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
"Food is essential... we must think of food unless we see that
our people are well fed," said the King in a fiesty mood.
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
"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
"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,
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."