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King calls on the govt to "take care of the poorest"

King calls on the govt to "take care of the poorest"

Reuters

K ING Norodom Sihanouk called on the government to put more effort

into rural development on May 30, warning that Cambodia would face food

shortages for decades if action was not taken immediately.

"Now it's very

fashionable to speak about a very developed Cambodia," he told Japanese

diplomats at a palace function.

"How can we be very developed even if we

enlarge our roads, repair our bridges and build our schools, factories,

casinos... very good, ha, but you still have empty stomachs."

"It is very

dangerous for the future because how can our people go on building roads and

playing casinos without food?"

The reference to the casino is the first

time the King has spoken negatively about their presence in

Cambodia.

"Food is essential... we must think of food unless we see that

our people are well fed," said the King in a fiesty mood.

The Japanese

delegation was donating 18,000 tonnes of emergency rice, following an earlier

donation of 30,000 tonnes from Australia. There will be an expected shortfall of

300,000 tonnes of rice this year.

The King warned Cambodia will face food

shortages well into the next century if government priority was not given to

rehabilitate irrigation systems throughout the country.

"The basis for

the development of the country, not to mention the happiness of the people, is

rice."

"Cambodia must not forget the lesson, we have to live by ourselves

one day. Now we live with the (support of) the World Bank and the help from all

the foreign countries."

The King recalled that Cambodia was a rice

exporter under his reign in the 1960s.

"We exported every year the

surplus of our rice crops and rice production since we had no food

problem."

"Even in 1963 I gave up the US aid. I said to Uncle Sam 'thank

you very much Uncle Sam, I don't need your aid, Cambodia can survive without

your aid, without aid from the outside world'," the King said,

laughing.

He said the rural people complained to him they had nothing to

eat. "They said to me we have nothing to eat... we eat the roots of the trees.

To eat the roots of the trees because you are hungry is something very, very,

very brutal, its terrible. We have to take care of the poorest."

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