PHNOM PENH, Dec 5, 2017 (BSS) – Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said Bangladesh and Cambodia have developed a strong and mutually beneficial partnership and now work together to foster greater regional cooperation for development, peace and stability in the region.
“I hope that the fraternity and cooperation between Bangladesh and Cambodia will be bolstered further through my visit,” she wrote in an article published in the mass circulated Khmer Times on December 4.
Headlined ‘Fostering a friendship: Bangladesh and Cambodia’, the article pointed out Bangladesh and Cambodia’s people endured nearly identical experience and atrocities while earning their self-determination.
“There are many commonalities in socioeconomic aspects between Bangladesh and Cambodia and both of them are striving to improve people’s living standard,” Sheikh Hasina said.
The Bangladesh premier said mutual cooperation now need to be boosted in the fields of agriculture, trade and commerce, science and technology, and education and culture to benefit the two peoples.
She said despite geographical proximity, there was a big detachment between Bangladesh and Cambodian people though Prime Minister Hun Sen’s 2014 visit significantly helped reduce the gap paving ways for increased contacts particularly among their businesspeople.
The article apprised Cambodians of the Rohingya issue while Sheikh Hasina wrote that it exposed Bangladesh to an unprecedented crisis over providing humanitarian assistance to more than a million forcibly displaced people from Myanmar.
“We have given them shelter on humanitarian grounds but it is difficult for us to give them food and shelter for long,” she said seeking international community’s sustained support in resolving the crisis.
She added: Myanmar must take back its citizens at the earliest and we are seeking assistance of the world community to help resolve the crisis.”
The premier said many predicted that Bangladesh is going to be a fertile ground of militancy in South Asia after Pakistan as a lot of elements were there for its breeding as it appeared as a global phenomenon threatening countries all over the globe.
“(But) Our (Bangladesh’s) greatest success is to contain the spread of terrorism with a ‘zero tolerance policy” Sheikh Hasina said.
She said Bangladesh enhanced the capability of its law enforcement agencies to combat terrorism, which also found it difficult to make its room in the country as majority of people in the country do not support destructive activities in the name of religion.
“We have also launched a concerted campaign involving religious leaders, teachers and opinion leaders against terrorism,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina wrote she was extremely happy to visit the Kingdom of Cambodia at its Prime Minister Hun Sen’s invitation adding “On my three-day visit, on behalf of my countrymen and myself, I would like to extend hearty greetings to the people of Cambodia”.
She pointed out that Bangladesh and Cambodia enjoy excellent relations founded on strong bonds of friendship, mutual respect, shared history and culture, and common values and customs while she particularly recalled memories of her meeting with her counterpart Hun Sen during his Dhaka visit on June 16-18, 2014.
Bangladesh, she said, is now on a steady path of advancement in terms of socioeconomic progress as is the case of Cambodia while overcoming enormous odds Bangladesh becomes a lower middle-income country with its economy standing on a firm footing.
“I’m happy to see Cambodia today is also a lower middle-income country with sustained economic growth,” she said.
The premier said the journey of Bangladesh, however, was neither smooth nor without obstacles and hazards while it emerged as an independent country through a bloody war led by Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Sheikh Hasina recalled that three million people had sacrificed their lives and 200,000 women lost their honour in the war. An existing secular ideological value was replaced by a totally diverse ideology. The whole nation was not in the same tone with the process; some people had even opposed Bangladesh’s independence, she said.
“Within three and a half years of the independence, my father and Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was assassinated along with 18 family members on 15 August 1975, while the war-ravaged country was going through a huge reconstruction phase. I, along with my younger sister Rehana, survived as we were abroad.”
She wrote: “Those who opposed the creation of Bangladesh became the partners of the state power after the assassination of my father. The spirit of independence and war of liberation was assailed.”
The premier wrote the people of Bangladesh were under military rule for more than two decades and domestic and foreign conspiracies were there so that Bangladesh could not thrive in upholding its sovereignty and dignity.
“After six years in exile, I returned home in 1981 and started a movement for the restoration of people’s basic rights and democracy. We formed a government in 1996. After a gap of five years, my party Bangladesh Awami League was victorious again in 2008 elections and is still in office for the second consecutive term.”
She said Bangladesh is one of the most populous countries in the world where people’s livelihoods depend on the cultivable land and nature’s will. Natural resource is scarce.
Sheikh Hasina wrote arriving at the present economic growth and getting a leap in the socioeconomic indices were only possible owing to the flourishing of democratic political forces, people’s unlimited resilience, courage and initiatives.
“How was the living standard of the people of Bangladesh a decade ago? The poverty rate was 41.5 percent in 2005 which dropped to 22 percent at present while per capita income rose to $1,610 from a mere $543 in 2005,” she said.
The premier said it’s expected that the poverty rate will go down below 16-17 percent by 2021. Bangladesh’s position is well ahead among its South Asian neighbours in terms of child and maternal mortality, and average life expectancy, she said.
She wrote the child mortality rate has reduced to 28 per thousand and maternal mortality to 1.7 per thousand, while the total fertility rate has fallen from 3.4 to 2.3 (slightly above the “replacement level”). Average life expectancy has risen to 72 years from 65 in only eight years.
“Last year our GDP posted a 7.28 percent growth and inflation was below 6 percent indicating the robustness of our economy.”
The premier said food security for 160 million people has been ensured and Bangladesh has topped the South Asian countries in gender equality for the third consecutive year, ranking 47th among 144 nations.
She wrote rural Bangladesh has remarkably been transformed with metalled zigzag roads connecting one village to another even in the remotest areas. “Corrugated tin shed houses have replaced the thatched ones.”
The premier wrote electric bulbs have taken the place of lanterns at night as most of the villages are covered by electricity. About 4.5 million solar home systems supply electricity in areas where power transmission lines are yet to be established.
“Our government has laid priority on human resource development through ensuring education and vocational training.”
Sheikh Hasina said special stipends have been introduced for girl students of insolvent families and girls’ education has been made free of cost. Free textbooks are distributed among students up to secondary level from the first day of the year. The farthest villages have been connected with the digital network.
“My government has put Bangladesh in a stable and firm position. I always mention poverty as the main enemy of humankind. We have almost conquered hunger. We have been trying to provide proper medicare facilities to the grassroots people through nearly 18,500 community clinics and rural health centres,” she said.
The premier wrote: “Bangladesh aspires to become a middle-income country by 2021. It is not far away when the people of my country will get the taste of a sustainable and improved livelihood if the current trend of progress continues.”