Selected Comments Samdech Techo Hun Sen, at the Visit to the Bati Fish Species Research and Development Centre (FSRDC), Prey Veng Province [Unofficial Translation]

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CNV:

Life of New Normal for Covid-19

I thank you all every much for our meeting and dialogue today. Minister of Agriculture, (Forestry and Fisheries) has talked about setting up communities of people who raise fishes, frogs, and lobsters so that they can have one voice for the sake of price bargaining. Today’s meeting held in what we called a life of new normal (for Covid-19). In fact, Cambodia has been very selective in its lockdown actions. Certain areas, such as schools, considered to restart and meeting as we do now is possible but in a new normal way. For a meeting like this in previous setting, I would have chance to get close to people and hold their hands. Now we cannot do that anymore. We are wearing masks instead and sitting in distancing from each other. That is what we called new normal. Covid-19 has changed our traditional way of life […]

A Campaign for Progress in Aquaculture

I think we should give this huge tree a name. We can sit in its shade. When I finished talking, we would not be exposing to daylight yet. I think we should call this “a Tree of Memory” […] I thank Minister of Agriculture HE Veng Sakhon and his colleagues for their efforts to set up this important visit to allow me to understand and learn something about fish breeding, spawning and raising methods […]. This year we have cancelled the 1-July Fisheries Day, normally presided over by Prime Minister, and the 9-July Arbour Day, presided by HM the King. Today, I visited this centre to see progress we have made in aquaculture and taking this opportunity to strive a campaign to change our way of production in certain areas, for instance, where we used to grown only rice, we could now raise fishes and frogs, or lobsters instead, for better profits.

The world has changed deeply. Number of death has been high and vaccine has not yet been available. Habits that we had for thousands of years in the world has changed because of Covid-19 […] as far as production or economy is concerned, rich or poor, countries in the world has suffered impacts from it. In service sector, where we had arrival of 6.6 million foreign tourists last year, we did very small number this year. Hotels closed down. Countries with industrial foundation suffered even more. For instance, companies producing airplanes such as the US Boeing and Europe Airbus, even if they could keep their production line going, who would now in good shape to purchase them? […] Our country, where there were between 300 and 400 flights in/out a day, we now have only seven, eight or ten flights a day at Phnom Penh International Airport and the Airport of Kompong Som, while there are none in Siem Reap.

Agriculture Grows in Supremacy

Industry and Service suffered impacts. Cambodia’s in this case has had one strong point being a country of agriculture. It seems that agriculture has grown in supremacy. On this note that the Royal Government quickly changed direction to promoting agriculture contributing to resolve local food demand and to supply flood in the region and the world. Minister Veng Sakhon reported that we exported some 400,000 tons of fish in the first three months of this year, more than we did before. It was true that at the time that we have not assessed our local consumption demand, I declared that we stopped exporting white rice and paddy for a while. With situation reassessment done, we allow export of rice and paddy, fish, etc. […]

As of present, we do not see it would be a problem. After harvesting rainy season rice, we are now harvesting dry season rice […] on 21 July I will join people harvesting dry season rice in Prey Kabah district of Takeo […]. It is nothing new to see that Hun Sen is talking with people in the field. For instance, in Kompong Trobek of Prey Veng, in my meeting with rice farmers then […]. I reiterated my motto presented to the National Assembly of not leaving anyone to die of hunger without us knowing and/or helping him/her […]. I have pictures with Minister of Water Resources Lim Kean Hor as it was time that we tried to resolve demand for water for irrigation. In Prey Kabah, I am going to operate harvesting machines. It is not time to use sickle anymore. In Takeo’s Prey Kabah, there are 8,000 hectares of dry season rice (short-term rice) […]

Cambodia to Continue Its Regional Food Supply Chain

[…] there have been press articles […] raising concerns about disruption of food supply chain in Asia because of restrictions on the parts of Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, India, and even Russian wheat. Cambodia wishes to reaffirm that it will continue to participate in regional food supply chain since it would have every year a surplus of about six million metric tons of paddy or about four million metric tons of rice […] Cambodia would be capable of supplying food not only for itself but also for export. Our foreign friends and journalists who wrote a few articles so far about this issue (should know). Today, I am making a point to them that Cambodia continues its participation in regional and world food supply.

Anything Else but Food

I saw a report yesterday that our aromatic rice exported to Europe. Though they demanded us to pay tax, we would still be able to export […]. Countries heavily depending on industry and tourism would face up with food insecurity. According to its ability, Cambodia, from its part, would contribute the supply of food – such as rice and fish […] in the time that Covid-19 caused disruption and losses in the world one may opt for reducing productions of airplanes, cars, wrist watches, clothes […] however, one thing they cannot reduce is food for their stomachs. In 2008, when economic crisis hit the world, many had opted for scaling down their demand for clothes, for instance. (In the Covid-19 era) some nearly one million Vietnamese workers lost their jobs. In Cambodia, 170,000 of workers laid off. As people in Europe, America, etc. suffered economic difficulties and millions lost their jobs, they would not think of buying new clothes […] still, they could not cancel purchasing food […]

From Covid-19 Crisis to Opportunity in Agriculture

[…] Cambodia still has great potential since it has about four million hectares of land for cultivation –for rice and other crops. We can grow […] it is our expectation that export of rice, cashew and other foodstuffs would grow […] we are working to move quickly to transform Covid-19 crisis into opportunity in agriculture […] in this field, where previously it employed up 80% of the Cambodian population, with growths in industry and service sectors, 73% of our population are still. At present, labour forces losing their jobs and incomes from industry and service could now returned to agriculture […] though price for rubber would not rise, those of rice, mangos, cassava, banana, would as we expanded our market to China, Korea, Japan, etc. […]

Promoting Local Animal Husbandry Efforts

Let me now talk about raising animals […] we have a demand of 290,000 tons of meat per annum […] we have been able to provide only 239,000 tons or 82% of what we needed […] we have had to promote animal husbandry in the country […]. Yesterday, a company requested to import over one million live pigs from Thailand for local demand and for exporting to Vietnam. I instructing in writing for Minister of Agriculture to discuss about this with Minister of Trade – Pan Sorsak. However, in my opinion, we should not import meat from other countries that would impede local animal husbandry efforts […] we may import only the amount we are short of, which is now about 18%. Once our husbandry can address that shortage, we no longer have to import from outside […] let us take this time to make efforts in animal husbandry. When there rising demand for export, we may do so to markets in Hong Kong, Singapore, etc. […]

Canals/Waterways Help Increase Fish Population

On aquaculture, it is not a new thing for us. You may check the resolution and manifesto of the Cambodian People’s Party of the Fifth Congress in 1985 […] we made it clear then that while conserving fish species, we must work on promoting aquaculture. The problem was in those days the Cambodian population were anywhere between seven to eight million. As of this moment, we are 16 million […] it is true that fishing lots that we gave to people have created them opportunity thanked to the irrigation networks. In the 1980s, only 7% of our cultivation land were under irrigation. As of now, we have increased such area to 62%. By building waterways and irrigation such as canals, etc. we have created favourable conditions for more fish population. We released millions of fingerlings fish every year for people to catch them for consumption. However, they should not do so in time of fish spawning […]

A Calendar for Harvesting from Aquaculture

It is now time for our farmers to engage in aquaculture. We may organize a calendar for raising activities so that harvesting fish from aquaculture would not be coincided with those fish available from natural sources, which would cause a price collapse. In December or January, seasonally, we have fish from natural resources – lake and rivers – Mekong, Tonle Sap, Bassac, and ponds. Price would plummet. Supply exceeds demand. It is my recommendation that the Ministry of Agriculture need to develop a calendar so raised fish would be of marketable size by the time fishing in natural system not allowed […]

More Aquaculture Experts Needed

I agree with this need (for more expertise in aquaculture) and I will tell the Ministry of Public Functions and the Ministry Economy and Finance to figure out increasing number of technicians in aquaculture. Let us take those who have been contracted staff – between 45 and 50 of them – and we will include them in payroll as of early next year […] what we are doing now is to strive forwards aquaculture movement. We can no longer depend on fish from natural system such as Tonle Sap, Mekong, Bassac and/or lakes anymore. Our former King – HM Preah Sisovath decreed establishment of fishing lots in 1909. I dissolved the fishing lots in 2012 or about 100 years later. While fishing lots given to contractors, people could not fish. Frequently, there were conflicts between those who needed to dry out fishing area early to catch fish and farmers who needed to retain water for their rice cultivation […] once in 2000, I dissolved 60% of the fishing lots but it was not enough and the conflicts were on and on. I finally dissolved them completely and people have set up communities to protect and take benefit from the system by themselves.

USD 500,000 Trial Fish, Frog and Lobster Raising in PVC Canvas Tanks

In history, in 1920, people in Prey Veng rose against the French (on issue of fishing lots). In my younger days, there were plenty of fish. I would say water was deeper, land were in abundance, and lees number of people to feed. At present, water are shallow, there are less fish, and there are more mouths to feed. It is quite a contrary. On this note, we are making efforts on one part to conserve fishes and fish species through releasing fingerlings in natural systems, breeding more fish species, and on the other to promote aquaculture such as fishes, frogs, lobsters, etc. for the sake of addressing our people’s demand for food. The Royal Government will make funding of USD 500,000 available for a trial period. Mark my word – initial trial. In the Covid-19 time, we already have rice but we needed fish too. To release by the Ministry of Economy and Finance, the find will be for people to buy PVC canvas fish tank so that they can raise catfish without having to dig up ponds […]

Retain Budget for Local Mission/Training Programs    

[…] I have instructing in writing to (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance) HE Aun Pornmoniroth to keep budget for internal/local missions […] such as seminars and training programs in the country and to continue to allow no missions abroad […] this is aimed at giving our officials/technicians chances to work more in their fields […]. I think that Covid-19 cannot starve the Cambodian people. It may cause destruction but it may not starve Cambodian people to death since the pulse of our economy does not rest solely on sector and industry sectors […] the main pulse of our economy is to feed our people – to have rice in cookers and to have fish to go with it […]. We have no way of knowing how long Covid-19 would be here but we must take urgent and effective measures to promote cultivation, animal husbandry, etc. […]

New and Innovative Technologies in Agricultural Curriculum

We will, actually we have, come to processing. We already processed and exported dry fish as I saw it on display in China’s Nanning Expo. Raising fish is a bit different from growing vegetable. Certain vegetable are prone to perishable once the marketable life is over. As for fish, should they have no market fresh, people may do various forms of fermentation […] they would not be wasted. We must work hard on this to increase production and challenge exports to neighbouring countries. Both Vietnam and Thailand have high capacity on aquaculture and animal husbandry. Vietnam processed and exported billions of USD in raised Tilapia fish. We must learn from our neighbours […] and introduce new and innovative technology in agronomy and/or aquaculture to curriculums of our agricultural schools and university […]

Make-Up Khmer New Year Holiday from 17 to 21 August

Let me take this opportune moment to affirm to people in the country. It is now time for the Royal Government to make up Khmer New Year holiday. We cancelled our three-day holiday on the Khmer New Year day in April as we tried to deal with Covid-19 situation. The Royal Government, instead of allowing a three days holiday, decided to give our people five days of holiday as promised from 17 through to 21 August […] people might ask why not in the two weeks coming. We needed time for the Ministry of Health to work out health infrastructure at the time that people are out on holiday. We may not go in crowdedness as before or dance in congested distance. We also needed time for guesthouses/hotels managers to put in place health protection measures and system […] as for factories, they may discuss and sort out with workers as to when and how they would like to observe this holiday […]

100% of Covid-19 in Cambodia Are Imported Cases

There has been an impressive development. While previously people criticize our medical staff, they now wrote songs about “white uniform army.” Those who before flew to Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, France, etc. for medical treatment, have now taken done so locally with Cambodian medical doctors. They still survive. We may ponder on that together. The issue was whom do we value. Our medical staff have been doing their utmost.

Well, unfortunately, there have been infection cases of 15 and today another nine cases from the 90 students coming from Saudi Arabia three days ago […] 100% of infection cases in Cambodia have been imported transmissions […] as of now, among number of infected, half are foreigners and half are locals. However, there has not yet one death from the infection […]. Taking this opportune moment, […] I recommended our people to put on facemasks to protect themselves whenever is necessary. I have taken measures to transfer some factories to swap production to producing masks. Some handicraft shops now have produced masks. Today I bring you masks that the Ministry of Health has purchased […] made from Kroma (Cambodian scarf) which you can use more than one time. They are washable […]

Schools, Restaurants Reopened with Proper Hygiene/Sanitation Measures

Well, we started to have our schools reopened in steps. Schools will open for exams. The Minister of Education and schools managements have agreed to have a first stage reopening of tertiary education with strict and proper health safety and measures. Karaoke shops that have transformed into restaurants can also go into business […] guesthouses/hotels would reopen for locals who will take holidays. Let us hope that this will help amend loss of jobs and incomes in service sector […]

We have been providing social support fund (in the time of Covid-19) of USD 40 per month to roughly 170,000 workers losing their jobs. Besides, as of yesterday, we also provided 92 billion Riel or 23 million USD cash support for 520,000 poor and vulnerable households. According to our estimates, we would do that for two months. Should the situation not subside, we may make it a four months commitment. However, we have secured fund for ten months ahead.

If the 500,000 USD Trial Fund Works, Increase to 5 Million USD

I am calling on workers and those who have returned from Thailand to take parts in promoting agricultural activities. We may add more fund of 500,000 USD is not sufficient and the additional fund should be for those who raise catfish. We provided them free of charges with PVC canvas fish tank, fingerlings, and technical training […]. The state spent money to create jobs for farmers. While we dare to spend 25 million USD (on workers losing their jobs) excluding expenses on women of pregnancy in poor and vulnerable households, for which we spend about 50 million USD per months, why we dare not spend another 5 million USD, now only half a million, more for people to engage in aquaculture? It is an investment to create jobs and generate incomes for farmers. Such investments would not be less valuable than in building up schools […]

A Prime Minister’s Life Worthless for Justice?

I will talk more about rice cultivation and other agricultural activities when I go to Prey Kabah on 21 July. That I have announced it, would there be anyone to lay mines or send grenade for it? Some may have wished to remove me from power […] like what they did in 1998 to set four B40 rockets trap on me. It was lucky that none hit my car […] did anyone care to seek me justice? When someone shot my brother in law dead in the centre of Phnom Penh in 1996, did anyone care about seeking justice? Were they thinking life of a Prime Minister is worthless for justice? I do not hold them for the karma of their actions […]

Local Investors Sought for Animal Feed Investments

As for animal feed, I am asking Minister Veng Sakhon to think of ways to attract local investors to produce them to reduce imports. There are not many investors interested in producing animal feed or fertilizer. There could be some issues regarding prices of electricity, etc. We must think of ways to mitigate them. You may discuss it with HE Cham Prasidh and HE Sok Chenda (of Cambodia Development Council) to seek a few local companies for such investments. The state would assist them through Rural Development Bank’s loans for the investments […] on this consideration, should the private sector be unable to mobilize enough investment fund, the state could consider a joint-venture investment with the private sector.

We must embark on this to ensure animal feed for our animal husbandry and aquaculture efforts. If we could do that and ensure the prices anywhere comparable to those imported, people would buy them. This could create jobs locally and we can be sure of our ownership in animal feed supply […] considering free market principles. The state must not provide such capital but this applies only in policies towards poorer countries, while in rich countries, they subsidized their farmers. We must do it too […]

Cambodian People Will Never Die of Hunger

Let me send a message to Roth Sothi in Banteay Meanjei who said that the Royal Government gives cash support to (pour and vulnerable) households using money assistance from the European Union. Let me tell him that he was lucky on that day (that he said it) that I did not order him arrested. From where did you Sothi get information that I used money assisted by the European Union to provide cash support of 25 million USD per month to (poor and vulnerable) households? […] the Royal Government has not used a cent of foreign money to resolve social matters arising from Covid-19. While in many countries, they trimmed salary, Cambodia did not […] generous contribution, modelling by HM the King and HM the Queen Mother, from civil servants and the armed forces have now reached over 15 million USD […] people are with Hun Sen and they will not die of hunger […]./.