Selected Comments Samdech Techo Hun Sen, at the Ceremony to Launch the Phase 4 of Accountability Achievement of Public Financial Management Reform Program [Unofficial Translation]


(1) Cambodia’s survival is the result of reform efforts

It is true that the speech is long to go, but I should not skip some of the points that I should share with you – both Cambodian officials and development partners, as well as the people who are watching the broadcast – on this occasion, from here. I would like to thank the Ambassador of the European Union who represents the partners for a high evaluation on our efforts. As I said, however, we did not wait until we had complete peace to start reforms, and I can say for sure now that our survival so far is the result of that reform.

(2) Life was in danger and fragile for political and economic reforms

I can say that in my life, I have faced with dangers all the time. It was just a matter of trading my life for the survival from the Khmer Rouge regime, or trading life for the peace that UNTAC could not achieve, but I have challenged my life for the reforms to be carried out while I became officially a Prime Minister. My life at that time was really dangerous and fragile, especially when I laid out two reform packages to go hand in hand. Firstly, it was a political reform to resolve the Cambodian conflict through negotiations, which was a dangerous point of my life. Secondly, it was an economic reform itself.

(3) Thanking France for peace negotiation opportunity with Prince Norodom Sihanouk

To start with, I wanted to talk about political reform. Many Cambodians only knew about fighting and they did not think of how to find a political solution? I thank France for giving me the opportunity to negotiate for the first and second meetings with Prince Norodom Sihanouk at the time, in Fère-en-Tardenois and Saint-Germain- en-Laye, which I posted a few days ago. That created opportunities for political dialogue until the Paris Agreement and operations for a political solution to Cambodia’s problems.

(4) Economic reform started with land reform, how many understood economic problems

Economic reform started from land reform. It was not an easy task. Please note that under the Pol Pol regime, all land was confiscated as state property. After the fall of the genocidal regime, we had no choice but to take action to save people’s lives (from hunger). At that time, 20 families had a cow. What had we to do to survive? As you see, Phnom Penh today is congested with cars, but 44 years ago Phnom Penh was uninhabited. Our job then was to promote privatization (of land and properties). How many people were there to understand about economic problems, since some of the people then graduated from schools in northern Vietnam after the Geneva Conference in 1954. They returned with the idea of setting up cooperatives, where people worked together and shared what they harvested or gained.

(5) No internal unification on political and economic negotiation

Well, I can say that there were at least three pressing forces. First, what made me face with difficulty. It was the internal part (of the us that) did not understand what political reform was? What negotiation was? What was the private economy? Among our people then only talked about making war. That was on the political front. As for the economy, they hated the private economy. This was the point that I had to had to start reform from the ground up. His Excellency Pol Saroeun, former Governor of Takeo Province, was one of the leaders of the land reform. He always lied to the senior level (about what he did then). I often went to Takeo province to learn how to settle land problem for the people.

(6) Ministers of Defense and Foreign Affairs were against peace talks

At that time, all were state land and was not distributed to anyone. It was not stabilized in the people’s mind. I have to take things from the ground up to push the upper level (political mind) to resolve. As for politics, I would inform you that I had to change the Minister of Defense and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, because the Minister of Defense and the Minister of Foreign Affairs were against the (political) negotiations. What should the Prime Minister do? Therefore, I had to pick up the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs, while transferring Samdech Pich Sena Tea Banh from the Ministry of Public Works to the Ministry of National Defense – all in the purpose to serve as a negotiator. The internal misunderstanding was very dangerous. This was not a small thing. This was the first pressing force on my political life.

(7) With less than 100,000 troops in Cambodia and they were in cooperative mode in Vietnam, Cambodia started practicing private economy already

The second point is that, in Cambodia at that time, there were no less than 100,000 Vietnamese troops, and in Vietnam, they had not yet undergone any reforms when I started the reform. Vietnam was in their cooperative mode. It was my good fortune that while in Cambodia, Vietnam not only overthrew the Pol Pot regime and prevented the return of the Pol Pot regime, but also gave us the opportunity to make own political and socio-economic affairs decisions. That is why, during one of my meetings with development partners, I said that “in the past, you used to say that I was a Vietnamese puppet, but I had more decision-making power than I do now. At that point, if I do not follow, you will cut off assistance” […] Vietnam gave us the right to do Cambodia’s own works, both politically and socio-economically. While Vietnam was still in centrally planned economy, Cambodia had already started practicing privatization. That is one of the reasons why Vietnam joined the World Trade Organization after Cambodia.

(8) The Soviets did not take off the lifeline of reform efforts

What is the third point? The third point is at the time of sanction, (Cambodia received assistance) only from the Soviet Union and the socialist countries in Eastern Europe – the so-called CMEA countries and a certain amount of assistance from the Republic of India. At the time, there was not yet Perestroika and Glasnost of (Mikhail) Gorbachev in Moscow or the former Soviet Union. On this note, it would be an easy thing (to take me off) if the Soviets were of their mind that should Cambodia let Hun Sen go on as Prime Minister, they would take off the assistance line (that could have ended everything). The Soviets, however, did not do this. That was (one of the factors) that had given me the opportunity to embark on political and economic reforms from then to now.

(9) Brining Cambodia out of deteriorating state of planning to market economy

Efforts made regarding reforms of public administration is not more difficult than the sort of political and economic reforms – that I have to sacrifice my life for in Cambodia. Decentralization and de-concentration reforms are not the sort of reforms that we should be concerned about or facing dangers as the reforms that I just mentioned, the three pressing forces on me. In the end, I have brought the country from the deteriorating state of the planning economy through the transition between planning and the market economy, and to the market economy, where we now have a financial system that has entered the fourth phase, and which we now continue to implement the policy linkage budget […]

(10) 4th phase financial system is neither a joke, nor a political campaign

I should take this opportunity to emphasize that this is neither a joke nor is it just a political campaign on paper and bidding during the election. We have been going through this from the beginning, from the most difficult stage, and we did not wait for EU assistance. We did not wait for the World Bank or the IMF or the Asian Development Bank (to come first). We have been on the course of reform since when we were under sanctions from some countries that supported military coups, and the genocidal regime at the United Nations. I just bring up some to remind our officials to understand the issue, and plus for those of you who might have not been aware of the history of Cambodia (on this matter)./.