Selected Comments Samdech Techo Hun Sen, the Groundbreaking Ceremony for Quality Improvement of National Road 48 Project (Credit, EDCF, Economic Development Cooperation Fund of the Republic of Korea) [Unofficial Translation]

CNV: 03/01/2022

New Year Groundbreaking Quality Improvement of National Road 48
HE Park Heung-Kyeong, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
of the Republic of Korea in the Kingdom of Cambodia,
Samdech, Excellencies, Lok Chumteavs, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Compatriots, Officers, lieutenants, soldiers as well as units are invited to participate in this occasion!

Today is the third day that we have entered the year 2022 and the first Monday of the month that we launch the groundbreaking ceremony of the construction project to upgrade the quality of National Road 48 with a length of 148 km, which connects National Road 4 to the provincial town of Koh Kong – Khemarak Phumin. I am happy that today we have gathered here for a celebration at the beginning of our new year under the shade of peace, political stability and continuous development. A moment ago, (Minister of Public Works and Transports) HE Sun Chanthol has already made a report related to the construction of this road. I know that we have been waiting for this road a bit too long. The fact that it has taken this long is because there was a need for more fund.

We had to go through the financing agreement for National Road 48 twice. For the first stage, since there was a need to expand roads in some areas, we were in need of more than 20 million US dollars. Compared to the time set in the previous contract signed in March 2017, it was rather late. Later, we signed the new contract on November 30, 2020 to receive more than US$ 87 million to upgrade the quality of this road making it strong, durable and widening its width. HE Sun Chanthol already made a report related to the construction of certain sections where there will be two lanes, four lines that two for each traffic direction, and (larger rods) in the provincial town.

These are the requirements that have slowed our process. For us who have been working to solve this problem, we thought it has been rather slow. However, I think that late is better than never. With some of the construction projects are already in action, today we officially launch the construction to expand and improve this road to become more durable that can serve the economic growth. According to forecasts and projects that have been happening now and in the near future, Koh Kong, in the southwest of the country, will have no less special economic zones than other provinces and Sihanoukville.

With Peace, We Connect and Expand Road Systems

The Ambassador of the Republic of Korea also mentioned the progress in the relations between Cambodia and Korea. Soon later, I will talk about progress made in relations between the two countries from 1997 to the present, or in other words, from the signing of the Agreement on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations in 1996 and my visit to the Republic of Korea in 1996 until now.

Let me turn to National Road 48. The connection between the Sihanoukville mainland to Koh Kong was by boat and it was very dangerous. I still remember the memories of my visit to Koh Kong province. Around the end of 1985 or the beginning of 1986, I traveled to Koh Kong province. Samdech Pichey Sena Tea Banh took a speedboat from Srae Ambel to Koh Kong. At that time, I also took a speedboat with Rong Phlam Kaisom […] the only internal connection was that we had to travel to Koh Kong on water. If there is a storm, heavy rain, we do not dare to travel. This is our starting point. It was full of difficulties. Later, our engineering team built National Road 48 stage after stage.

At a later stage, with the support and generous humanitarian gift of the Kingdom of Thailand, we have connected and paved this road along with four bridges […] I may have the attention of HE the Ambassador, as well as the Korean friends, that we have had tremendous difficulties regarding internal connectivity. Thanks to our hard works and especially to the peace that we have brought about, we are able to expand the road system across the country. I am very proud to have contributed from scratch in 1979 to the construction of this land with my colleagues.

ASEAN Sanctioned Cambodia, Thailand in Business with Cambodians

There was a time when I did not agree with the wishes of some people who wanted Koh Kong to cut off business relations with Thailand. I had to struggle hard in the Cabinet as well as in the Cambodian People’s Party. (That had in fact) confirmed internal democracy of the Cambodian People’s Party at that time. As the Chairman of the Council of Ministers, which is the position of the Prime Minister, I often went to Koh Kong to see what the situation is like. In the meeting where present are Samdech Heng Samrin, Samdech Chea Sim, His Excellency Say Phu Thong, as well as other leaders, I said “no” in confronting the idea (of cutting off business relation with Thailand). Cutting off business with Thailand would be like killing the people in Koh Kong because we had to supply from Srae Ambel to Koh Kong, which takes at least 12 hours.

What would happened then if we closed business with Thailand? (We must be) wise in diplomatic relations with neighboring countries. At that time, even though being within the framework of ASEAN countries that imposed sanctions on Cambodia, Thailand still has business with the Cambodian people, especially in Koh Kong province. When we catch crabs, lobsters, shrimps, fish, we sell to Thailand and we buy equipment from Thailand. Why do we have to hurt ourselves? […] at some point, I will try (speak more). Of course, I have already talked and taped about 80 hours about the history (of national construction and development), but I will go into the details of each point, which may be no less 200 hours. For instance, just Koh Kong province will take a lot of time to talk about.

National Road 48 – Internal and Thailand and Vietnam via-Cambodia Coastal Corridor

(We have gone through uncountable efforts) to bring development and progress to Koh Kong. We started with infrastructural connectivity from dirt road and ferry crossing to paved road and concrete bridges. We are now expanding roads and bitumen them. This road becomes an important one. Do not forget that this road is a seafront corridor, as I have said before, and a coastal corridor that serves not only Cambodia’s internal relations, but also the relations between Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam that pass through the corridor. If Vietnam wants to take goods to Thailand via this route, it is fast. Thailand can bring goods through to Vietnam via the road too […] along the way, the coastal corridor has become an attractive tourist destination and production area. We called it the economic pole in our southwest. Previously, we only had Sihanoukville. Now we cover all sea bordering provinces of the southwest – Sihanoukville, Koh Kong, Kep, Kampot, associated with the growing economic potential in the time to come.

National Road 10 Connecting between Koh Kong and Battambang

This road also connects with National Road 10, which we have been building from Battambang to Koh Kong. When they need to go to Battambang, people in Sihanoukville need not travel to Phnom Penh before going through Kampong Chhnang and Pursat to get to Battambang. Traveling from Srae Ambel to Koh Kong, and they will get on to National Road 10, from where it will be up to them to choose if they will go to Banteay Meanchey, to Pailin, or to Battambang […] that we have set up a road system or road network. We have already connected the rest of the country and we remain to have this last link of what I called the “National Road 10”.

Once built, National Road 10 serves as the last link that connects a road system surrounding the country. That would also count in the National Road 9 from Stung Treng to Preah Vihear. In the past, there were no roads. We already have built National Road 9. I have already traveled that road. I am waiting to travel on National Road 10, which connects Koh Kong to Pursat, to Battambang, to Banteay Meanchey and to Pailin. Travelling at that time will not take long […] it is a huge benefit in terms of infrastructure. (One) may not expect (development to happen) if there were no roads, no bridges, no connections. We must strive to connect internally and with our neighbors within our regional framework. Well, this (National Road 48) is (probably) part of (the connection) of ASEAN, and (the connection within) our Mekong sub-region – the only seafront corridor we have had to work on […]

Build Quick with Own Money

Through the Ambassador, (I am delivering our grateful thanks) to the Government and people of Republic of Korea, who have provided assistance as well as financial support for Cambodia’s development. In particular, it provided financing support for the construction of National Road 48, which, if the construction of National Road 4 is not yet in action, the National Road 48 is going to be in better condition than National Road 4. How far is the auction now? We have finished three packages of auction and there are two more packages to go […]

Sometimes I think of putting own fund of hundreds of millions of US dollars into National Road 4. Use own fund to get away with those difficulties. It has taken too long […] it is not that we do not want to build National Road 4, but the National Road 4 is the road helped by the United States. We do not know who would be more generous to help than the United States. We just waited. Now that the World Bank has offered to do it and signed the contract for almost three years, so far they have only auctioned three packages […]

That is a complicated procedure. They say the procedure is transparent […] it is but we are still walking in the mud waiting for them to say “OK” […] it is on this note that there are times when you have to earn own money, make it ourselves, so that we can achieve quickly. Like we already put hundreds of millions of dollars to Sihanoukville, to Siem Reap, and working day and night, and we got our roads ready […] I hope they would expedite their process. Otherwise, late is better than never.

RoK Financing for National Road 2, National Road 22 and National Road 21

The road construction in this place will take us only 32 months. In 2024, this road will be ready. Well, before long, it will be ready. We will benefit from this road network, which I would like to thank the Republic of Korea for its financing. Korea is not only building this road. They also helped us build National Road 2, 22 and 21, which we could have inaugurated but failed because of the (Covid-19 outbreak) event of February 20. We have not yet inaugurated the National Road 21 connecting Takhmao to the Vietnamese border. We should be able to arrange the launch time. We have not put it in the program yet.

Cambodia-Korea Friendship Bridge Phnom Penh-Svay Chrum to Happen

HE the Ambassador mentioned just now about my request and decision to build a Cambodia-Korea Friendship Bridge in Phnom Penh. Thank you very much. Congratulations to all of us on getting the bridge. This Cambodia-Korea Friendship Bridge connects Phnom Penh with Svay Chrum. Svay Chrum is in the commune with the Areykasat commune/Sangkat […] however, that HE the Ambassador had dared to say it, we hope we can have this bridge built. Once we have the bridge, growth and development will come to the district of Lvea Em on the other side (of the Mekong River in Phnom Penh), which will become a satellite city […]

Cambodia-Korea Relationship Born Late but Better Than Not

… Our relationship with Korea is growing. I would like to emphasize that we are a bit slow in the relationship between Cambodia and Korea […] but it is better to be slow than not to happen at all. We have North Korea and South Korea. I am determined to sign a treaty with the Republic of Korea, after which I visited the Republic of Korea in 1996. I still remember when former President Kim Young-sam welcomed me. Once we finished the negotiation, (we) went have dinner. While walking together, he told me – “during your visit to Korea, the Korean side would like to donate two million US dollars to you. His Excellency may take anything you like worth the amount.” I said to him – “Korea has good equipment for building roads. Please, Excellency, help me prepare a set for road construction.” We have a set of road construction equipment that the military engineering team used to build a road connecting Siem Reap to Anlong Veng, the last Khmer Rouge area in 1996.

Cambodian workers in Korea after Ambassadorial Level Diplomatic Relations

By 1997, we had established diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level with the first former ambassador, Pak Chung Tai. Since then, the scale of the development of Cambodia-Korea relations has been very good. We have a Cambodian-Korean vocational school in Phnom Penh. We have sent tens of thousands of workers to Korea, now more than 50,000 who are in Korea send remittances to families in the country as part of the normal course of business, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, which send workers to Korea. Thus, Cambodia has also received more than 50,000 shares of employment for its citizens, and more than 50,000 of them have received income to send to their families in the country.

Cambodia-Korea Trade Volume Exceeds One Billion US Dollars

There are more aids provided by Korea to us. In addition, the trade volume has exceeded one billion US dollars. Now the free trade agreement between Cambodia and Korea will help with the increase. What we are proud of during the COVID-19 crisis is that Cambodia and Korea inextricably linked. Korea does not prohibit Cambodians from crossing to Korea, while flights from Korea to Cambodia still exist. There is a trip from the United States, Europe to Korea and then people take connecting flights to Cambodia. In Cambodia, we go abroad via Korea. (People are taking connecting flight there) to the United States and Europe. We work together without barriers to flying. Thank you for the efforts of both sides to further relationship, and today achievement is being a symbol of solidarity between Cambodia and Korea.

Nothing Lost, More Benefits Reaped

I hope the Korean friends will continue (to help us). Our hope is that we will have a bridge across the Mekong River from Phnom Penh to Svay Chrum on the side of Lvea Em, considered as a symbol of solidarity between Cambodia and Korea. We also hope that the number of Cambodian workers going to work in Korea will continue to grow with increasing trade volume. This is the result of the Cambodia’s political-diplomatic relations efforts. We seal this relationship. Cambodia has lost nothing. The benefits that we have reaped are enormous. As the founders of Cambodia-Korea relations, we would like to see such progress.

Fulfill Cambodia and Korea Wishes, and between ASEAN 10 and South Korea

When Cambodia first became a member of ASEAN in 1999, then under President Kim Dae-jung in 1999, I told him – “should I not try to establish diplomatic relations with Korea in 1996-97, during the ASEAN-Republic of Korea Summit, there would be a country without diplomatic relations with South Korea, and that country is Cambodia”. I have to overcome all sorts of obstacles for my national interest […] I have fulfilled the aspirations of the two nations, Cambodia and Korea, and also fulfilled it all between ASEAN 10, which has diplomatic relations with South Korea […] this is a historical thing, and it has reflected how the Cambodian national process has happened […]

International New Year – Another Test about Reopening Country

I would like to take this opportunity to offer congratulations to the people all over the country, the authorities at all levels, the armed forces of all kinds who participated in the celebration of the International New Year. The International New Year becomes a major test event for the Royal Government on reopening the country. December 31 is the last day (of the passing year) Friday. The 1st day (of New Year) is Saturday and the 2nd day is Sunday. The number of tourists we received in these three days increased to more than two million. On New Year’s Day alone, we have 1.1 million people. That night, of course, I did not go anywhere, but stayed watching them live from here to there, especially on the BTV. They went live at the Win-win Monument, where people flocked and danced. Some people sent in pictures from Uddar Meanchey, from Sihanoukville, and places […]

Siem Reap is the largest tourist destination, number one. Number 2 is Sihanoukville. All have entertainment venues. Our people do not go abroad but enjoy year’s end in their own country. I am in my observation mode to see what would happened after many going out to pass the year’s end. Yesterday, there was no infection in the community, but only imported cases from abroad. For today’s figures, we have only four cases imported – all are Omicron positive. We do not have cases in community. People gathered in ​​Phnom Penh, in front of the Royal Palace, at the Win-Win Monument and at restaurants. We are keeping up to see if there are any infections. With rapid testing in different areas, the number of people taking the sample decreased, while most samplings were negative. Our PCR machines did not show any signs other than the Institut Pasteur, where we sampled those found to be positive with Omicron […]

Deaths in Road Accidents; “Three Dos and Three Don’ts,” Booster and Basic Doses

Now we must not forget the number of accidents. A few months ago, the number of people killed in road accidents was less than that of COVID-19 because we did not open the country. Traveling must be careful. This morning, Samdech Krala Hom Sar Kheng sent me (traffic accident report). He usually sent me once a day. Last night, he sent after 5 o’clock. Yesterday, 14 people killed and 17 injured in road accidents. At the same time yesterday, six people from abroad found infected with Omicron, no local infection, only one died due to COVID-19 […]

I was proud when they sent me the pictures of people dancing wearing masks. May our people continue with this habit, and let us try not to allow our country to go back to shutting down. I see that and I am very happy. Previously, the Cambodian people never danced during the International New Year. This year, people danced. Last year, they did not have chance to dance in the Khmer New Year […] now they made it up. People still have the opportunity to dance during the New Year. Dance anytime you like. There is nothing wrong with that. However, try to keep a safe distance, and the “three dos and three don’ts” approaches […]

Yesterday, HE Hang Chuon Naron made a report about gathering more than 8,000 professors from across the country to Phnom Penh to grade the Baccalaureate exam papers. During the rapid test, they found only nine cases on more than 8,000 people traveling from other provinces […] I am happy that in the Baccalaureate exam or the high school exam […] of 115,000 students, there were only three cases of COVID-19 infection. Two cases (of Omicron infection) were two students we sent for sports competitions in foreign countries and we allow them to take exams at the hospital. The other one is in Battambang province. Only three cases out of more than 110,000 students […] we should be proud of the self-care and protection of our people. Now, they have asked for (a test in every) 72 hours to do it once […]

To Review 70,000 Unvaccinated People on Doctors Advises

Vaccines are not magic pills. Vaccines only help prevent in some small way from infecting, but more importantly, when it does, it does not lead to serious illness. Those who have not had vaccination for this or that reason must now get theirs. Sometimes, while campaigning, some were pregnant. Once they gave births, they would look for vaccination a few months later. I am asking everywhere to examine more than 70,000 people whom the doctors forbade from vaccination (for health reasons) […]

May I ask Lok Chumteav Or Vandin to order a review everywhere. They can return for injection. Even with some diseases, people can have the vaccination. People with asthma cannot have the injection. However, some have had asthma since childhood. They forbid injection at the time that the person is having breathing difficulty. For some who have had asthma since they were little and they have come to their ages of 40 and 50 years old already […] sometimes our doctors also have shortcomings […]

Telegram Group on Traffic Offenses

I should also talk about traffic laws. I would like to ask His Excellency Sun Chanthol to discuss with Samdech Krala Hom whether it is possible to do it. In terms of road traffic, we should allow the police to set up a Telegram for the people to help record and send to the telegram group that we have staff on standby. (It would be good) if you can do that. It is in the opinion of our public and they shared it to me. For example, National Road 4 on the 1st (day of the holiday) from Kampong Som, there were five lines of cars. They have taken the opposite lane and blocked cars from Phnom Penh. Then it jammed the traffic motionless. A niece went up on the roof of a car showing pictures. If we use the Telegram system to help us, we can find out who is breaking the law. We take pictures and send them to Telegram group […], which include the Ministry/National Police Commissioner/Province/Provincial Commissioner […]

Public Financial Management Reform 2022

The second point I want to make is that I am taking the 2022 year to promote public finance management reform and strictly implement the laws and regulations on the use of the budget. I am asking all national institutions, especially at the sub-national level, to implement strictly the standards related to financial management. I was shocked when the Minister of Economy and Finance reported on the debt owed by the provinces to Li Chuang Company. I am overwhelmed. (It is a debt) in the practice of “do it first, pay later”. Now, I am telling the provincial governors whoever dare do that again, that provincial governor must be responsible to the Royal Government. Ly Chhuong is like an eel company. They file me requests. I do not approve. They do it with the provinces. Now the provinces owed him a large amount of money.

I have issued an order, but lest it be too late. I ordered withdrawal of all projects not yet implemented, whether they are with Li Chuang or other companies. Clear the list. The money owed to Ly Chhuong is to be paid over a 20 years period. This is to teach them that they must never do that again. There is no (payment) for (now). You have to understand clearly. The Royal Government cannot accept such public debt. Not only it is unacceptable for a provincial governor to do that, but also s/he has to pay for it her/himself. Otherwise, he may lose his position because he took the money to collude with the company without bidding process […] and then demanded that the Royal Government to pay for them. Have the governors themselves asked the Royal Government to build this bridge, this road, this building […]

I urge the company to stop immediately otherwise I will put the company in a blacklist. I know that your company (Ly Chhuong) is doing well (with building) the Peace Palace, the National Assembly, etc., but you can never do this again. Other companies must not follow Ly Chhuong Company. I am placing a resolute order for all projects not yet implemented to remove immediately. Cancel the contracts and throw them away immediately. No one (at national level recognized/approved such) contracts. If I find out (they are going on), there will be more to do. For projects already implemented, they payment will spread for 20 years with the budget of provincial administration […]

Let me be clear on this (that we are observing) decentralization, but (we do) not allow creation of a state within the state […] especially with regard to financial management. RGC allows no one to borrow from this or that source. The only person in charge of borrowing is the Ministry of Economy and Finance, which represents the Royal Government in borrowing, whether from outside or inside the country. That you practice “build first and pay later” (you have gone through) a type of loan without permission and it is illegal […]

There is only one hot spot today. Maybe the analysts can chew it three to four days about Mr. Hun Sen’s tense about public financial management. Previously they talked about “internal intimidation.” They should take a clear look inside of the Cambodian People’s Party. In a Buddhist hierarchy, they are head and deputy head monks, or pagoda head monks. It is not a joke. How could anyone intimidate internally? Our interiors are united. However, it is good that (you think of it that way so that) you misjudged us. With misjudging, you cannot go ahead of me. I will give you more […]

Economic Growth Will Be Around 3%; Customs and Tax Revenue of US$ 4.5 Billion

The economy will function normally. Our end-of-year income is good. This year, although the revenue has decreased, but in terms of tax revenue, it has exceeded the plan […] I just want to tell you a little bit, how could (anyone anticipate) the government’s fall? Although our revenue fell, the Customs collected only 97.1%, the revenue in number is 2.294 million (US dollars). In terms of tax, it reached 124.02%, amounting to 2.243 million (US dollars). In that case, the two parts are equal to 4,500 million USD. Thus, it would not be possible for the Hun Sen government to collapse. Our recovery in earnings at the end of the year is good. Our economic growth will be around 3%. We will sum it all up in March, but in general, it will be around 3%.

We have to work together to prevent Covid-19. This is the driving force behind economic recovery. We only lose on tourists sub-sector. Domestic tourism, however, is also an important part. More than two million local tourists traveled to various destinations in the three-day holidays making our economy, both urban and rural, pacing up along with growths in industry and agriculture. We still have a lot of work to do […] on January 8-9, I will go to Myanmar. Tomorrow morning I will talk to the President of Indonesia by phone and then I will go to Myanmar. When I am back, I will preside over the inauguration of National Road 5 on January 10, (2022) – the section between Battambang and Banteay Meanchey.

There are still many programs. There will be this or that programs for us to do altogether. Only with all our efforts can we make this country prosperous and only keeping peace can we develop. There was no development under bombs, shells and/or bullets. Do not talk about anything if there is no peace. Some people say that there is peace only when there is peace in the heart. The one who does not have peace of mind is the one who is guilty, like a thief, a robber, or committing an evil deed […] what I want to focus on is that the bomb does not hit your head, because I guarantee that it is important this country does not have war […]

Hope Beautiful Cambodia-Korea Friendship Bridge Will Happen Soon

Once again, via H.E. the Ambassador, I would like to thank the Government and people of the Republic of Korea for their assistance in constructing this building. We will continue together and launch the inauguration of National Road 21 […] it is hopeful that the bridge across the Mekong River – the Cambodia-Korea Friendship Bridge, will be under construction soon. There are Cambodia-Japan Friendship Bridge, Cambodia-China Friendship Bridge, and now there must be a beautiful Cambodia-Korea Friendship Bridge across the Mekong River right in Phnom Penh as His Excellency the Ambassador mentioned. Korean tourists can also come see the bridge because it is part of revenue paid by Korean taxpayers. If we really achieve that bridge, it will be perfect. We have more needs […]./.

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