Selected Comments Samdech Techo Hun Sen at the Asia-Pacific Regional Early Childhood Development Conference

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[Unofficial Translation]

CNV: 01/03/2017

  • Excellencies, National and International Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today, I am honored and pleased to join the opening of the Asia-Pacific Regional Early Childhood Development (ECD) Conference, held in the Kingdom of Cambodia.

At the outset, I would like to extend my warm welcome to Excellencies, distinguished national-international guests and all participants to this event. In fact, Early Childhood Development is not a new task for us, but a task that Cambodia has attentively implemented since the Liberation Day, 7th January 1979, allowing children to receive assistance, care and protection whereas the Rights of the Child have been promoted ever since. In addition, child protection is enshrined in the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia, in the Law on Education and in the Convention on Rights of the Child to which Cambodia is a signatory, as well as in the National Policy and the National Action Plan on Early Childhood Care and Development 2014-2018.

Moreover, the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) has actively engaged in the provision of nutrition, the promotion of breast feeding, the provision of supplementary vitamins to children from 6 months old to 59 months, the provision of health care service, which helps reduce the maternal and infant mortality rate, the expansion of  the children education under all forms, the protection of infants and children through prevention and reduction of diseases such as diarrhea, respiratory inflammation, iron deficiency, iodine deficiency, nutrition deficiency and HIV and AIDS.

Furthermore, Cambodia has set out concrete measures through the rolling national five-year plan, intensified implementation of various international laws and regulations, as well as intensified cooperation with neighboring and regional countries aimed at effectively fighting against the trafficking of women and children, all forms of child exploitation and abuse, involvement of children in armed conflicts and other misconducts against children . As a result, child welfare has been consistently improved.

Today, the Asia-Pacific Regional Early Childhood Development (EDC) Conference showcases not only the RGC’s effort and commitment to the protection and development of children, but also a new phase of children development in Cambodia to the region and the world in response to the Sustainable Development Goals 2030. Furthermore, this also reflects our heightened attention realizing Cambodia’s long-term vision to build a society of peace, political stability, social order, strict observance of democratic principles, the development of quality, educated and skilled human resources that respond to sustainable socio-economic development. In this spirit, the Asia-Pacific Regional Early Childhood Development (EDC) Conference truly reflects the pride of the joint effort of Cambodia, countries in Asia-Pacific region, and the whole world to bring about development, promotion of basic rights, and welfare for children.

  • Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, ladies and gentlemen,

The rapid development of the Cambodian society over the last decade in terms of human resources, technology, production, income etc., has brought changes to Cambodians life style. In this new context, we have to pay greater attention to early childhood sector to allow them to learn new way of thinking, become educated, skilled and smart youth, aiming to enhance the capabilities of children in order for them to confidently take over the national socio-economic development responsibility in the future as Cambodian is striving to become an upper-middle income country by 2030 and a higher income country by 2050.

In Cambodia, we consider early childhood from the time of their birth up to the age of 6 during which parents or guardians have obligation to take care of them, provide them nutrition and healthcare and shape their propensity. We are also aware that most of Cambodian children in their early stage are taken care by their families, meaning parents are teachers, home is school, environment around them is a playground; therefore, the development of those children to become a good child, a good youth, and a good citizen, cannot be cut off from the important role of their parents. Yet, current socio-economic development of Cambodia has allowed women to participate more actively in the labor market, meaning reduced interaction and tie between mothers and their children. This continually growing phenomenon will affect Cambodian family tradition in the long run which reduce the closeness between parents and children as well as their mutual support. Therefore, it is necessary to find solutions to this to ensure children receive care and education in accordance with their biological development that will help preserve goodness, culture and tradition of Khmer families. In this spirit, the RGC has launched National Policy and the National Action Plan on Early Childhood Care and Development 2014-2018 for the cause of early childhood protection and development with participation from all stakeholders.

Meanwhile, I and my wife as well as our family have always paid attention to child care, promotion of child welfare, assistance to orphans, deaf children, children with disability and vulnerable children. Going forward, I continue to support and pay high attention to the development of small children and I would like to take this opportunity to urge officials involved in early childhood development, local authorities, development partners, national and international civil organizations and all related parties to intensify your participation in the early childhood sector in order for them to have conscience and compassion as human beings and become good successors of our society.

In order to contribute to achieving sustainable development goal 2030 that ensure small children receive education, protection and quality development, I would like to highlight some points that you should pay attention to:

First, we must pay attention to all small children particularly orphans, vulnerable small children, ethnic small children and small children with disability through strengthening and expanding existing mechanisms of childcare, provision of nutrition and healthcare and education on the prevention of all forms of child hard labor, and effort to ensure children are not exposed to trafficking and abuses.

[Start of Comment]

Which Country Caused The Most Tragedy on Children?

Please allow me to leave this traditional argument on taking care of children in their early childhood. We must not forget about the children’s right to life. On this point, I think that if there is any international conference (on the issue) we should have a stronger voice on aggressions carried out by countries and through which many children died. Who does it the most in the world? They must be countries that send out troops on aggression to other countries that torture children the most. They not only torture children in their recipient countries but also children in their own countries. Why? Sending them to war, when they died, families of deceased soldiers will bear the fact that wife will become widow and children will be fatherless or orphans.

Right to Life Is the Most Basic Right

… We have talked only about child labor, how to take care of children and not much we talked about children’s right to life. We should see how many of them died everyday in Iraq, Libya, or Syria and elsewhere? Who committed those acts? We should be frank. We should not be afraid of imperialism. In the past, I was one of a small child that parents had had to push into a trench to avoid armed clashes between the French army and the resistant forces. It was when Cambodia was under French control. My parents told me about this. In light of the US aggression of Cambodia, how many children died or maimed? How many had had to face up with malnutrition? Children in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia had gone through these problems and have had to bear consequences from chemical weapons that caused birth defects, etc. Did we mention about those causes? We should make a stronger voice about the issue and I think UNICEF should lead this.

Armed Conflict in Sudan Sent Thousands Women to Labor in Cambodia’s Hospital

Let me tell you that in Sudan, when the troops of President and Vice President of Sudan clashed with one another, thousands of Sudanese women sought labor attendances in the Cambodian troop’s hospital. That is real consequence of war. We therefore must not be afraid of mentioning those countries by names, otherwise we only reprimand ourselves, and each other, but leave the ones who committed those actions uncharged. There are still many UXOs in Cambodia. We have news of children playing with UXOs and killing themselves with them because they do not know about their lethal effect. I think it is about time to talk the truth.

… Some Americans are not happy with me. They dislike me. That is their problem. I am talking the truth only. Two and a half million tons of bombs dropped over Cambodia. We continue to have people killing from them. We also have problem like this in Vietnam, Laos, and in many other countries that had been or are under foreign invasion. Whichever country sends the most troops to invade foreign countries is the one that cause trouble for children. How could they present themselves as a country with example to advise others about rights? They issue every year so and so country has this or that level of child labor abuse. They never said in the report about killing of children in some countries (by their actions) […]

Right to Life – A Topic of Early Childhood Development

I just wish to remind you that if we are talking about nutrition or any other indicators of early childhood development, please do not forget to bring in for discussion the children’s right to life. In the future, for such conference, to work on subject for the discussion, please bring it in. Do not work only on one part of the whole story. The meeting should set light on causes why the problem has become what they are. If there were no war and genocide, Cambodia would not have issue of malnutrition as we do now. It was because they have invaded us, taken our lives, and now told us what to do. They have killed ten and acted as if they care for one. I think I am sharing this so that we would not forget the root cause of the problem. Anyone country at all, when there is intervention from outside, local enmity arises and transforms into war and turmoil. That is the whole truth about it. I think countries of some of you present here also have come through colonialism of some kind, and for some, followed by imperialism too.

Bombed Us, Demand Us to Pay for It – Unacceptable

… I am not causing problem with the US, but I think it is vice versa. I have yet to propose officially to the new US president to cancel the Cambodian debt (to the US). It is a bizarre thing to do for them. They dropped bombs on us and they demanded us to pay for them. I do not about other countries but this is what happened for Cambodia. As we have not responded to the demand, they told the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to suspend loans to Cambodia. Well, we now have 7.7% economic growth without any contribution from the IMF. We do not die. We will have to make effort on our own. That is why I am calling on Cambodians to stand up and make efforts to make our country rich. When we are rich, maybe Cambodia can think of increasing bigger assistance to other countries.

Press Freedom and Donald Trump’s Presidency

We now have our peacekeeping troops in Sudan, South Sudan, Mali, Central African Republic, Lebanon, and previously, also in Cyprus and Chad. I have a bigger ambition on this mission. In some countries, to hide the truth, they issue human report in Washington to say this country’s level of human rights and/or children condition is and so, here and there. Why is Washington the one who says it? … Let us wait and see this year about condition of press freedom in the US as President Donald Trump bans certain presses from the White House. Let us see, from doing that, whether the press freedom in the US stays at a lower end or on top. They have banned immigration from seven countries of right to enter the US. They have sought to send out illegal immigrants too. We will wait and see what will happen in the father country of human right. I am sorry if the US Ambassador heard what I said. I am frank in what I am talking. You may say Hun Sen never forgets to say about this wherever he is. I cannot forget. It is a fact.

[End of Comment]

Second, we must ensure the connection between educations at kindergarten with other supporting programs that is necessary for small children to obtain comprehensive development. Moreover, we must strengthen the quality of dissemination on children as well as the new developments related to children, child raising methodology, provision of nutrition, healthcare and education.

Third, we must enhance the cooperation under the framework of the national committee of early childhood care and protection between related ministries and development partners based on the spirit of complementarity which is an effective formula of successful early childhood development.

Fourth, we must improve all kinds of services contributed to early childhood care and development by focusing on quality and sustainability of activities. In this regard, there must be reflection of the quality aspect, not just quantity aspect, when setting target and indicators.

Fifth, we must prepare monitoring, evaluation and reporting mechanisms to ensure the effective implementation of related national plans and policies, especially improvement of programs, activities and interventions related to this sector.

I believe that the national committee for early childhood care and development, ministries-institutions, related authorities, and national and international developing partners will continue your active role and be ready for all challenges for the cause of child interest and dignity in our society.

Before ending my remarks, I would like to express my high appreciation to related ministries-institutions as well as related national and international developing partners, authorities at all levels as well as compatriots for the unity in early childhood care and development.

Finally, with this opening of the Asia-Pacific Regional Early Childhood Development Conference at this moment, I would like to wish Excellencies, National and International Distinguished Guests, ladies and gentlemen happiness, prosperity, and success in all endeavors.

Thank you!