Op-ed: Stand Together and We Can Overcome the Hardship of the Natural Disaster, Covid-19

AKP Phnom Penh, October 19, 2020 —

As a strong leader, Prime Minister Hun Sen—whose Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) team has been in power since the fall of the Killing Field in early 1979—recognised the facts that the nation faces immense challenges today, but with support from the people, nothing can prevent Cambodia from addressing its own issues.

So far, he says, Cambodia’s generous people have donated US$6 million, of which US$80,000 has gone to the mission to save people facing disastrous floods.

There are no reports of deaths from Covid-19, of out the total confirmed cases of 283 including foreigners, with 98.94 percent victims recovered.

Cambodia raised more than US$20 million, with two major contributions from His Majesty the King and the Queen-Mother, as well as those from other generous donors, to deal with the Covid-19 crisis. The country still has about US$10 million in hand to provide assistance.

The current unprecedented flash flood that killed 22 people and inundated more than 170,000 hectares of rice paddy, and others; in addition to the deadly, Covid-19, have caused real hardship.

But, the Premier, stands firm alongside senior government and military officials, giving the powerful message to his people: “let’s join hands to overcome this hardship and I believe Khmer can do it”.

He talked, standing in the evening rains, to the flood-displaced people, live on TVs and social media, the world’s longest serving leader since 1985, Prime Minister said: “Natural disaster and Covid-19 can hurt us, but we will never let them destroy us and with the joined hands of our people, we will overcome the hardship for sure.”

As a survivor of the killing field himself, the Premier also makes sure that life comes first before anything else.

It is a policy of triage, like that used by medical personnel when faced with natural disasters to ensure the best chances of survival for the largest number of people.

“We need to survive first, no need to talk about human rights. This is my policy since day one. Without life there is nothing else in place,” he said to an attentive audience.

“I do not care what political party you vote for. I also know that not every of you here voted in favor of CPP, but you all have the right to survive first. I do not discriminate, regardless of your political tendency, but you all deserve to survive”.

From 1979 until the country achieved full peace and stability in late 1998, Cambodia cried for outside assistance, especially when she was hard hit by natural calamities. But, it not the case now in the new Cambodia on old land.

Cambodia learned to stand on its own gradually over the years, thanks to the great leadership of the Premier navigating Cambodia’s ship. Our remarkable economic growth over the last two decades recorded an annual increase of up to 7 percent in Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Success heard loud and clear by the outside world proving that she is one of the fast growing nations in the region.

Cambodians now pay greater attention to our image and the interest of the country and their fellow citizens. Generous people joined hand with the government in times of hardship. That care for the nation is seen in the more than US$7 million in financial contributions generated to help the government manage and help those affected by the flash flood as of yesterday afternoon.

Cambodia’s government has also achieved successful reforms from domestic administration, to trade and investment laws, economic diplomacy, and even the contribution of sending its humanitarian forces, under the U.N. umbrella, to help countries afflicted by wars.

Cambodia’s forces joined hands with local people to safeguard them from the flooding. As reported, nearly 30,000 have been transported to safe areas, although the heavy rains continue to hit in 19 out of 25 provinces and capital city. Several hundreds of houses, schools and bridges are affected by the flood. While rural roads and irrigation systems were also hit by the torrential rains throughout the week.

PM Hun Sen visited flood victims in two areas on the outskirts of Phnom Penh in the evening rains of Thursday. He commented: “I am quite confident that Cambodia can overcome this natural disaster as well as the Covid-19”.

“Cambodia needs to join hands to restore the country post-the Covid-19 and the natural disaster,” he said as he instructed the local authority to handle the flood.

“The local authority at all levels needs to evacuate the people affected by flood to safe area. At the same time measures are need to protect the people’s properties from theft by bad people,” he said.

The Premier also hit back at critics who claim that the filling up the land of the ponds and lakes in and around Phnom Penh are to blame for the flash floods.

“No, but it is because the flash floods resulted from it raining cats and dogs,” he said.

“Cambodia is not the only country affected by such heavy rains, but Thailand, Vietnam and Laos as well”.
Vietnam also reports scores of people have lost their lives to the floods.

The Premier also alerted local authorities to handle the issue in the event of Thailand releasing water from over-filled dams and that part of Cambodia’s area near the border will be affected.

Stand together and join hands and we can meet these challenges as a nation, as a people, and as individuals, now and in the future.

By Ek Tha
Standing-Vice Chairman of the Royal Government Spokesperson Unit,
Spokesman of the Council of Ministers,
Advisor to the Ministry of Information