It is a great pleasure indeed that I have a chance to join with the Royal University of Laws and Economics (RULES) to celebrate the graduation and diploma presentation ceremony for 1,315 students. I have presided over such event eleven times already for RULES since 1996. And this is the first time that the ceremony is being conducted in a new building. It has also reminded of my lecture here in the 1980s as is recalled by HE Yuok Ngoi, the Rector, in his report.
I am so glad that RULES has fully developed as a university in latest efforts. It should be proud that RULES has achieved self-financing from educational service, by which new infrastructures and buildings have been initiated and progressed in firm steps. I think that this could be a good model and example for other schools and universities to follow.
I am so glad that we have made tremendous progress in field of education as is sounded out by the report of HE Im Setthi, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports, and echoed by that of HE Yuok Ngoi. So far some 11,049 students have graduated from RULES and some 17,775 are in pursuit of their studies. It is our pride that we have foreign students coming and studying in our tertiary institutions such as the Royal University of Phnom Penh, the Royal Academy of Cambodia and RULES, and perhaps others too.
I wish to take this opportune moment to express my sincere thanks and appreciations for efforts made and patience uphold by rectors, professors, managerial staff in the course of providing knowledge and knowhow for our younger generation. I also take this moment to give my appreciation and share my joy with our graduates today that they have become new human resources for our country. I would like to thank also families and parents of graduates for taking all hardships in their income making efforts so as to support and finance their studies.
So far there have been so many requests for tax exemption from both schools that are run by locals and foreigners. When I am talking about this, I also mean diplomats who used to ask for personal-tax exemption. As they have come from afar to tell us about the need to get stringent with tax, they in fact should be aware that paying tax on personal income is an obligation.
In this instance I urge other training institutions, local and from abroad, that are present in Cambodia to take the law on personal income tax seriously. A favor granted to one institution would indulge a favor for another. Let’s all heed the obligation.
Among the graduates, it is worth noting that only 232 students have been on scholarships (provided by the state), whereas 982 of them were fee-paying students. This once again proves that our policy to allow public institutions to provide training opportunity for fee-paying students as private education institutions has offered chance for education for so many people.
It is in this trend that from day to day, more and more human resources have increased and this is a starkly different situation compared to some 32 years ago when Cambodia was starting from scratch. Despite the progress, we still have to take up the challenge of continuing to prioritize human resource development, especially through education, by building more schools and providing more teachers at the local level. I would have your attention here that as far as need for teachers is concerned, in time that staff recruitment is forbidden across the board, the Royal Government has allowed two ministries to go on recruiting staff – Education and Health. So every year we have allowed recruitment of some 5,000 teachers in replacement of retired ones.
As Cambodia is anticipating the coming Year of Rabbit (in April), I hope that we all are making efforts to fulfill our tasks and missions so as to get ready for the New Year. I would urge our people to accomplish whatever they wish in their daily-life aims and refrain from committing offenses. Since we have here today presence of Mayor of the city and Head of Khan/districts, I would urge them to take counter measures against drug use. Let me remind heads of all police offices at the Sangkat/commune level that it is their duties to see that these matters be addressed.
Let me warn you that if you do not fulfill duty, senior level law enforcement mechanism will see to that. I would urge also that efforts and measures taken in this campaign must be straightforward and objective. We should try to root them out and jail them if need be. I would have your attention that crimes and offenses are always the case when the authority is engaged entirely in urgent affairs.
Take for instance logging, while in 2000 we were so busy engaging with rescuing our people from flood, had gone wild and out of control. As of the present time that the Royal Government is devoting its efforts and synergy in defending the country from foreign aggression, these crooks would deem it their best chance and time to conduct their harmful business to our country and society such as drug trafficking and logging. Let me warn authority about taking bribe from these crooks.
Talking about this I also warn officers who may take bribes by all means, take for example this case of fabricating or forging evidence so as to sway the verdict in court. This has been the case and we have taken stern measures so far that two or even three star generals have been arrested. It is because of fabrication of evidence that cases which deserve long-term imprisonment had in the past been either misjudged and delivered with a much shorter time of imprisonment or even suspended. Criminals benefitting from this had then gone wild and created worse case for society.
They could not be stronger or above the law when we all are enforcing the law and act in our duty. However, I would urge that actions should be taken within the legal limit and not to take it to the extreme as we are not following Pol Pot’s example of eradication or execution. As I said earlier, I would not forgive or argue it when officials of the Royal Government, police and military police, are found tainted with a case where ‘smaller fish fed bigger ones’ (lower in rank officials sharing bribes with higher rank officials).
I also would like to urge our people to control speed limit while driving as I have noticed numerous cases of severe road accidents. The one on the national road 4 the other day had taken lives of some twenty people, and wounded so many others. I am calling all of our people to limit their driving speed to within and below 80 km/h. I hope that from now to the Khmer New Year and on accidents as such would not happen.
Last Friday, our people may have known it already that in Japan there as a horrific natural hit on Japan – earthquake and tsunami. According to the press, there have been over one thousand deaths and over ten thousands are unaccounted for. The holocaust also caused indescribable damage to property while putting Japan’s (Fukushima Daichi) electric plant run by nuclear power in a state of imminent threat. This natural hit is far bigger than the one Japan suffered 140 years ago. We are concerned that this will bear a huge spell on Japanese economy and hence more in the region and the world even would share the brunt.
On behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia and the people of Cambodia, I have sent a letter to Prime Minister Naoto Kan to share our sympathy and pity with our Japanese friends and contributed a sum of one hundred thousand USD for the people of Japan. This amount of contribution is very small but it is the Cambodian people’s heartfelt feeling for the difficulties that the people of Japan are in. Together with the people of Cambodia, I would like to share with the people and Government of Japan our deepest condolence for the deaths and concern over the destruction.
As for Cambodian students studying in Japan, according to preliminary information so far, it seems that no one is reported struck in the incident. I have asked the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports to keep contact with the Cambodian embassy in Japan to keep an eye on this situation though. In case of any sad development, the information should be relayed to us the soonest possible so as to take appropriate and timely action.
However, on another instance, Cambodian students in Egypt, because of the incident out there, we have asked Malaysia to help flown them out. Some have chosen to stay on and as the situation returns to calmness they continue their studies. We also have evacuated all of our students from Libya with the help from Vietnam. They all are back in Cambodia now. Since we have students in so many countries, it would be wise concerned authorities are keeping their eyes on developing and evolving situation so that appropriate and timely measures could be taken.
Just now HE Yuok Ngoi mentioned about sending our students to an international contest. It is a good thing that now Cambodia is making its presence in international arena where some over one hundred countries have joined. Cambodia lost its identity and prestige in the world arena under Pol Pot’s time. After January 7 victory, there was a period of time that Cambodia was never fully affiliated to any specific forum or organization. Cambodian political factions had competed for seats at the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement, etc., where Pol Pot, who committed crimes against Cambodians and humanity, was recognized, and so were for the seats in the International Olympic Committee and the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).
Cambodians Unite, Foreigners Come By
As of now, all seats are represented by Cambodian people’s representatives. This has brought me to a synthesis that as soon as Cambodians fight each other, foreigners would take side and further aggravate conflict and when Cambodians unite, foreigners would come by in favor of our unity. Take a serious case as an example, the Thai-Cambodian conflict at the border of Preah Vihear temple. The fact that this matter has been forwarded and heeded with response by the United Nations Security Council is not a simple development.
Firstly, only one out of five permanent members of the UNSC vetoes the request, the UNSC’s meeting on the said conflict would not happen. Secondly, in similar instance, there would not be a communiqué too. One political party’s head in Cambodia has echoed that he had recommended long ago that this matter should be brought to the UNSC’s attention. I would respond that the person should learn more about the way things work in the UN and the UNSC, especially if the person wishes to make him/herself future Prime Minister.
To get the issue to the attention of the UNSC is not a simple matter and we have not brought for them the issue of border conflict (as maybe deemed by the person) but a matter of war that is posing threats to regional security. If it were the border issue per se, I am sure there would not be so rapid or even no response. I would urge politicians to study this matter through.
Where are we now? Cambodia is getting ready for a journey to Bogor of Indonesia for the meetings of General Border Committee (GBC) and Joint Border Committee (JBC) for Land Boundary Demarcation with coordination and involvement of the ASEAN rotating chair (Indonesia). The chair would open the meetings and stay there while the two sides will proceed with the meetings. In light of any meetings’ outcomes, the Indonesian chair would be co-signing as a third party. There is no more closed door bilateral meeting anymore.
There have been so many lessons already that such closed door bilateral discussions had brought us indecisive moments as what had been discussed and agreed upon in the meetings were not properly told to the press, which then caused so much misunderstandings. This has happened more than one and we cannot let that repeated. I agree that negotiations on trade and tourism can go on bilaterally. For things concerning ceasefire, observation and border issues will have to be conducted in third party’s presence.
It seems the situation has improved somewhat as there was a volleyball match among them (Thai and Cambodian soldiers) yesterday at Ta Thao according to my recommendation. Talking with each other out of differences is indeed difficult but it is better than we fight and shed blood. Let’s talk and play ball and even perform arts together. Let’s not fight. No matter who has what (weapons), once hit, there would be casualties and death. Who suffer most are the people.
It is in this realistic understanding and because we had spent so much time in the civil war that Cambodia wants no more war. All we want is to survive as a nation and no intrusion and abuse of any kind would be brought upon us. It is so ironical as it has been said lately that Cambodia invaded so and so country. I have said that it is the first time in the modern history of Cambodia that a country has said to be invaded by us. Take for instance the yellow-shirt demonstrators in Thailand always call us invaders. They claim we took their land but where their land is we do not know (according to the map recognized by the International Court in The Hague).
We will do whatever we need to defend our land and would resist all forms of aggression, forces included. We are no sheep. In instance of a ceasefire, all must stay where they are awaiting border issue solution. This means we will need for the International Court of Justice in The Hague to clarify (its 1962) verdict (that recognizes Cambodia’s sovereignty on the Preah Vihear temple). Cambodia would accept whatever the court would explain, i.e. if we are in the land that belongs to them (Thailand), we will move out, and if they (Thailand) are in our territory, they also have to reciprocate in kind. Both sides must respect the court’s decision.
Now we have a ceasefire in place but we need to have ceasefire observation team from Indonesia to come to guarantee it. We have responded to the Indonesian side already and Thailand has yet to do so. I would stand by my position announced on February 20 that if Thailand does not allow the Indonesian ceasefire observation team on their side, Cambodia will accept them on our side still. I would urge for the sake of time saving for sending the team to Cambodia as we had the visit of Indonesian military attaché to the conflict sites already.