Prime Minister Hun Sen has wished the people well on the occasion of Khmer New Year and spoke of his strong commitment to serving the citizens by developing all sectors and enacting profound reforms.

He also reiterated that the government faces major challenges from inside and outside the country to prevent interference in the Kingdom’s internal affairs.

In his goodwill message for Khmer New Year, which was released on April 3 and obtained by The Post on Tuesday, Hun Sen thanked the people for the overwhelming support his government had received to lead the country for another five years.

He spoke of his determination to implement the Rectangular Strategy for Growth, Employment, Equity and Efficiency Phase IV, with “steadfast, unwavering and energetic commitment” to work towards a prosperous future and meet the expectations of all citizens.

The prime minister said that despite the challenges, the government has continued to develop the country – with growth in all sectors – and to protect national independence, peace, sovereignty and territorial integrity.

He said the government had prevented interference in Cambodia’s internal affairs and successfully resisted all activities related to a “colour revolution” and incitement to provoke political instability and social unrest.

These achievements, he said, had resulted in economic growth of 7.5 per cent through investment in the industrial, manufacturing, construction, agricultural, tourism and real estate sectors.

Hun Sen noted that Cambodia is transforming its economic structure from being dependent on the agricultural sector to become more focused on the industrial and service sectors.

The average annual salary was $1,042 in 2013, Hun Sen said in his New Year’s message, but that had risen to $1,563 last year.

The poverty rate had also decreased from 53.5 per cent in 2008 to nine per cent last year. It is predicted to continue decreasing this year, as will the income gap.

He said that last year, the government improved five national roads and began construction of an expressway from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville at a cost of some $2 billion, as well as the Cambodia-Thailand border bridge.

Hun Sen said 2.55 million houses, or 72 per cent of the total, were connected to the electrical grid, while some 87 per cent of the country’s 14,383 villages had electricity.

Rice production increased by 2.3 per cent compared to 2017 and had reached 10 million tonnes, the prime minister said, with a surplus of some four million tonnes, of which 620,000 tonnes were exported.

Hun Sen said there are now more than 1,500 factories, most of which are in the garment and footwear sectors, and 156,890 small and medium-sized enterprises employing more than one million workers.

The prime minister said there are more than 1,080 five-storey to 40-storey buildings and some 6.2 million international tourists visited Cambodia last year – a 10.7 per cent increase compared to 2017.

This, he said, provided jobs directly to more than 620,000 Cambodians and indirectly to more than one million. It also contributed $116 million to national revenue.

Cambodia has sent, under the umbrella of the UN, 813 soldiers, of which 66 were women, to the Central African Republic, Lebanon, Mali and South Sudan, Hun Sen said.

‘More effort required’

Social analyst Meas Nee acknowledged that Cambodia has grown in all sectors but said the Kingdom’s growth cannot compete with neighbouring countries and more effort is required from the government.

“We still don’t know what effect international criticism and possible sanctions will have. Although the government claims we are okay, we have yet to see any concrete evidence that the government can really avoid the impact of the political situation,” Nee said.

Hun Sen said in his message that the country’s recent achievements were the result of good leadership combined with support from allies, development partners and backing from the international community.

The prime minister said this new year, his government would continue to maintain peace, stability, security and public order to make the country stronger and protect the Constitution and the monarchy in accordance with the national motto – nation, religion, King.

He said the government would continue to make deep reforms in line with the five approaches – self-reflection, showering, exfoliation, treatment and surgery.

Ensuring sustained growth and good governance, he said, would continue through the strengthening of national and sub-national institutions, decentralisation reforms, anti-corruption measures, the development of human resources, improvements to the education and social protection systems, investment in the health service and the building of physical infrastructure.