Cambodia and Vietnam on Thursday wrapped up a three-day meeting to discuss tensions over their disputed border, with the two sides agreeing to complete demarcation of territory “very soon,” but a Cambodian opposition lawmaker dismissed the agreement and accused his government of ceding land to Hanoi.
The Cambodia-Vietnam Joint Border Committee, which consists of 25 members from each side, concluded the talks at Cambodia’s Council of Ministers building “in good spirits with mutual respect over sovereignty and territory of the two countries,” according to a statement by the Cambodian delegation.
The two sides recognized that the process of land delineation is “complicated,” despite having completed around 83 percent of the border so far, and “agreed to finish demarcating the border very soon,” it said.
The teams from Cambodia, led by chairman of Cambodia’s joint border committee Var Kim Hong, and Vietnam, led by Deputy Foreign Minister Ho Xuan Son, also agreed to “maintain the current situation along the border,” based on a 1995 statement issued by the two countries.
The delegations also decided to create a technical border team consisting of relevant provincial authorities from each side, which would “cooperate to eliminate any problem along the border in order to prevent any complications that might affect the good status of bilateral relations.”
Ongoing border issues between Cambodia and Vietnam led to clashes at the end of June when Vietnamese villagers attacked and beat Cambodian activists who were inspecting a disputed area, according to the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP).
But Vietnam’s foreign ministry released a statement last week saying that Vietnamese security officers and local residents had tried peacefully to stop the activists and “reason” with them, but were attacked themselves instead.
Activists in Cambodia also accuse Vietnamese authorities of backing the construction of irrigation ponds, roads and border posts within Cambodian territory.
Following the conclusion of Thursday’s talks, Var Kim Hong left the Council of Ministers’ building without responding to questions from the media.
But CNRP lawmaker Um Sam An, who along with fellow opposition MP Real Camerin has led Cambodian activists to inspect various points along the border with Vietnam in recent weeks, told RFA’s Khmer Service that the agreement reached between the two sides was “unacceptable.”
He said that by continuing to demarcate land according to the current process, Cambodia would be ceding land to Vietnam, and accused Var Kim Hong of working for Hanoi in the talks.
“The government hides a lot of information,” he said.
“I suspect that Var Kim Hong colluded with the Vietnamese to cede our land to them.”
Um Sam An also urged Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government to suspend further demarcation until it receives a United Nations map prepared decades ago by former colonial ruler France to compare with maps currently used to delineate the border.
“If the government continues to demarcate the border using Vietnamese maps, we will continue to lose our land,” he said, in reference to those drawn by Hanoi after its invasion and occupation of Cambodia in 1979.
Writing to U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon on Monday, Hun Sen asked for use of the map, which was prepared by France over the years 1933-1953, so that he can end “incitement” by nationalist forces in Cambodia and confirm the integrity of his government’s efforts to fix the border’s proper boundaries.
Um Sam An also reiterated calls from Cambodia’s opposition to bring the border dispute to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for arbitration.
In November 2013, the ICJ ruled that the promontory on which the World Heritage Site Preah Vihear temple sits along the border shared by Thailand and Cambodia belongs to the latter and that Thai troops and police must stay out of the area, where several deadly clashes had occurred in recent years.
On Wednesday, Var Kim Hong declined an invitation to join a CNRP-led trip to the Vietnamese border planned for July 19 and dismissed calls by Um Sam An to sack him for using “the wrong maps” to delineate territory, according to a report by the Phnom Penh Post.
Real Camerin had reportedly invited Var Kim Hong to show him that last month’s clashes had taken place inside Cambodian territory, but the joint border committee chairman said he was under no obligation to visit the area.
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.
Reported by Leng Maly for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.