A leading Cambodian opposition party Monday strongly condemned plans by the leaders of Vietnam and Cambodia to finalize the demarcation of their shared border, which would result in each side exchanging swaths of land.
Cambodian Border Commission Chairman Var Kimhong announced Monday that Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Tan Dung will inaugurate the last of 314 border posts on June 24 between Cambodia’s Kampot and Vietnam’s Kien Giang provinces, both of which lie on the coast of the Gulf of Thailand.
Var Kimhong said finalizing the border is important because it will also allow the two countries to proceed with defining their coastal territories.
“Border post 314 is very important in defining the sea border,” he said.
“Now that we have agreed on the [location of the] 314th border post, we can start to demarcate the sea border at any time.”
Var Kimhong added that Cambodia and Vietnam have been using information from French colonial era maps, the Cambodian constitution, and Cambodian King Norodom’s dealings with Vietnam in 1873 to define their borders. Norodom ruled as king from 1860 to 1904.
Var Kimhong said that as part of the deal, Vietnam had agreed to allow Cambodia to reincorporate Along Chhrey and Thlok Trach villages as part of Kompong Cham province’s Ponhea Leu district—the original home of Cambodian National Assembly President Heng Samrin.
In return, he said, Vietnam will be permitted to claim part of Cambodia, although he did not specify which part of the country.
Opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) spokesman Yim Sovann said his group would never accept any deal between Cambodia and Vietnam regarding the demarcation of the shared border.
“The opposition party opposes any demarcation that affects Cambodian territory,” he said.
The SRP said it would also refuse to recognize a recent move by the national assembly, or Cambodian parliament, to ratify an additional treaty concerning Cambodian and Vietnamese border pacts.
SRP leader Sam Rainsy currently lives in exile in France and is facing a two-year jail sentence for uprooting markers at the border with Vietnam in 2009, if he returns.
Sam Rainsy said earlier this month that he plans to meet with Vietnamese officials to convince them to pressure Cambodia to allow him to enter the country, but Hun Sen responded by saying that he is not a Vietnamese puppet and telling Sam Rainsy he would face his punishment if he returned to Cambodia.
The inauguration of the 314th border post will mark the second time Cambodia and Vietnam have cooperated to demarcate their shared border. In June 2006, the two countries installed the 171st border post between Cambodia’s Svay Rieng and Vietnam’s Tay Ninh provinces.
Cambodia and Vietnam share 2,570 kilometers (1,600 miles) of land and sea border and have completed 280 of 314 planned border posts, or about 90 percent of the project. Cambodia’s Rattanakiri and Mondukiri provinces have yet to be demarcated.
The Cambodian government has spent about U.S. $16 million to build the concrete border posts, excluding the cost required to transport them and demarcate the border.
Many Cambodians are wary of Vietnam’s influence over their country’s affairs.
An estimated 1.7 million people, or one in four Cambodians, died in what came to be called the “Killing Fields” after the ultra-Communist Khmer Rouge took power in 1975. The regime was unseated when Vietnam invaded the country four years later.
Vietnam occupied the country for a decade before withdrawing its troops and signing the Paris Peace Agreement to restore sovereignty and stability to Cambodia.
Reported by Sok Serey and Seng Sereyroth for RFA’s Khmer service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.