Selected Comments at the Inauguration of the Ek Sovan Buddhist temple and the Samdech Techo Hun Sen – Mongkul Junior Secondary School, Roboh Mongkul Commune, Mong Russei District, Battambang Province
Buddhist and Secular Developments
I am so happy to be able to join with all venerable Buddhist monks and Excellencies, Oknha and Lok Chumteav and our people to officially inaugurate the Buddhist temple of Ek Sovan or Wat Kon Ka Ek and the Samdech Techo Hun Sen – Mongkul Junior Secondary School in the commune of Roboh Mongkul, Mong Russei District, Battambang province. Thanks to efforts made in the last 32 years (1979) by head monks and the Buddhist parishioners, now we see that the temple has been built anew and reflected our people’s strong belief in Buddhism.
I am sure it is to everyone’s knowledge that destruction under the former regime of the genocide of Pol Pot for the period of three years, eight months and twenty days, was a similar fate shared by the whole nation. The regime inflicted destruction on all religions and faith - Buddhism, Islam and Christianity. As of January 7, 1979, Cambodia restored rights to beliefs and faiths. Since the country has a long history of Buddhist belief, Buddhism has then revived quickly, despite initially difficult condition.
I am so joyful that Buddhist parishioners of the Kon Ka Ek Buddhist pagoda have called for my contribution for the construction of two achievements – Buddhist and secular - that we are putting into official use today.
Actually and accidentally, I learned of a Katina (collection of offerings for the Buddhist monks the sake of development of Buddhism) organized by Mr. Ith Seddha, one of the CTN TV presenters for the pagoda of Ek Sovan here in Mong Russei district. I could recall that on November 1, 2009, I have instructed my staff to bring a contribution of 50 millions Riel in addition to the amount the Katina collected for the pagoda.
We first dealt with the need for a school building. After finding out that they have a small plot of land available for school construction, I agreed to build a two storey building of ten classrooms because the narrow space would not allow it to be twelve rooms according to my standard. I spent 126,720 USD for the school buildings, with gate and fence around.
Later we have this issue of Buddhist temple, which, as is reported by HE Prach Chan, Governor of the Battambang Province, was first built in 1843, the year that is corresponding to the time when Preah Baat Ang Duong commenced his struggle toward Phnom Penh and also may fall on the time when the Vang Jas (former Royal Palace) Buddhist pagoda was built. Because the requested temple for reconstruction was not original, I have decided to offer to build a new temple. The new temple cost 152,400 USD.
It is thanks to Ms Yim Sam Oeun, mother of TV presenter Ith Seddha, we have made the two projects possible. Though the head monk dare not make it known to me, it is to my knowledge that there is a need for a dining hall and two poles to fly Buddhist flags in front of the temple. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior HE Sar Kheng and Madame have already covered the cost of building the dining hall. The Minister of Justice, HE Ang Vong Vaddhana and the CPP team for Battambang province will get the poles constructed. The Khmeng Wat Construction Company of Oknha Mong Rithy will take up the construction of the fence.
May I suggest the Khmeng Wat Construction Company of Oknha Mong Rithy to change the wording that they had written ‘The Temple was offered by …’ to ‘The Temple Was Built by Samdech Techo Hun Sen and Lok Chumteav Bun Rany in Dedication to Buddhism …’ I hope this can be done now since the issue of wording has been discussed and decided on several occasions already.
I also would like to take this opportunity to inform that I have paid the balance for all projects to the Khmeng Wat Construction Company. They include everything. Let’s be clear that I have not allowed misuse of state property, wood for instance, for the construction of my schools at all. If that ever happened, it would not be under my knowledge and therefore is in the Company’s responsibility absolutely. I also instructed HE Chan Sarun, Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries on this matter too.
Having made these contributions, I would like to dedicate merits generated from these actions in memory of my mother who died thirteen years ago. In fact, according to traditional belief, my late mother has taken a reincarnation as my grand- daughter, who is now 11 years old.
Lately, there have been great developments and changes in the province of Battambang. As is recalled by HE Ke Kim Yan, Deputy Prime Minister (ex-Commander-in-Chief), Ieng Phan (formerly of the Khmer Rouge forces) then fought endlessly and relentlessly. In early 1995, after the inauguration of the Svay Don Keo Bridge under the presidency of Preah Karuna Preah Baat Samdech Sihanouk, the King Father, on their way back to Phnom Penh, one of our armored vehicles was ambushed. This is to remind all of us that this place used to be one of the most insecure until the 1996’s integration of Malai, Samlot, etc.
It is with this peace and stability that we have been able to build and maintain bridges. As you can see now we have electric poles mounting along the road from Phnom Penh via Pursath to Battambang province. Soon, electricity will be wired and run from (hydropower plant) in Koh Kong via Pursath province to Battambang.
As is reported by the Governor HE Prach Chan, Battambang harvested some 785,000 of paddy with a surplus of 85,000 tons compared to the previous year. Of which, about 44,000 tons have been exported. The province also harvested over one million tons of cassava and about half a million tons of corn. Though Battambang province has been divided into two, to establish Banteay Meanjei province, it is still a big province with so much potential. Also, the district of Mong Russei, though will be divided into two to create a new district of Rukkha Kiri, will continue to have potential with the 76 km of asphalted road between Mong Russei and Rukkha Kiri and also four other roads within the district iteself.
I am sure you are expecting to hear something about the development in relation to the Cambodian-Thai border issue. There have been clarifications and interpretations for the public by the spokespersons of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of National Defense already, however, I would like to add and clarify some latest developments to the issue.
We have received a letter from the ASEAN chairperson, Foreign Minister of Indonesia, to the foreign minister of Cambodia, HE Hor Nam Hong and to foreign minister of Thailand, Kasit Phiromya. The letter also has been copied and sent to all foreign ministers of ASEAN. This is a second letter that was sent to and copied to similar addressees. I would not need to clarify this issue of bilateral or multilateral (mechanism) anymore as you now can see, judging from the letters, there would not be any meeting only between the two sides anymore. It is up to them to say if it is bilateral or multilateral, but the setup now is that whatever discussed would be in the knowledge of a third party (and ASEAN members).
I do not need to read the letter for you but roughly speaking in his letter, the foreign minister (of Indonesia) thanks the two governments for their supports of the draft of the terms of reference (TOR) for Indonesian observers, and has attached some changes to the conditions of TOR. Indonesia asked Cambodia and Thailand to consider positively and urgently a new TOR. The new draft actually has included no locations for deployment though in fact he (Indonesian foreign minister) has received observers’ proposed locations in areas where Cambodia suffered impacts. He said that ‘I hope to receive the proposed locations for observers from the Kingdom of Thailand.’
In another instance, the Indonesian foreign minister reassures his readiness to host and provide facilities for meetings of the General Border Committee (GBC) and Joint Border Committee (JBC) on March 24 and 25, 2011. “As I have received an endorsement from the Kingdom of Cambodia, I am anticipating positive response from the Kingdom of Thailand.” As you can see now that while Cambodia agrees to the meetings, Thailand has yet to respond to the plan.
I therefore urge the Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vijjajiva to respond the soonest possible to the Indonesia’s proposed meetings (in late May) and the terms of reference for the Indonesian observers, rather than to remind me to reciprocate. The Indonesian foreign minister also indicates in his letter a sense of urgency since it has been almost a month after the informal meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers in Jakarta on February 22. I treated this as a reminder and urge from the ASEAN Chairperson. As I instructed, HE Hor Nam Hong already responded less than 24 hours expressing our agreement to those requested changes.
Changes are in positive terms though since ‘… the implementation of the TOR will not affect the territory, security or public important interests, and results of negotiations on the border demarcation between Cambodia and Thailand…’ This paragraph (has indeed been written to) respond to concerns of Thai side as there have been conflicting signals between those approving and disapproving from the Thai parties, as some would want it to go open and some would want it to go undisclosed. For me this is a paragraph that provides feasible way for Thailand.
As for the point concerning the Indonesian observers and locations, I would assure that the locations proposed are not in areas that require demarcation because their mission is to observe the ceasefire. I think Thailand should not be concerned about this. Cambodia already made it clear in its letter dated February 27, 2011. As for locations for observation on the Thai side, the letter has underlined that the government of the Kingdom of Thailand has not yet provided its proposal. Again, as you can see, the Thai has not responded too.
Having said and explained all these, let them – the United Nations Security Council, ASEAN and international community – see who have actually done its part for detente by way of having an ASEAN mechanism in place aimed at averting renewed armed clashes from both sides.
Concerning the Cambodian proposed term of twelve month for the Indonesian observer teams, the Indonesian proposed in his letter to reduce the state timeframe from 12 to nine months to suit with the remaining time of ASEAN chairmanship of Indonesia. As after nine months Cambodia will take over ASEAN chairmanship from Indonesia, I think Indonesia has respected its role and duty. I have said earlier already that Cambodia would like Indonesia to carry on beyond but of course this issue requires continuing discussion.
You may see too that Thailand keeps rescheduling its parliamentary ratifications on the three minutes of the two foreign ministers’ meetings, now to mid-March. As I hope that the GBC and JBC meetings will be taking place, ratifications could also have given to the three minutes of the (Thai-Cambodian) foreign ministers’ meetings. I even told HE Hor Nam Hong that in case of urgency (the two sides) should not wait till February 24 and 25. They should go right away to Jakarta. If they reach any agreements, in alphabetical order, since we need to have signatures of foreign ministers of three countries, Cambodia would be on top, then Indonesia followed by Thailand.