take care orphans through “peace village” in conformity to essence of declaration for children of Mr. Hermann Gmeiner in February which puts it “The future of the nation is not determined by only technology and political development, but also starts from success of feeding people of forthcoming generations with human dignity all over the world”. First human dignity means that children have real dwelling, regular daily meal, full and adequate education. In SOS children villages, children who are orphans or cannot live under guardian of parents due to poverty or domestic violence or unfavorable environment for development in the family, have been provided permanent residence for living in comfortable and secure family environment. Those children will receive the right education in order to gain the extensive knowledge and appropriate professional training aiming to achieve the improving community based living. In this regard, the Royal Government strongly believes that SOS Children’s Villages Cambodia will help the orphans, parentless children and the children in the impoverished families to be able to attend school with harmonization and warmness from parents and teachers, who managed them for progress and development in the future. With this challenge, the Royal Government will continue closer cooperation with the SOS Children’ s Villages International in order to expand more networks of children villages and schools with the objective to enhance the development to serve the welfare of the children. In fact, I am the first Cambodian, who became a member of the SOS Children’s Villages International and I will continue actively supporting this humanitarian mission. Taking this opportunity, I would like to the request the Ministry of Social Works, Veterans, and Youth Rehabilitation, the Committee of the SOS Children’ s Villages Cambodia to continue good cooperation with the SOS Children’ s Villages International in order to enlarge the project of Children Villages and the Hermann Gmeiner school, especially continue implementing the project with SOS Children’ s Villages International in other provinces as well as implementing the policy and standard on substituting care of the children in order to enhance the welfare and the four basic rights of children aiming to contribute to the poverty reduction of our people according to the political platform and rectangular strategy of the Royal Government.

I would also like to appeal to the civil servants, teachers as well as all parents and staff working for SOS Children’s Villages Cambodia to pay utmost efforts to feed and nurture our Cambodian children by maintaining gentle personality, good morality, respect and follow the advice of the teachers, study hard, be highly educated, in order to become good children, good students, good friends and good citizens in the society. At the same time, the Company must strengthen and expand the capacity in all levels either in management or technical issues to the Cambodian employees in order to upgrade and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of service delivery.

Before ending, I would like to appeal to related ministries/institutions and local authorities to pave favorable conditions for the operation of SOS Children’s Villages Cambodia and the SOS Children’s Villages International even though they are now in operation or prepared to be in operation soon in the future to be in smooth process with the spirit of solidarity and good cooperation for the supreme interest of the children. Once again, I still strongly believe that the SOS Children’s Villages International can truly implement 4 more constructions, which are SOS Children Villages in Ratanakiri, Sihanoukville, Kratie and Prey Veng Provinces. During the occasion of the international New Year 2010, may I wish the SOS Children’s Villages International the continual progress in order to be able to pursue various activities in humanitarian acts and I wish the Chairman Mr. Helmut Kutin and the Delegation, good health and greater success of your glorious obligations.

At this end, with the official inauguration of the SOS Hermann Gmeiner school in Battambang now, I would like to wish venerable monks, excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, national and international distinguished guests, compatriots, teachers and students the four gems of Buddhist blessing: Longevity, Nobility, Health and Strength.

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