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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - PM's "vital issues" report - full text

PM's "vital issues" report - full text

"Vital Issues Addressed By H.R.H Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh, First

Prime Minister of The Royal Government of The Kingdom of Cambodia vis-a-vis the

Current Situation in the Country."

SOME of the national and

international press continue to write critical and unfair articles about the

Royal Government and its leaders.

Without neither wanting to be involved

in the controversy, nor answer to critics, I would like to give my personal

opinion to (Khmers and Foreigners) on some vital issues of the current situation

in Cambodia.


The Royal Government is very concerned with the state of environment

vis-a-vis the deforestation, preservation of existing forest cover, exploitation

of minerals and other resources as well as general environmental


On the issue of deforestation, the Royal Government has adopted

firm measures to deal with illegal felling of trees, export and sales. To

emphasize this, the Royal Government, together with the Royal Cambodian Armed

Forces has resorted to armed intervention to put a complete stop in export of

logs and timber. Only internal processing of wood is allowed and this too is

limited to such activities like plywood factories and furniture or finished

value-added products.

There is no discriminate issuance of logging

license except to those who has expertise and track-records in re-forestation

and regeneration of cut forests. This way, much needed revenue is generated

while at the same time, ensuring that our forests are regenerated.


Corruption like prostitution, is as old as mankind itself. Cambodia is no

exception and we have not denied the existence of corruption in our society.

However, instead of just admitting the existence of corruption, the Royal

Government is taking concerted steps to tackle the issue through harsh but

legislative and economic front.

The only way at the moment to reduce

corruption and unhealthy practices is through improving the quality of life of

our people, especially those in the administration where wages are low. With the

on-set of the Government's privatization exercises, Build-Operate-Transfer

measures as well as influx of investments, the economic front is one area where

the tide is slowly changing from that of despondency to one of


The investment law, promulgated in August 1994 has seen the

influx of more than US$2.5 billion in investment, generating or creating almost

40,000 jobs. That means that the lives of about 40,000 people have been

gradually improving over the months. Such investments and employment

opportunities are in the pipeline and once these opportunities are being used

then, the employment will have increased tremendously.

The end result is

better quality of life and better socio-economic environment, thus contributing

towards social and political stability which in turn lead to security stability

and most important of all, reduce the need for those in administration to be


The Kingdom of Cambodia is still learning to walk. Within the

20 months it has been in power, it has achieved tremendous successes. It would

be incredible for anyone to demand or insist that sweeping changes be done or

achieved when it is daunting task undo what more than 20 years of disorder has

done. That is the reality.


Democracy means food for the people's stomach, shelter, education, medical

facilities and basic amenities and the freedom to express and move freely. This

is democracy in the Cambodian sense. It is easy to preach or advocate democracy

when one has a full stomach is living comfortably in a fully air-conditioned

villa or mansion. But what about the poor rural people. The farmers who till the

land for the day so that they will have food for their stomachs at the end of

the day.

To them, and there are millions like them in the Kingdom of

Cambodia, democracy is just a phrase to be talked about in idle gossip. It does

not ensure food for their stomach nor an end to their plight.

The people

of Cambodia have undergone much suffering. As a result, the attitude and basic

principles and necessities of life has also changed, as with their perception of

their needs and desires. Given this situation, discipline is more essential in

our society that democracy, though they have a need of both.

When the

rural poor people have sufficient food, shelter, education and basic amenities,

then democracy can be preached and installed in abundance. Not now when there

are many elements within our society, notably the Khmer Rouge to take advantage

of the democracy issue and turn the country into another killing


Preachers of democracy must be aware that they would not be able

to speak publicly and openly without fear or favor if the country had no

democracy or human rights. It is these people's rights to speak freely and it is

the Royal Government's right to ensure that security is stabilized and enhanced.

What is one person democratic and human rights, can be another man's poison. It

is also ludicrous that there are suggestions of Cambodia being undemocratic when

these very derogators sit in comfortable studios in London, Paris or New York

and talk about absence of democracy or human rights when they have hardly set

foot in the most remote commune in the country.

The very thought of this

could be fearful to them, but such is the facts of life as it is easier to talk

about such things like democracy, human rights and freedom when all of these

never existed during, in particular, the Pol Pot regime. What an irony. Pol Pot

talked about elimination of human rights and promised the world to the peasants

who took up arms to fight for their beliefs and die for it. What happened? the

preachers of such ideals turned out to be nothing less than a mass murderer

whose repentance, if any, would never wash the anguish of the Cambodian people

for generations to come. In fact, such ideals almost saw Cambodian being wiped

out of the face of the earth. It this what you want?


There have been allegations that Cambodia has sold itself to Malaysia. Is it

morally or legally wrong for Cambodia to turn towards friendly nations who have

undergone similar pasts or something close to that? Where are the Overseas

Khmers who preach about loyalty, nationalism and reunification? Some of them are

in a position to do something about changing the way or quality of life of

Cambodians. But they are not forthcoming. Instead, they talk and critics but do

not do anything.

We Khmers, must be united in our war against poverty and

others. Our disunity saw us on the verge of becoming extinct. So let us all work

together as Khmers to relive the glories of the Angkor era where unity saw the

construction of many wonders in the modern world. Malaysians are here as they

are friends indeed. It is wrong to say that Cambodia is sold to them as there

are other investors, from the United States, Europe, Australia, Asia and Canada

who have invested in Cambodia. What about these investors? Are they condoning a

corrupt government and country or are they striving to help Cambodians regain

their footing and ensure their future?


The Royal Cambodia Armed Forces is a military outfit that has unified under

the Royal Army Umbrella. Prior to the General elections of 1993, the three

components of the unified army were fighting one another or together against

another. As such, when an army under the former socialist system comes under the

democratic system, there are bound to be black sheep. Thus, allegations leading

to corruption and indiscipline. The Royal Government is striving hard to resolve

these issues. It started by reducing the number of generals from more than 1,800

to less than 200. This has already been implemented successfully without any

social or security problem.

The second step is to reform the armed forces

and this calls the reduction of the total strength from the current 130,000 to

less than 70,000. This exercise will eliminate the existence of ghost soldiers

and increase discipline and professionalism as the government would be in a

better position to take its armed forces. This is a prelude to better

professionalism and instances of indiscipline.

One must be aware that

without the existence of what some calls "rag-tag army", the Kingdom would have

been lost to the predators of genocide once again. The transition from a

communist army and guerrilla factions into a unified armed force is never an

easy one but we will prevail.

The Royal Government has the support of the

RCAF as proven when they remained neutral and supportive of the legally elected

Royal Government during the failed coup of July 1994.


Cambodia has at least 50 electronic and print media in operation in various

forms. Is this not a sign and evidence of a free press? Free press does not mean

that there must not be regulations. Journalists must be self-regulatory and the

western brand of democracy and freedom of the press is not applicable to

Cambodia. The years of war has seen the reduction in the level of

intellectualism and understanding capacity of the people. A rowdy press which

has got no sense of truths and relies only on sensationalism is dangerous for

the socio-economic, political and security stability of Cambodia. Hence the need

for the press law as journalists have proven in the past that they are easy prey

to manipulation and force and they are their own worst enemies.


Many have questioned the need for a coalition government and power sharing

when the Funcinpec had won the general elections. It had won the elections but

not the majority it needs. The alternative choice is reverting to the dark ages

of civil war. The Coalition Government with members working together under the

unified umbrella of the National Assembly and the wisdom of His Majesty the

King, the Father of the Nation, are the country's best hopes at the moment until

the next elections. So let us all wait for the next elections in 1998 instead of

wrecking the hard-won gains of the Paris Peace Accords.

If we were to do

this, the fruits of victory will taste like ashes in our mouths as we will be

doomed. Cambodian must unite, no matter where they are or who they are. It is up

to us Khmers to save the nation and not leave it to us as Khmers to destroy


We must win the battle against poverty, disunity and

non-reconciliation. Wherever we are, we are Khmers and we must not forget our

past glory and history, as history has proven over the years, to be a partner in

a crime against our nation and our Khmer people.


The Kingdom of Cambodia shares a common border, stretching several thousand

Kilometers with three neighboring countries, namely Thailand, Lao PDR and

Vietnam. Though the Immigration law has already been passed by the National

Assembly, this has to be complemented by the Nationality law which is currently

being drafted. There is no question of the Royal Government not wanting to

implement the Immigration law.

We do not have the resources nor the means

to protect and close our borders to infiltration or illegal migration. Where

there are official check-points, we have succeeded in turning back thousands of

illegal migrants monthly. However, there are still loopholes, given the terrain

and the long and porous border and illegal migration can still take


In this respect, the Kingdom of Cambodia is no exception or

different than the United States where despite strict vigilance, thousands of

Mexicans still manage to cross into the United States illegally.


Many have questioned the legality or wisdom of awarding logging contracts to

one company in the face of logging ban being enforced and strictly executed. The

contract awarded to Samling Corporation will not see a single tree being

exported out of the country. Instead, there will be numerous wood processing

factories which is guaranteed to create up to 40,000 jobs as well as to ensure

the construction of numerous infrastructure and amenities.


schools being constructed, the construction of at least 27 bridges hundreds of

kilometers from Snoul to Chhloung up to Mondulkiri and thus opening up

Mondulkiri and other facilities all being created entirely by private funds.

That is the contract with Samling Corporation which has been awarded an

internationally recognized certificate for its reforestation techniques and

strict adherence towards the protection of the environment.

As the

Kingdom of Cambodia is a member of the United Nations and a member of the

International Timber organization, it has to adhere strictly to the conditions

laid down by the organization. This also ensure that the logging concession

winner does not cut less than at least 30-year-old trees with the added

condition of cutting limited trees in a hectare, and replants the area. In

addition to this, as security, the concession winner also has to deposit its

funds with the National Bank to ensure compliance. Or else, the Royal Government

will use these funds to undertake reforestation.

In fact, the Khmer Rouge

have cut down more trees and have virtually stripped the areas under their

control bare of all trees, big and small and export them to a neighboring

country to fuel their guerrilla warfare. This is the issue. Not the Royal

Government awarding contracts for logging.


Since the third quarter of 1994, more than 15,000 Khmer Rouge, comprising

cadres, fighters and their families have defected to the Royal Government. Where

the fighters alone had defected as in previous occasions, now they return to the

path of the government in entire families and possessions. These defections have

been to a large extent because of the Royal Government's efforts in rural

development and providing the Khmer Rouge families with a new life. It also

offered the fighters a choice to join the RCAF or just return to civilian


The defectors have been supported by external funds and

humanitarian aid and the Government itself is trying its best to look after them

with whatever means are at its disposal. The defections are also because of the

Nobel Appeal made by His Majesty King Norodom Sihanouk who has called for peace

and reconciliation.

The time for hatred is past but the Royal Government

cannot continue to wage battle against those Khmer Rouge still in the jungle as

they (Khmer Rouge) continue to destroy property and extinguish lives and these

are indirectly being fueled by some politicians who champion for the human

rights of the Khmer Rouge, forgetting conveniently that the Khmer Rouge had

killed millions of Khmers and continue to kill Khmers. Imagine - Khmers killing



Many have questioned the Royal Government's decision to award a Casino

License. This is not factual.

The Royal Government awarded a contract,

based on the results of an International Tender exercise to a Malaysian

organization for a comprehensive development project in the Sihanoukville


The tender package is valued a US$1.3 billion. The project

entails the following:

  1. Construction of a 4-lane highway
  2. Electricity generation and distribution
  3. Water supply and distribution
  4. Golf Course
  5. Resorts
  6. Marina
  7. Hotels
  8. Telecommunications
  9. Industrial and residential zones
  10. Upgrading and rehabilitation for the airport at Sihanoukville to meet

    international arrivals and transforming the Sihanoukville airport into the

    second Air Gateway to Cambodia.

In all these, the Casino only comprises 10 percent of the overall project and

this is designed not to corrupt the Cambodians but to generate much needed

foreign exchange to develop other parts of the country.


Many have questioned the wisdom of sharing our oil reserves proceeds with

Thailand. They are not justified. However, given the fact that the World Court

has yet to rule on the territorial integration or boundaries of overlapping sea

waters, the said joint prospecting and revenue split is the best solution, short

of taking on an armed conflict.

It is better to share the estimated

US$700 million in petroleum revenue with Thailand rather than not getting any

single cent out of it if the dispute went unresolved or headed towards armed

confrontation. We can neither afford nor have the capacity to take on such a

confrontation, hence the need for mediation and concessions for common



Sam Rainsy had been given ample warnings, friendly lectures and gentle

persuasions to mend his wayward ways and toe the Funcinpec Party line. We must

not forget that the Royal Government is a coalition government. As such,

Funcinpec Party, members must resolve any issues within the party apparatus and

not fight it in public, giving unwarranted advantages to undesirable


In any political organization, party loyalty and allegiance to

the leadership, especially the President, is a pre-requisite towards party unity

and stability. Disloyalty, resorting to blatant lies and demagogy to further

enhance one's career is not within the interest of the party or of the nation.

As for expellation from the National Assembly, it is Funcinpec's right under

UNTAC Law and the internal regulations of the National Assembly which is a

sovereign and independent organization.

Neither the Prime Minister nor

the Royal Government can interfere with the activities of the National Assembly.

It is a sovereign organization.

- Phnom Penh, 3 August, 1995



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