Selected Comments Samdech Techo Hun Sen at the​ Meeting with the Cambodian Students and Citizens Studying, Working, and Living in Japan [Unofficial Translation]

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CNV: 

Japan-Cambodia Relation Makes Gradual Progress

Today, I am so pleased to be able to join with our students and people (who works in Japan) once again. I did this in 2016 with some students too. Some of them may have not yet graduated and there might be some new ones today. What is of great importance is that relation between Cambodia and Japan has been making gradual progress, especially in witness of presence of the Cambodian soldiers in training here. The strategic relation between Cambodia and Japan has been elevated gradually. It started from normal to strategic relation in 2013. That is what we call the elevation of relation which covered in the past only economic, trade, tourism, and culture, and did not yet include security and national defense. That we have our military trainees here indicates progress of relations that Cambodia has with Japan.

Development Triangle Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam Initiative

Stemming from the correct foreign policy of the Royal Government, we have become an important partner with Japan, among many others, in the framework of bilateral partnership, both bilaterally and in the framework of ASEAN, East Asia, and ASEAN plus Three, ASEAN plus Six formula. We are here for this Japan-Mekong meeting, which has been a forum held for the last tenth years so far. Please allow me to clarify this point so that everyone will understand it. What do we mean first of all by Japan plus development triangle? Some had misinterpreted it to (act of) cutting a piece of Cambodia’s land to put together with those from Laos and Vietnam. Well, the opposition always go that far without caring to understand what development we are working on. In fact the development triangle was my initiative. I came up with this idea because we have four poor provinces – Ratanakiri, Mondulkiri, Kratie and Stoeung Treng bordering with the area. On Laos and Vietnam sides, there are also short-resource provinces too. Our idea was to let provinces that are short in resources in the three countries to work together for development. You may know that in the past, to reach some destinations on Cambodian side, we had to travel in parts to Vietnam. The best choice therefore is to have connectivity to transform provinces into one force to seek a part of resource internally, and another part externally. Responding to the initiative, we launched a meeting on development triangle – Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam in 1999. The initiative was supported by the former and late Prime Minister Phan Van Khai of Vietnam, and former Prime Minister of Laos HE Sisavath Keobounphanh.

Japan-Five Mekong Countries Forum Takes Over

When we launched this mechanism of development triangle, Japan started to respond. Previously, whenever the ASEAN Summit took place, Japan always conducted a separate meeting with Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. We did it that way until the ASEAN Summit in Bali in 2011. Later, Japan mobilized the Japan-Mekong mechanism to also include Thailand and Myanmar, which are countries situating along the Mekong river as well. We no longer conducted separate meeting on development triangle – Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam. We replace it with this Japan-five Mekong countries. This is how it evolves. It is relating to our initiative and effort to bridge development gap between countries in ASEAN, for which Japan has been providing assistance.

Japan-Mekong Meeting Bridges Gap between New and Old ASEAN Members

In ASEAN, we have countries that are founding members and new comers. There was this initiative launched in Singapore in 2000 to bridge the gap between the two. Partnering countries have been providing supports for the ASEAN new member countries that are mostly locating along the Mekong River – Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam. However, Vietnamese economy was almost as developed as that of Thailand. Vietnam is economically proving than among other new members of ASEAN. As I said, when there is effort to assist countries along the Mekong, there is this commonality that helps bridge the gap among countries in ASEAN. This year, the Japan-Mekong mechanism has come to its ten-year anniversary […]

In January 2018, we hosted in Cambodia the second Mekong-Lancang meeting, whose first meeting held in China. In the next two years, the third Mekong-Lancang meeting will be holding in Laos. We also have this Mekong-Korea forum. However, this forum has only been a cooperation at foreign-ministers level. I have proposed to elevate it to level of head of state and/or government. In principle, the Korean side has agreed to it. We may launch the 20thanniversary of ASEAN-Korea, in which the Mekong-Korea meeting could be held at head of state or government level. We also have this mechanism of lower Mekong countries with the United States of America. The US-Lower Mekong countries initiative has not yet had a summit but we already have a group photo of top leaders, beginning with the first photo session in Phnom Penh, when former President Barack Obama came for the ASEAN Summit. We did not talk about it but took group picture. We fail to make any progress (while attending the ASEAN Summits) in Brunei, and also in Myanmar. It seemed we had another group photo in Malaysia before President Obama’s term ended […]

To Spend on Restoring Infrastructures

This year, our country suffered natural disaster to a certain extent. Compared to natural calamity suffered by other countries, for instance Japan, Cambodia suffered less. This year, it is known to everyone that Japan suffered a big natural disaster […] from today through to Phchum Ben, we are anxious that some provinces could be encountering more heavy rains that flooding would be imminent. Take for instance, because of heavy rain, the national road 4 was cut off a few times already. We will have to conduct a thorough study to rebuild it to a level higher than flood. This year, Cambodia’s infrastructures suffer extensive damages. That would prompt the Royal Government to spend more on reconstruction. We are calling on our people to keep up their understanding (concerning difficulties caused by those damages) as reconstruction cannot proceed while rain is still coming […] however, despite these problems, Cambodia’s economic growth this year is promising. The ASEAN plus Three Macroeconomic Research Office (AMRO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank all come up with more or less similar evaluations (on our economic development). AMRO envisions our economy to grow by 7.2% with a 3.1% inflation […] the World Bank’s evaluation has pinned it at 7.3%. To make it a simple statement, we may say that Cambodia’s economic growth will be around 7% […]

Prevention of the “Past Action” in the Paris Peace Agreement

Japan has indeed been involved in the Cambodian peace seeking process for quite a long time. I was in Japan in 1990 for such efforts. In this New Otani Hotel, I conducted negotiation with former vice foreign minister of Japan from dinner time through to 2am. We proposed to include in the Peace Agreement “the prevention of the return of the regime of genocide” […] this has brought me to my feeling of a time when Pol Pot was a strong faction and nobody was there to stand up against them. I said in one of the peace meetings that the best place for Pol Pot was not in the Supreme Council of Cambodia but the court […] however, I accepted to back down on an explanation from a former deputy foreign minister, who is now the father in law of the crown prince of Japan – Hisashi Owada, who had also been a judge in the International Court of Justice (from 2002 until June 7, 2018) […] He said to me “Pol Pot will however be brought to justice but we would not be able to put it in the agreement because other factions would not sign it.” We then withdrew a step from the genocidal regime to the past action. That this point had come to understanding, we then resumed negotiation.

SNC – Japan Asked Me to Swallow Illogic Solution

The Supreme National Council or SNC, whose idea was it? In 1988, I proposed the creation of SNC but no other Cambodian factions accept it. Later, I brought the idea and talked quietly to Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, then commander in Chief of the Thai army. Later, Chavalit became Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defense. I brought the initiative to Samdech Preah Sihanouk, the King Father, and we signed in Bangkok this agreement to set up the SNC. However, it was not yet all there was to complete the task. We needed to convene a meeting in Tokyo to introduce SNC to every Cambodian factions. Japan was under the premiership of Toshiki Kaifu […]

Since SNC was proposed by Hun Sen, Khieu Samphan, representing the Khmer Rouge faction, did not agree to it and he did not sign the proclamation. On that instance, Japan had to seek help from Chavalit – Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defense. It was then that the Japanese diplomat came to me with a message “it was not logic for Your Excellency, but would you mind swallowing it.” I accepted. I signed without the participation of the Khmer Rouge […] accounting all this, you see that SNC was first signed by Sihanouk and Hun Sen in Bangkok. At a later stage, it was signed by Sihanouk and Hun Sen, with accompanied signatures of Son San, and Khieu Samphan did not sign it in Tokyo […]

Do not Trade Cambodia and Peace for Assistances

In preventing Cambodia from falling into the past suffering shadow, we had had to make a careful steps. It was in all this frustration that we may have to take out a few in order to save millions. I am not afraid of anything or anyone. The army launched a coup and created war throughout the country causing million deaths, and what would be the point to bring a few to court? It would be better to take away a few who caused the problem, and save peace. Those who committed wrongdoings have to be placed in jail. They created war. I make peace. You all may have remembered that after the elections in 2013, what had actually happened? It was turmoil. They did all that to seek for the post of National Assembly President. It was just a pretext. They aimed to launch color revolution but they fail to unseat Hun Sen.

It was in fact lucky for them that the VDO clip (of their plot) came late. They had made 29 December their final action. If I were to get hold of the VDO clip earlier, they would have died for it. Who would want to talk about human right violation may come. When they killed millions, why no one talked about it? I were to take action against just a few to save millions, why can I not do it? […] peace is the one thing you cannot ignore. I keep repeating “do not trade national sovereignty and/or peace for assistances.” Now I think Cambodia is open to whatever actions whoever may wish to take. Cambodia will stand firm with principle of safeguarding national independence and sovereignty. If Cambodia were not able to implement its own law, why could Cambodia continue to be a country?

Human Rights/Democracy – Pretexts to Infiltrate Poor Countries’ Internal Affairs

At the United Nations, human rights and democracy, I said, have been a popular subject for big and rich countries to invade poorer countries. They always make human rights and democracy their endeavors. What have we now about human rights and democracy in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Yemen, etc.? When Cambodia lost millions of lives, did you think about it? Now you may want to do whatever you wish to. (If you) want us to pay tax, fine, we will do it. I said it already, after you kowtow once, you will do it again and again. Cambodia would not have chance to exercise its independence. Let us try to stand up to defend national independence and sovereignty […]

I came to Japan not to be rebuked by (Prime Minister Shinzo) Abe. I said it before the Japanese. I came here to talk with Abe on cooperation. It would be normal in a conversation that there would be points that we may or may not agree with. That would be absolutely normal since Japan has its own interest and Cambodia does too. Some countries always base their actions on embargo. Punishment is no longer new. The US places punishments throughout the world. They also threatened to do so again on judges of the International Criminal Court who wish to conduct investigations on (alleged American war) crimes. They also review agreements and would decide to withdraw from them should their interests be inflicted […]

If we Cambodians wish to be independent, we must be brave. I bow to no one. In the past, Cambodia was under political and economic embargo but I bowed to no one. Now, I will do everything I can to keep my people from death. In the past, if I were to bow, the real ones to take power would not be the Sihanoukists or Sonsanists, but the Khmer Rouge. I am of the opinion that politics I have been doing in my whole life was nothing wrong and caused no people to die. Now they have threatened us. They may do as they wish. They said there will be months of procedure to follow […] just doubt what would be the content of free trade, and their obligations to poor countries? […]

Cambodian Economic Infrastructure Changes

The Cambodian economic infrastructure has changed. Previously, we had 80% contribution from agriculture and only 20% from industry and service sectors. At present, the Cambodian economy has changed to enjoy only 25% of contribution from agriculture, but 30% from industry and 45% from service sector […] when we had 80% of agriculture in our economy, we did not have enough food. When we had only 25% of contribution from agriculture, we have a surplus of about six million metric tons of paddy rice […]

Armed Forces to Safeguard State

I thank our people who study, work and reside in Japan, some of who told their relatives in the country to go to vote. That was a good gesture to contribute to democratic process. Only those who vote would be democratic supporters. Those who persuaded people to stay home are the ones to go against democracy […] in another instance, what you have done by asking people in the country to go to vote, and vote for the Cambodian People’s Party, you have taken parts in safeguarding peace and development […] let me share one thing with you, countries that color revolution were successful were because the armed forces were neutral. I may reiterate here that the armed forces is created for safeguarding the state. There would be no neutrality here. The armed forces can be neutral to every political parties. They will provide them protection equally. However, the armed forces are not neutral when it comes to issue between the state and political parties. They are not established to be neutral when political parties are toppling the state. It was this point that placed them in anger. This had been a reason for their failure of color revolution in 2013. That has also become a matter that they are angry with Hun Sen. No matter what they may do, Hun Sen continues to belong to the people of Cambodia, and Prime Minister Hun Sen continues to lead the country […]./.