SPEECH BY SAMDECH HUN SEN
AT THE GROUND BREAKING CEREMONY FOR
KANTHA BOPHA I HOSPITAL EXPANSION

August 2004

My respects to:
Venerable Buddhist Monks,
Doctor Beat Richner,
Your Excellencies, Members of the Royal Government,
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished National and International Guests,
 
I would like to express my respects to Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, to all who are attending this ceremony. Today, I have the great pleasure of attending with the Supreme Buddhist Patriarch, Samdech Bhodivong and other Venerable Monks, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, the ground breaking ceremony for the construction of the Kantha Bopha I Hospital expansion. I am delighted to sincerely praise the efforts of Dr. Beat Richner who has been actively contributing to the development of the two Kantha Bopha Hospitals and the Jayavarman VII Hospital since 1992, that have become modern hospitals serving the welfare of Cambodian children and mothers. The Kantha Bopha Hospitals have come through many critical milestones and are poised for new activities, with full of hope and assurance.
 
On behalf of the Royal Government and people of Cambodia, may I express our profound gratitude to Dr. Beat Richner and the generous Swiss people for their direct involvement in improving the health sector in Cambodia, thus improving the living conditions of our Cambodian children. Your support is of great significance for Cambodia's development, and the assistance so far provided to us is invaluable and has been used very effectively.
 
We all are aware that every citizen has a right to equal access to health care services. With this position, I set out to promote the implementation of the objectives and targets of the Royal Government of Cambodia's health strategy, aimed at providing every Cambodian citizen, in both urban and rural areas, with access to high quality health care.
 
Certainly this ambition can be achieved by our collective and unified efforts with the contribution from the international community and public institutions, thus making progress towards reclaiming our own destiny and in attaining new achievements with the support of our development partners. In this sense, the ground breaking ceremony today to construct new buildings at the Kantha Bopha I Hospital is indeed another testimony. The expansion of the Kantha Bopha I requires US$ 2.5 million. I believe this hospital will be a great architectural achievement, equipped with modern facilities and qualified staff, and thus actively contribute to the development of the health sector in Phnom Penh. I would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude and appreciation for the patriotic and generous gesture of Oknha KIT Meng, who has granted long-term use of the land to Kantha Bopha I, in order to reduce difficulties and help the lives of Cambodian children.
 
Cambodia is now at peace, with political, social and economic stability, which was not the case before. Moreover, democracy has become more deeply rooted from day to day, which, in turn, has solidly strengthened public order.
 
More than at any other time before, Cambodia's people throughout the land express their optimism and renew their commitments, with full dynamism, motivation and strong determination, toward achieving new successes, while the pillars of Cambodian society will be gradually improved and strengthened. Thus, people entertain the hope of taking charge of their own future with confidence and happiness. Moreover, the people of Cambodia can have a clearer long-term view of building for the future with hope and strong determination. All these points I observe to be factually reflected in the good results of our reforms in all the sectors of the Royal Government, which is being further strengthened and enhanced.
 
In this favorable environment, the Royal Government will continue to focus on social development, especially the improvement of highly effective health services. Specifically, in the first cabinet meeting of the Third Legislature on July 16, 2004, I set out the Rectangular Strategy for Growth, Employment, Equity and Efficiency in Cambodia. One side of the strategy is to promote social and economic development through a comprehensive reform program of the health sector.
 
Our health policy is built upon the provision of health care and medication to people through the improved quality and safety of health services, as well as strengthened management capacity in health care establishments. With this policy, we intend to improve the provision of public health aimed at creating adequate conditions for the admission of all patients without discrimination and in keeping with their right to health care.
 
Indeed, we cannot achieve the above targets unless the admission capacity and facilities of hospitals are improved. Thus, I strongly believe that Kantha Bopha I will indeed contribute to this effort in improving the technical skills and standards for all hospitals in Cambodia.
 
As we all are aware, identification of strategies and targets and the availability in terms of infrastructure and medication are not enough to reach the defined targets without the participation of qualified and motivated staff. Thus, I always give special attention to the importance of health personnel education and training, as well as to the improvement of working and living conditions for them.
 
Indeed, actions to develop a public health system of high quality are integral to an overall economic system. In this sense, improvement of the health system will actually contribute to national development.
 
Nevertheless, we are facing many other challenges, in addition to improving the delivery of health services, such as the fight against malaria, HIV/AIDS and other diseases, as well as reducing infant and maternal mortality. With such multi-facetted challenges, we shall address the issues primarily with our own resources and capacity, giving special importance to the prevention of communicable diseases as a core element in the implementation of our health policy, while cooperating with our development partners.
 
To this end, the Royal Government of Cambodia's health strategy includes the following: the provision of basic health care for everyone, decentralization of financial and administrative functions, human resources development and special attention to the crack down and prevention of infectious diseases, as well as strengthening IT in the health sector.
 
Supreme Buddhist Patriarch and Venerable Monks, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, please allow me to take this opportunity to express and extend my gratitude to the Supreme Buddhist Patriarch and Venerable Monks for their support to the health sector including the Supreme Buddhist Patriarch's new concepts of Sangha Koma in accordance with Buddhism and secular sectors.
 
I agree with what Dr. Beat Richner has stated. This issue has been created in the last a few years by a number of experts, not by the international community. However, some experts often use improper words in referring to Kantha Bopha I Hospital and Dr. Beat Richner as well as his colleagues. The words offend not only Kantha Bopha I Hospital and Dr. Beat Richner but also the right of Cambodia to development and equality with other advanced countries. They say that Cambodia is poor and therefore the treatment procedures in Kantha Bopha Hospital are not applicable, are inappropriate. I agree with Dr. Beat Richner that we don't step backward.
 
All people on this planet regardless of skin color are entitled to access the same health services. The most ridiculous thing is that their idea of the right to access health services involves discrimination and classification of countries as affluent or poor, while they want us to implement the standards of democracy like countries that have been practicing democracy for hundreds of years. This is not acceptable. They should understand that every human being, rich or poor, from the East or West, white, yellow or black, is entitled to access the same health services. They should not have the idea that western countries whose people have white skin and long noses receive this quality of lactate or dextrose, while the poor in Cambodia or Laos, for example, receive this other type of lactate or dextrose. This is not acceptable.
 
So I agree with Dr. Beat Richner, who has opposed to the philosophy of a group of people that we should not create a need for such medical treatment for poor people whose need had not been met before and that we should wait for Cambodia to reach a higher development level before modernizing medical practice here. That attitude is wrong, wrong in terms of morality, professionalism, politics and economics. Hence, I really agree (with Dr. Beat Richner). I don't need to talk about morality, politics and economics; I am only talking about the professional principles of medicine, with which I am not familiar.
 
Say, after examination, a medical practitioner finds that an antibiotic is needed, but aspirin is provided instead. The patient will have a problem! I totally disagree and this problem shall be ended in Cambodia within this term. While I was just whispering H.E. NUTH Sokhom, Dr. Beat Richner said it would be a new policy for a new minister in the government of an old prime minister. It doesn't matter. You can shake hands with each other now (clapping). In the past few years, I always asked H.E. MAM Bunheng and H.E. HENG Tai Kry to work closely with Dr. Beat Richner in order to increase the capacity and to assist these hospitals. I also discussed the matter with the Swiss government and in the past few months, the Swiss Ambassador to Cambodia traveled from Bangkok to discuss the issue of the hospital operation with me.
 
One night I also brought my grandchild to this Kantha Bopha Hospital and left at about 1:30 a.m. Sadly, some of the children who were admitted into the hospital were lying in beds, while others were lying on the floor and outside the ward. We will perceive the problem differently, unless we experience it personally.
 
Yet, nothing is more worrisome than our ill children or grandchildren (in terms of father and grandfather) not in terms of political responsibility as prime minister. A father or grandfather feels strongly the emotions and shock, much more even than being shocked by B-52 bombers, and that's really a shock.
 
Previously, these doctors took care of my children, and now they are treating my children's children. Dr. TRY Kruy, Dr. YITH Sondara, Dr. Samol and other pediatricians used to treat their mothers and now they are treating their children. And nothing is more distressing than our ill children or grandchildren. So I called Dr. NUTH Sokhom to tell him that we had to strengthen and assist the Kantha Bopha Hospitals and at the same time strengthen our pediatric hospital. Today, the ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Cambodia, who has planned to assist the pediatric hospital, will be prompted to accelerate his activity (laughing).
 
I would also like to ensure that General Headquarters in Phnom Penh will be transformed into a hospital. This process of transformation has been in place since H.E. MAM Song Huot was in his office there. Now, you incoming minister, secretaries of State, keep in mind that when the Phnom Penh General Headquarters is moved out of Phnom Penh, the building will be turned into a hospital. I have already sent my proposal to Japan and if there is no reply from Japan, we will ask Dr. Beat Richner instead (clapping). I would like to reduce the military force in the city and turn this city into a city of well-being, culture, tourism, commerce, economy, etc. The General Headquarters was built during the period of French colonization for war reasons before I was born. Now, I would like to change the situation by turning this General Headquarters into a hospital. When will the new General Headquarters be completed? At the end of this year. We are in the process of moving. The sale of this (old General Headquarters building) is not allowed.
 
This building belongs to the Ministry of Health. Hospitals and other facilities will be under the supervision of the Ministry of Health, and we will send our request for grant assistance from Japan. We have also sent a proposal worth US$ 36 millions to Japan. I believe that Japan will approve because Japan has allocated US$ 1500 million to countries in the Mekong Sub-region. Dr. Richner, do not consider this unless there is no hope from Japan. I sent my proposal to Japan in 1999-2000, so you should build this one first. If Japan doesn't grant its loan, you can do it.
 
If we talk about access to health care in terms of geography, this building is accessible from all directions. Patients from the north can get to Calmete Hospital, and patients from this way will get to the Kantha Bopha Hospital (pediatric hospital), and patients from the other direction will get to a general hospital in the center of the city, the former General Headquarters built during the French colonization. When was it built? Mr. KEAT Chon, remember? In 1930. It will be good if we can turn it into a hospital, and there will be no more military in the city because there is no more fighting. We will just talk things out.
 
For this reason, we have pushed the Kantha Bopha Hospitals to the limit of their capacity. Please do not interfere with Kantha Bopha affairs (clapping). I don't understand why the Kantha Bopha Hospitals are being criticized when these hospitals are capable. I don't understand this. While the Kantha Bopha Hospitals are capable of treating patients in this way, some experts claim that they are wrong, that they offer treatment procedures that Cambodia has never before experienced. What is wrong with that? (clapping). In terms of technology, I already said, Cambodia is not a rubbish bin for obsolete technologies. Modern technologies are welcome. However, do not use Cambodians for vaccination tests such as AIDS drugs. If you want to conduct your tests, do it with animals. Do not test Cambodians with drugs. Do not do it.
 
Recently, we requested a piece of land at the corner and Oknha KIT Meng has approved the land request for long-term use. When he is ready, we will be able to start.
 
Imagine the past few years, how many children would have died if we did not have these hospitals? So we need to find out the answer. The simplest answer is countless children would have died. For example, in Siem Reap, patients from Siem Reap, Kompong Thom, Banteay Meanchey and Battambang are concentrating at Siem Reap Jayavarman VII hospital. The one in proximity to the Royal Palace is also full. This one will also be full when its expansion is complete. Therefore, we need to make an effort (to build hospitals). Without such hospitals, more children would die. These hospitals are very popular because their treatment services are good and their professionals highly responsible. The hospitals have also provided training to improve human resources within the hospitals.
 
Samdech Supreme Patriarch, Venerable Monks, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:
 
The Kantha Bopha Hospitals and Jayavarman VII Hospital are highly capable and equipped with sophisticated equipment. Presently, the management system that is being implemented in the Kantha Bopha Hospitals is considered as a model for other hospitals nationwide. Concerning this point, I affirm that the management model at the Kantha Bopha Hospitals should be implemented at other hospitals as part of their own capacity building. It is a good model. Thus, as mentioned above, the white, the yellow, the black are entitled to equal access to health services whether the country is affluent or poor. Children in Cambodia are treated equally regardless of where they come from: well-to-do, middle-class, poor or destitute families. A difference results when the democratic system or human rights come under different management styles.
 
In Muslim countries, it is wrong to expect women to take off their veils like those in western countries. It is completely wrong in my country. However, it is so strange that we are required to follow a policy like that in terms of politics, and do differently in health sector. It is said that because you are low, you have to implement the low procedure. That isn't right. It doesn't mean that I am applying that to them, but I just want to express my feeling because sometimes it is said that you (Cambodians) deserve low health services but you (Cambodians) have to implement and strengthen human rights. In terms of human rights, we are working very hard. What are these? These are human rights, aren't they? Are not Dr. Richner and his over 1,000 colleagues implementing human rights? How can we have human rights if they let patients die? Access to medical treatment is a human right. Where would human rights be if there was no right to live and receive nutrition, food, clothing and education? These are my questions. Good health and education services go hand in hand with good human rights. If the services are provided, this is called human rights. Do not just talk but take no action.
 
Samdech Supreme Patriarch, Venerable Monks, Eminent Master:
 
If we go on and on talking about human rights and let people die, what do you think will happen? Is waging wars or fighting against each other human rights? Some answer that killing by bombardment is a human right because it is to promote democracy. When we treat patients, it is said that we have no right to receive such a treatment yet. Dr. Beat Richner has been working very hard. I have to write a statement to Kofi Anan to defend Dr. Beat Richner. Now, I declare my protection, and no one has the right to interfere with the Kantha Bopha Hospitals. Minister, secretaries of State, keep your eyes on the Kantha Bopha Hospitals. Do not make any more statements, or the Swiss people may... fortunately the Swiss people only think that they have to achieve their goals. Therefore, millions of Swiss people will contribute their money to expansion and equipment. Scanning can be done at Calmette Hospital and if Calmette Hospistal were not available‚ Ķ the Calmete Hospital is already equipped with scanning capabilities. I have just instructed H.E. NUTH Sokhom to allow Dr. HENG Tai Kry to serve as director there because it involves loans and other issues. It is an autonomous hospital.
 
Concerning this matter, I would like to stress a significant political message. It is wrong in terms of morality, professionalism, politics and economics. So I acknowledge it should be stopped. If we don't do anything, please don't speak and do not disturb Dr. Beat Richner (clapping). The achievements of the hospitals so far is the result of long work implementation combined with the great endeavors of Dr. Richner, the leader of all the hospital employees. Once again, on behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia and the Cambodian people, I would like to convey my sincere thanks to Dr. Beat Richner and through Dr. Beat Richner I would like to express my profound thanks to all the Swiss donors and I would also like to thank Oknha KIT Meng again for his contribution to the expansion of the Kantha Bopha Hospitals.
 
I would also like to express my praise and admiration to the management of the hospitals, the medical practitioners, nurses and employees working at the two Kantha Bopha Hospitals and the Jayavarman VII Hospital in Siem Reap, who have contributed to building a significant health infrastructure. This is obvious testimony to your great expertise in the area.
 
In closing, I would again like to reiterate the Royal Government of Cambodia's ambition of focusing on the improvement of the health status of our Cambodian people, and I do hope that the newly-built facility, the construction of which we are launching today, will help contribute to addressing the said issues.
Finally, I wish Samdech Supreme Patriarch, Venerable Monks, Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, the five benedictions of Buddha: longevity, beauty, peace, power and intelligence (clapping). Strongly convinced of your cooperation, may I declare the official opening of the ground breaking ceremony of for the expansion of Kantha Bopha I Hospital.
 
Thank you!

Read also speech by Dr. Beat RICHNER
 
Back Info Kantha Bopha IV
 

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