Selected Comments Samdech Techo Hun Sen,​ at the Closing Session of the 2018 Stocktaking and 2019 Directive Settings Conference of the Ministry of Interior [Unofficial Translation]

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CNV: 

In addition to the prepared text, Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo also made the following exerts:

RGC Meets Private Sector in March

[…] on this particular point, let me ask the Cambodia Development Council and related sectors to organize an RGC-private sector meeting in the coming March to discuss further on issues relating to reforms that we are holding on to speed up our economic growth. Let me share with you that the economic growth figure that we have claimed (by end of 2018) to be 7.3% has now been reconfigured by IMF and related Cambodian institutions to be 7.5% – it is a remarkable achievement.

Losing Favor Different from Losing Markets

Let me now talk a little bit about EBA – anything but arms. Losing a favor is different from losing a market. What is happening here is the fact that we are not doing what others wanted us to do. The clock then starts ticking from reviewing favor. It will take roughly 18 months from now to when they make actual decision whether to withdraw or not to withdraw (the EBA favor). That will be until in the mid of 2020. That is a procedure they are taking normally. What I wish to say now is that we need to survive with our own oxygen. We should not depend on oxygen provided only by others. I have written this in my speech last night in between midnight and 2am. I have underlined that to have or not to have EBA, we will not die. It will not make us rich either.

Trade No Sovereignty for Aid/Assistance

In business undertaking, paying tax to and fro is a matter of equality and reasonability. We do not wish anyone to make use of such favor to command us what they wanted us to do at their wills. I have said it from the beginning that we cannot trade our sovereignty with aid or assistance from anyone. It is in this endeavor that I wish to affirm that EBA – sooner or later is going to leave us. When our economy advances to a certain developmental stage, we will be losing such favor automatically. It seems that we may be losing it a little early. We must bear with this. What will happen will be that (business that) make more profit before will be making less. It is not a closing down of market but a procedure to ending a favor.

Hold On to Jobs/Incomes, Concern of Who Says What

On this point, we all must be understanding, especially those of nephews and nieces workers. They may be observing fact that as long as they continue to hold on to jobs and make incomes, they should not be concerned about who says what. As long as they are getting paid from the state, civil servants, armed forces, and retirees should not be concerned about who says what. Those people (longing for such undertaking) may be of the thought that when there will be such decision, impact will be as strong as to have no more money for salary. Let me assure you that as of this moment, even there will not be new income, the RGC is going to be able to sustain a twelve month pay (for civil servants, armed forces and retirees). We would be able to manage with just income from customs […]

Stripping off EBA, Suffocating the Opposition

On the contrary, I already instructed concerned authorities that stripping us off EBA would be tantamount to suffocating the opposition too. Any illegal acts carried out in Cambodia must meet with legal measures. We are making every efforts to make steps towards independence in politics and economy. We are not seeking to destabilize relations between states. We are going to continue state to state relations through doing business and paying taxes to each other. Please do not be confused that withdrawing such favor means severing diplomacy. Some politicians are fooling around with this to our people.

Hosting 13th ASEM in 2020

Let me affirm to you that we are to host still the 13th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) to which heads of states and governments in European countries will come to Cambodia in 2020 as planned […] as a hosting nation to such meeting participated by many dozens of countries we are working with partners – in this case the European Union, on topics and procedure of such meeting. We will continue such relations with states member of the European Union and will ensure such bilateral relations getting to a better level. This shall be clarifying to everyone about our relations with Europe. Are there countries in Europe that sever diplomatic relations on Cambodia? They have been making deception on that. Let me reassert to you that in ASEAN, only three countries receive such favor – EBA. Why? Countries receiving EBA are considered least developed and for that matter they have determined that Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar are countries in that category. Once those countries passed their stage of least developed status, they would lose such favor. It is just a matter of time. They have also threatened to remove such favor from Myanmar. Deputy Prime Minister HE Prak Sokhonn also had a discussion with HE Aung Saan Sukyi and other leaders of Myanmar about such threats […]

No EBA – Not Dying

What I wanted to say today is we must be making own efforts. I will meet with workers next week and I will keep talking about that fact that we are still keeping jobs and incomes and there is no need to concern about other people’s pestering comments. I am waiting to see those who waited for the death to be alive again and to get paid. What faces are they going to wear when their plan to get us dead is a failure? It is not a rebuke to anyone but that is a fact to reckon with. I do not respond to anyone. It is my task to explain things to the nearly sixteen millions Cambodians that Cambodia is not going to die from EBA withdrawal and we are not going to be rich because of the favor too […]

Opting for Deeper Reforms, Challenges to Opportunity

Once we are a little better off, they would take that away. In this understanding, we must make efforts to become rich by ourselves. That would be a better way. If we are to be poor, others will insult us and boss us around. We must opt for deeper reforms and transform challenges into opportunity of (and ensure) advancement of our economy. We suffered unjust political and economic embargos in the past after the fall of Pol Pot’s regime. At present, we have trade relations with not just a certain countries but with countries in the whole world. Losing a fraction of favor would not cause us death. My message is we are not making enemy out of this with anyone but also allowing no one to insult us. We must, as I have said it on numerous occasions, know the time when we must hold things in our hands and decide by ourselves on what other people say to us. We must not subdue to wrong advice for which we cannot implement our laws. What state sovereignty would mean then?

Taxing Cambodian Rice, Italy and Spain Sell Theirs

I hope that everyone understand this issue. We have seen with our own eyes now what damages does it do to our people’s living conditions […] talking about rice, it is not an issue concerning EBA. There has been competition on rice produced in Italy and Spain with rice from Cambodia and it has happened a few years back till now. Italy and Spain produced rice and they have difficulties selling it against the tasty Cambodian rice. To prevent Cambodian rice from infiltrating into markets, they must find ways to impose tax on Cambodia. As a consequence, those suffered from such actions are not the Cambodian farmers alone but people in Europe, Cambodians overseas included, who would consume Cambodian rice.

Minimize Production Costs

That Cambodian rice cannot go to Europe without having to pay tax is not a political issue. It happens because Italy and Spain demanded it because they needed to sell their rice. When Cambodian rice, with tax, is to sell at a higher price, they will sell theirs better […] that is indeed something that some people wish to happen […] because of this action, some who used to buy tasty Cambodian rice at one price have had to pay higher. Once this tax imposed, the burden will not be on Cambodia alone and customers will have to bear the cost as well […] as for Cambodia, we must do our best to minimize cost of production so that business people would continue to profit and pay tax to bring their goods into those markets.

Make Efforts for Early Withdrawal

That would be the matter of importance than the favor issue in the years to come. Losing (EBA) favor will be a fact once the United Nations or the World Bank determine that so and so country is out of its status as the least developed […] while it is going to still lose it, making our own efforts to be prepared for earlier withdrawal would not be too much of a problem. On the contrary, it would make us stronger. If they keep it (EBA favor) for Cambodia, Cambodia will be even stronger. If they withdraw it (EBA favor) Cambodia will not be dead […]

Please Stay Home on March 3 for Census

Let me from this event call on our people to stay home on March 3 for census. We will count people staying in homes to figure out how many people Cambodia truly have. We have estimated to have nearly 16 million people according to figure roughly collected and provided by the Ministry of Health reviewing birth records and other registrations […] Laos and Cambodia have had a different trajectory (as far as population growth is concerned). In 1979, through a Cambodian delegation visiting Laos, Laos had about five million population – a figure roughly equal to Cambodian then. At present, while Lao population grows to about seven millions, the Cambodian population has grown to about 16 millions. It is unbelievable. The trajectory has doubled that of Laos […]./.