In an exclusive interview with H.E. Kumamaru Yuji, Ambassador of Japan to the Kingdom of Cambodia, Post Plus talks about the historical significance of Spien Tsubasa’s official inauguration on Monday April 6, 2015.
Could you explain the reason why the bridge was named Tsubasa?
First of all, and most of all, I would like to express my sincere congratulations to the people of Cambodia on the opening of the SpienTsubasa and to the people involved in the construction of the bridge. As the Ambassador of Japan to Cambodia, I am very happy to see this project come to fruition. My fellow countrymen and women also send their best wishes for this historic event.
I personally like the name of the bridge very much. Tsubasa means “bird wings” in Japanese. If you look at the bridge side-on, the yellow cables of the bridge looks like two birds flying hand in hand in the sky. I also believe that Tsubasa implies a further leap with wings in the Japan-Cambodia relationship, and the bridge will remain as a symbol of the cooperation between these two countries. I am happy to see the design of Spien Tsubasa, along with the design of the Kizuna Bridge, on the new 500 riel banknote.
How long did it take to build the SpienTsubasa?
Its actual construction period was from December 2010 to March 2015. It took four years and three months.During the construction processes, construction staff had to face some difficulties such as the removal of unexploded ordnance scattered around the construction site. Again, I would like to express my gratitude to all the people involved in the bridge’s construction. They have done an excellent job and completed it in accordance with the original time schedule.
How much did the Japanese Government provide for the cost of the bridge?
It cost 127 million US dollars. This is the most expensive grant project Japan has implemented in Cambodia to date. It is also the longest bridge in Cambodia measuring 640 metres long - 2,215metres long when the access bridges from both sides are included. The height of the bridge over the surface of the river is 37.5 metres at the highest point. The bridge is high enough for ships with cargo of 5,000 tons to pass under. As the Cambodian economy develops, more ships with larger amounts of cargo are expected to pass on the Mekong River. In this sense, the height of the bridge is extremely important for future transportation requirements.
What is the Japanese government’s perspective for this historical bridge? How does it both directly and indirectly benefit Cambodians?
The bridge removes a majot bottleneck on National Road 1, opening up South Economic Corridor connecting by Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam with Dawei in Myanmar via Phnom Penh and Bangkok. One of the direct benefits to Cambodian people is that they can enjoy a smoother transport route as they do not have to wait for ferries to cross the river which took an additional 20 to 30 minutes. During holidays, such as the Khmer New Year, it sometimes took up to eight hours because of heavy traffic congestion. Now you can cross the river in less than 5 minutes.
There is no doubt that the bridgewill lead to further development and integration of the region. The opening of the bridge is one of the most important events that mark the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community.
After this successful and official launching of SpienTsubasa what are the next projects for the Japanese government in Cambodia? Could you tell us some details about them?
On March 30, 2015, Japan and Cambodia signed an agreement for new grant and loan projects. Among them is the National Road 5 Improvement Project which is also expected to enhance trade in the South Economic Corridor. This project was referred at a bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Abe and Prime Minister Hun Sen at the third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, which was held in Sendai, Japan, last month. At the meeting, Prime Minister Abe said he would like to contribute to the sustainable growth of Cambodia by strengthening connectivity with neighboring countries via quality infrastructure investments, and pledged to provide a 19.2 billion Yen loan in order to improve National Road 5.
Japan’s support to Cambodia is not limited to improving and providing economic infrastructure. We take a comprehensive approach to help the country grow. Japan has undertaken numerous social development projects such as building schools and hospitals. It also prioritises human resource development assistance. I am glad Japan’s policy coincides with the priorities of the Royal Government of Cambodia.