Monday, February 28, 2011

Selected Comments at the Graduation and Diploma Conferment of the Norton University

NIE, 07 February 2011

Diploma Conferment for 1,379 Graduates

Once again and it is now my fifth time to preside over the graduation of the Norton University and to confer diplomas for graduates since 1997. It is a great pleasure today that I am here to confer diplomas for 1,379 graduates of both bachelors and masters. I would like to take this opportune moment to express my sincere thanks and appreciation for the University’s effort in overcoming difficulties to achieve development this far. I thank the management and professors of the University for transferring knowledge and knowhow for students. The University has been active too, according to my knowledge, in providing scholarships for poor but capable students.

Job Attainment – 80% to 90%, Quality of Education - Strengthened

Aside from student’s own effort in studying, I also appreciate efforts – both personal and family – for paying school fees. Achievements that all of you have scored today are indeed prides for you and your families. I also share this joy with all of you. Furthermore, as is stated by Mr. Chan Sok Khieng, Rector, the rate of employment that graduates from Norton University have attained so far between 80% and 90+% is quite encouraging. This has called for quality in education indeed.

Among other things, I have urged various institutions involved to focus on consolidating and achieving a high quality in education so as to cater to demand for skills and knowledge in the job market. Without skills and knowledge, our young people could not in any way find a job or a better job to do. It is in this belief that I continue to appeal to all tertiary education institutions to make more efforts to strengthen quality in education, which from this University alone, we will have some 20,000 graduates in the future.

Quality in education has been a demand of our time of integration. Cambodia is in its fast moving process of integration in which human resource need is urgent. Let me share with you one example of human resource achievement (that Cambodia has made and been) praised the United Nations. We have sent our troops to Sudan, Chad, Central African Republic, and Lebanon. They have been the country’s pride because the United Nations have given us a high evaluation. This is what Cambodian military human resources have been achieved. We are also looking for chance that you all could also find jobs in world, regional and subregional institutions too.

A Tiny Motor To Be Made in Cambodia

I have the feeling and belief that investors would not want to hire expertise from abroad for their investments in Cambodia, except when they could not find one in Cambodia. I met with a Japanese company’s representative who came to Cambodia seeking an investment opportunity in Cambodia of some 57 million USD to manufacture various kinds of motor in Phnom Penh’s special economic zone.
After his exposure of the project, I told him I mistook his project to manufacturing water pump motor.

It is in fact a project for manufacturing all kinds of motor for use in airplane, watches, mobile phone, etc. The project presented by the company will manufacture a sort of motor (that is tiny enough to fit in a small camera) that goes through human organs for making photographic images from inside. The company’s representative assured me this product will be manufactured in 2013 or 2014 and uniquely made in Cambodia.

Weeks ago, I presided over two hydroelectric projects, which cost us over one billion USD, which will be producing 600 MW of electricity for our country’s need. The projects are technically sophisticated as dam of over a hundred meters has to be built and a drill of 6 and 7 and over 10 km though mountains have to be made to gain high water power to turn the turbine. You must agree with me now that there needs to be highly skilled human resources in order to do the job.

Market Need Oriented Human Resource Development

I have said on several occasions with the Accreditation Committee of Cambodia (ACC) to work out a plan for orienting our training and education in response to market needs. Back in 1997, if I could recall, I said that Cambodia was in need of road construction. Then, it would not be our call to work out a plan for training (our human resources) in drilling mountain to make way for water to run turbine (as I mentioned earlier). But now it is time for that.

We are also looking forward to training human resources in nuclear energy as well. The University of Battambang has indeed developed a curriculum to include also nuclear engineering and assistance will be provided from Korea on this subject. Faced with growing demand for electricity, we have to be prepared, in spite of so much hydroelectricity we have been investing in, for development of electric generation run by nuclear power. Of course this has to be carefully planned and implemented as this sort of energy development requires vigilance for its unpredictability (explosive nature). You may be recalled about the Chernobyl case in the former Soviet Union.

Though we will move on this with attention and vigilance, it is a must that we need to start local training curriculum and also send our students for further education in experienced countries like Japan and France. We need to have our human resources trained and ready for that matter.

Effect of Climate Change, Coping Mechanism Needed

We also need to adapt to climate change condition. As I went back to Sihanoukville province, which is one of Cambodia’s sea bordering province) again after some 13 months, I seemed to notice the increase of level of sea water. It seems to me that the coast where tourists enjoy their baths has shrunk smaller as temperature has gone high.

In a climate development that the soil temperature has increased, for example from 36 to 40 degree Celsius, what should we do to sustain our food production? We could not do it otherwise but to adapt to the condition. This would mean that new seeds would have to be developed for new climate condition. Look, the United States of America, the world richest and most technically advanced countries in the world, also cannot save themselves from hurricane.

Every country in the world needs to develop its own mechanism to prepare itself in coping with new climate condition. For example, for countries where seismic activity is a part of their life, invention has to be conducted for new knowledge and techniques so that buildings can be constructed to adapt to the earth unpredictable movement. Many countries have done that and their experience could be great example.

Border Fight Development

I am sure you all are anticipating for news about conflict development at the border with Thailand. As I entered this meeting hall, a fight has broken out at Phnom Trop (adjacent to the Preah Vihear temple, the world heritage site, Preah Vihear province) as Thai (soldiers) crossed into our line (in order) to retrieve their fallen ones. They then fired 105 mm shells into our territory and we could not give the number as there too many. That is the fourth fight in a row.

It has been said so much in the last few days by Prime Minister of Thailand and other Thai leaders that Cambodia was the one that initiated the fight. Literally they said Cambodia opened fire first. In fact, it is contradicting to the international norm already that Thai PM demands Cambodia, a sovereign nation, to remove flag from its Buddhist shrine. The pagoda was built back in 1998, even prior to the signing of memorandum of understanding in 2000.

On account of how the fight started, Thai troops moved in and bulldozed (to build) a road (from their side) to the Keo Sekha Kirisvarak pagoda. The Sambok Khmum zone (bee zone), through which the action of bulldozing took place, has been agreed by both sides to be a no-travel place by either. How come Thai troops moved their machineries to clear the way (for their bosses) to come pay respect for the monks? They also have many pagodas on their side, why do they need to come to our pagoda? We warned them not to infiltrate again. Not only did they not pay heed to our warning, their return came with firing on us. We could not withhold our self-defense rights.

That is why who started the fight first is clearly easy to understand. If Thai troops did not move into the prohibited zone, fighting would not erupt. Should they take our warnings and not fire on us, there would not be a problem to solve. We initially thought there were only two pieces of machineries, but when fighting stopped, there were three of them. I told my field commander Gen. Srey Doeuk to let them take those machineries out.

Nature of Conflict

Who initiated the fight is one thing but we must look into the nature of conflict which brought about this fight. Then it is understandable who initiated it. Without the understanding of the nature of conflict, it is impossible to see who would be responsible as Thailand or Cambodia would not accept to be the one who caused the fight.

What remains to be the core of the conflict is when the Thais claim this so-called 4.6 square Kilometer land and their invasion of Cambodia in the Keo Sekha Kirisvarak Buddhist pagoda of Cambodia on July 15, 2008. Under troop readjustment negotiation, the invading soldiers have moved out at 10:30 pm on December 01, 2010.

While they were in Cambodia, Thai troops carved on two different stones “here is the land that belongs to Thailand.” As the troops have been readjusted, our army requested to me to mount a table with words on it “Here is the land that belongs to Cambodia. Thais invaded on July 15, 2008. They moved out at 10:30 pm on December 1, 2010.” In response to request by the Thai Defense Minister, HE Prawit Wongsuwan, to rephrase the words, I have instructed my people to just write “Here is the Cambodian land.”

The situation was tense and I called for negotiation between the Thai military region 2 and the Cambodian side to resolve this spat. They got rid of the letter written (by Thai soldiers) on the rocks and removed (the Cambodian) tablet as well. That was what happened in the morning of January 27. In the afternoon of the same day, Prime Minister Abhisit Vijjajiva of Thailand said to the press that (Cambodian) flag (at the Keo Sekha Kirisvarak) must be taken off. He also went this far to warn of “military option” as last resort. In fact, PM Abhisit threatened on several occasions, since when he was leader of opposition party, that he is committed to resolve the matter by both diplomatic and military means.

Demanding flag removal from the (Cambodian Buddhist) pagoda is tantamount to declaring war with Cambodia already. Removing the flag as they demanded, for us Cambodian, is like stripping away the Cambodian soul too. No one Cambodian would dare do that as this would prove the person, Prime Minister or simple citizen, is not a Cambodian.

PM Abhisit Sharing Border and Temple Stand with PAD

Along with move by the PAD (Thai yellow-shirt People’s Alliance for Democracy) to set up fund to take Preah Vihear temple back, on February 6, 2011, The Nation quoted Abhisit as saying “he wondered why the PAD would intensify the protests to force him out of office when he shares the same stand with the PAD regarding to the border disputes.” What do the two trends mean? It is seen and understood that Thai Prime Minister shares his stand in taking back Preah Vihear temple (from Cambodia).

Adding to this Abhisit also said that his Government was the first (Thai) Government that was opposed to Cambodia’s unilateral registration of Preah Vihear as a world heritage site. By this, did he mean that Preah Vihear belongs to his country so that he opposed the unilateral registration of Preah Vihear by Cambodia?

On another note, Abhisit opposes use or application of 1/200,000 map that Cambodia has based (its claim) in border demarcation. Despite all that, on Sunday, February 7 Abhisit insisted that Thailand has not lost its territory to Cambodia (as alleged by the PAD). PM Abhisit may need to explain here if Thailand has not lost land why he demanded for (other country’s) territory by trying to prevent registration of Preah Vihear as a world heritage site. This is the point to analyze and to ask if Abhisit understand it or not.

Why Military Exercise Near Preah Vihear?

As you now can account for the development of the situation as a result of problem created by the Thai side from one to another. We have no other choice but to move in and get ready. Look, there is this Cobra Gold 2011 military exercise (a part of which is) taking place close to the border with Cambodia in the Preah Vihear temple area. There is so much space in Thailand, why else they chose to launch the exercise in the area?

Cambodia launched live ammo military exercise too but we decided to do it far away from sensitive area as it might cause misunderstanding. This military exercise on the scene is seen to be one that is preparing for attack and capturing the so-called 4.6 area.

Thai Fought to Occupy 4.6 sq. km – Correct Assessment

As you all are aware now how the fight erupted, I must draw your attention on the fact that our assessment of the situation (that the Thai troops will move on us) has proven to be justifiable. (We have understood now that) it was not a simple clash but a fight planned by Thai side with real intention to occupy the so-called 4.5 square Kilometer area by starting their intrusions from the points of Jak Jreng, Ta Sim, Viel Intri and Phnom Trop, etc.

Our evaluation of the fight has concluded that it was a small war or a large scale clash along the Thai-Cambodian border. All fronts pointed to the 4.6 area. Thai troops used whatever they have ranging from 130 mm to 155 mm. They even scorned us to have no modern weapons as they do and use only outdated ones. Chamlong Srimuang, one of PAD leaders, said as soon as Thailand move in its troops, the Cambodian army would be terrified as they have only outdated weapons to depend on. He even threatened Cambodian with Thai air force. I think he’s better save that as it would give more weight to Cambodian case at the United Nations. I just assure him that Cambodians are not war mongers but used to make war for self-defense.

Thai Defense Minister’s Role in Ending the Fight

As I was sitting with HE DPM Tia Banh, Minister for National Defense, there was a call (from HE Prawit Wongsuwan, Thai Defense Minister) to seek for a ceasefire. Because my English is not that better than his, I passed the phone to HE Tia Banh, who knows Thai, to communicate with him. I stick to a principle that if Thai troops agree to stop firing, Cambodia will reciprocate in kind and ten minutes’ time after the discussion has been set. By my watch, it all stopped after seven minutes. See, if there is a will for ending the clash, like what HE Prawit Wongsuwan did with me and HE Tia Banh, there is always a way.

On this account HE Prawit Wongsuwan, Thai Defense Minister, and myself, together with HE Tia Banh, Cambodian Defense Minister, have played critical role in ending the fight. We have agreed since on the night of February 4 and soldiers from both sides should stay where their positions are, which means there should not be troop movements, waiting for resolutions from either the Joint Border Committee (JBC) or International Court of Justice. In fact, Thai military region leaders do not have the authority to give agreement to the two issues but a ceasefire is what they can do.

A Prisoner of War – Released by Cambodia

You know that Thailand and Cambodia agree to have five soldiers from each side at the place. As fighting erupted, one among five escaped and the remaining four have been saved by our soldiers at the moment that the Thai troops opened fire on Cambodia. The Thai troops fired on their own troops who are with the Cambodian soldiers. Have not they thought of their soldiers who were among ours?

Both sides claimed so and so number of deaths and casualties. That is war. Bullets, modern or outdated ones would not distinguish who from whom. They opened heavy artillery again on us in the morning of February 5 and 6. On the morning of February 6, we arrested one Thai soldier. He is Pvt Songkran Thongchompoo, born on April 3, 1989, enrolled in the Thai army on November 1, 2009, from the section II, infantry company 16, seconded to military region II and was arrested while creeping in Cambodian territory to gather military intelligence.

In fact I have agreed to release him since yesterday 9 o’clock in the morning but when Defense Minister Tia Banh told them Cambodia arrested one Thai soldier, there was denial from the commander of regiment 23 of Thailand that no one from Thai side has been arrested. I then asked my commander to send him to Phnom Penh. Pvt Songkran Thongchompoo wrote letter by his hand in Thai asking Samdech Techo Hun Sen to intervene for his release and he would owe unforgettable gratitude for this gesture. This is one more testimony that Thailand has invaded Cambodia. He was not arrested on Thai territory but on the Cambodian soil. If Thailand maintains that he was arrested on Thai soil, they may give Cambodian soldiers too much credibility.

We have taken good care of the prisoner, and applied the convention and rules of prisoner of war for enemy combatants. His release will be made with agreement from both sides and in the presence of the ICRC (International Committee of Red Cross). Thais may realize the Cambodian nature. Illegal migrants from Thailand to Cambodia are never handcuffed, but you Thais cuffed my people in hands and feet. Cambodians are poor but we are kindhearted. If they continue to deny his identity, we may have to keep him in Cambodia and if the he likes to be a Cambodian we may consider provide him with one.

Thai Shelling World’s Heritage Preah Vihear Temple

The temple of Preah Vihear was registered as one of the world heritage sites on July 7, 2008. What has left to be accomplished is development of management plan that Cambodia has been working on in close cooperation with UNESCO. Though it has not been adopted in the Brazil’s meeting, the fact that Cambodia moved its people out of the K1 village was not in any way a response to demand from Thailand but from the World Heritage Committee. Shelling on the world heritage site, didn’t Thai or PM Abhisit admit, is tantamount to shelling on the world (property). How he could explain or deny that since PM Abhisit has been quoted by the press to acknowledge he is sharing the stand with PAD in demanding a return of the Preah Vihear temple.

SMS between Gen. Hun Manet and Thai General

Maybe it is worth recalling some of the messages that General Hun Manet has been in contact with Thai military generals so that we all could account the whole event together. At 8:33 pm, there was a message from General Nipat Thonglek, former Director of the Border Affairs Department, Royal Thai Armed Forces, to Gen. Hun Manet, which reads “Gen. Hun Manet, I have tried to contact you to discuss issue at the border, please pick up your phone or call me, from Gen. Nipat (sic).” At 8:37 pm a call came to Gen. Hun Manet seeking for a truce. Gen Hun Manet relayed the message to me. I told him to reply if Thai troops stop the fighting, Cambodian will too. General Nipat seemed to have said let’s wait about twenty minutes. Till then, from now at 8:40 pm, it will be till 9 pm for a truce to take place.

I asked Gen. Manet to probe why twenty more minutes. Let’s end it now. General Nipat said, now then, I will contact my people. At 8:55 pm Gen. Hun Manet confirmed ceasefire from Cambodian side but Thai side continued. General Nipat said he did not know, let him check. At 9: 03 pm Manet checked again why the Thais did not stop or else Cambodia will respond. Again they agreed to stop altogether within five minutes. Gen. Hun Manet agreed. At 9:17 pm there was a report of movement of Thai tanks. I told Manet to call the Thai General not to move their tanks or fighting would be inevitable at the point of Ta Thao … It was M113.

As far as SMS we keep track is at 10:17 pm General Nipat wrote: “Thank Gen Hun Manet for your cooperation. Border situation is now calm. Gen Sowatchai Samutsakorn sends you his thanks too. We promised to talk when there is a problem so as to avoid accidental risk in the future. Gen. Sowatchai proposed for a friendly meeting. Just tell us when and where. Once again thanks for your cooperation. At 11:15 pm another SMS came and read: “Yes, Thai side apologizes for three more mistakenly shelling. Gen Sowatchai sends his regret and please accept our apology.” Our troops confirmed the last three shells. Look, they always mistakenly shelled on to Cambodian side, not to Thai side.

Going through this account, has there anywhere a point that clarifies that Cambodia started firing on the Thais? This has affirmed that there was no point that Cambodia opened fire on Thai first. According to the messages Cambodia expressed its will to ceasefire and did stop firing first.

Situation Aggravates, UN Buffer Zone a Choice, ASEAN Intervention or ICJ Welcome

The situation now has got worse. Bilateral mechanism could solve provisionally and only certain aspect and/or size of the whole problem. It is now coming to a stage that we need to seek urgent intervention from the UN Security Council as the two sides could no longer hear each other out. When their seniors in command said to stop the fighting, those lower in command seemed to have paid no heed to it. On the Cambodian side we have only one line of communication. Take for instance when the Thai PM Abhisit talked about removing the Cambodian flag and tablet, there was one other person who said “Cambodian authorities had showed they were willing to cooperate by removing the insulting stone tablet. What else does [Mr Abhisit] want from them?” and some even said “Cambodia is not a 'child' that we can order to do whatever we want.”

In light of this, the only possible means is for the UN Security Council to convene a meeting to consider urgent intervention or measures that would prevent escalation of the conflict that can be a threat to peace and security in the region, while ASEAN value would also be in question. Cambodia is ready to send its DPM and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, HE Hor Namhong to the Security Council. They could at least consider a buffer zone where some UN forces to station there. This zone would eventually put the two forces away from each other so that clashes between them would be prevented.

Today the Foreign Minister of Indonesia, rotating chairman of ASEAN, will arrive in Cambodia. We welcome urgent intervention of ASEAN and of rotating chairman of ASEAN. On the contrary, PM Abhisit has made it adamant that the matter can be pursued bilaterally and there should not be a third party at all. Why worry of the third party? Whether it is the United Nations or other organization, there is nothing to be afraid of. We have come to this point of no return in bilateral confidence as you agree with me at night and break your agreement the morning after.

Now, in absence of trust, Cambodia needs an international mechanism to control the situation, together with patience from and relations between both sides. It would be even better if some kind of international mechanism is to be placed within the framework of the Thai-Cambodian border, especially the Preah Vihear area.

PAD’s Claiming Preah Vihear Fund, Don’t Make New-Era Hitler Out of Oneself?

Let me call on PM Abhisit to give his understanding of the so-called Claiming Preah Vihear Fund that is being orchestrated by a group of people in Thailand. Extremist democracy in your country has insulted Cambodia. Would you allow that to go on? Cambodia does not need Thai land. We would not want even if you give us. But we will not allow any piece of our land to be lost. You happened to agree that Preah Vihear temple belongs to Cambodia, but now your fellow countrymen under the leadership of Sondhi Limthongkul, head of the yellow-shirt movement, seems to have taken you to a different track.

While you have confirmed that you have shared the same stand with the PAD regarding the border disputes, as I quoted the source earlier, what could we draw from that? Would you also demand Preah Vihear temple (from Cambodia)? In that case, we have to go to the Security Council of the United Nations, and then to International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, or any other international mechanism to sort things out or else this would not be resolved. When you affirmed your position not to have third party involvement, are you thinking of benefiting from the fact that you are bigger country and more powerful than Cambodia that threat can be exerted on anytime you may like to?

I have discussed with HE Hor Namhong, and he also brought this matter up with HE Kasit Phiromya, Thai Foreign Minister, about the fact that there would not be a common ground for resolving the issue as (Cambodia) is fully observing the maps on which the International Court of Justice in The Hague awarded, by nine votes to three, the temple of Preah Vihear to Cambodia, as it is situated in territory under the sovereignty of Cambodia. However, Thailand unilaterally drew another map and sometimes they even said blindly that the court only awarded the temple while the land has not yet been decided.

By seven votes to five, the Court found that Thailand was under an obligation to restore to Cambodia any sculptures, stelae, fragments of monuments, sandstone models and ancient potteries which might, since the date of the occupation of the Temple by Thailand in 1954, have been removed from the Temple or the Temple area by the Thai authorities. However, what has been stipulated in the above case so clearly that Thais cannot deny it. Not only did Thailand recognize the map but also ask for copies too. I should warn them not to make a new-era Adolf Hitler out of themselves.

Bilateral Cooperation Should Continue

Once again Cambodia will continue to cooperate with Thailand on all fields while trying its best to contain conflict from growing into other fields. We will contain the conflict on about ten kilometers at the border from growing to be one for the whole 800 kilometers. We should not extend military, political and diplomatic conflict into that of trade, tourism, economics and cultural cooperation.
Those who would like to come over to Cambodia to launch an exhibition, they may do so. In Cambodia, we do not have a movement to insult Abhisit and other Thai leaders as you do in Bangkok to threaten Hun Sen with his head being cut and his blood being washing their feet. Despite all this, we want all cooperation to proceed, while extremist movement should be prevented. In Cambodia we take extra measures to prevent Thai embassy, investor as well as prisoner. So it is my conviction that border trade wherever possible will continue and conflict will be contained from expanding to other areas.

Thank the Cambodian Soldiers; An Appeal to Thai People, Army and Government

Taking this opportune moment, I would like to express my sincere thanks and appreciation for our heroic soldiers of all armed forces of Cambodia who are on mission at the border with Thailand. Your heroism is backed up by our people at the rear. You all are not alone. People in the whole country are behind you in the national defense activity. Our people are confident that our soldiers of all ranks as well as national police force and the military police force are quite capable of defending our nation.
Also I would like to take this occasion to express and share my condolences with two of our soldiers and one civilian who were killed in action. The CTN and Bayon TVs have started its fund raising campaign for Thai-Cambodian border security and development. I am sure our people will share what they have with our soldiers at the front.

I would like to place an appeal to the people, Government and Army of Thailand to think of one true fact that Cambodia and Thailand will have to live as neighbors with each other. Being next to each other is like teeth and tongue. In their conflict, one cannot be dislocated from the other. I am sure you understand that this conflict happened because of certain leaders and extremist circles in your country. Again, PM Abhisit should think through and define the meaning of demanding the return of the Preah Vihear temple. Is not it a cause of invasion?

Looking for Win-Win Solution

If Thai continues (with this behavior), the two countries will not be finding peace but disaster. No one would win in a war. All will lose. While bilateral efforts could not yield, it is imperative that the UNSC should do their bit for the sake of preventing conflict and seeking further solution for younger generation of our two countries. International Court of Justice will be our last resort to resolve the matter. It has proven even more so now since both sides disagree on which maps to be referred to in finding bilateral solution.

Denial of old maps from around 100 years by ancestors would lead to going to international court of justice so that our younger generations will not have to fight each other anymore. We regret losses that are incurred on both sides, Thailand and Cambodia. Displaced person is a common situation on both sides too. Well that is one of the consequence of war. Making war is not a good choice.

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