Cambodia’s foreign affairs minister on Wednesday warned the country’s opposition party not to exploit an issue surrounding the accuracy of official maps for political gain, following the government’s verification of its charts against ones provided by the United Nations.
The U. N. sent a set of 1964 maps delineating the border between Cambodia and Vietnam to the Southeast Asian nation last Thursday after Prime Minister Hun Sen asked for help in dispelling allegations by the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) that his government had ceded land to neighboring Vietnam based on its own set of incorrect charts.
After a two-hour verification process, a government official declared that the U.N. maps, which were printed according to the same 1/100,000 scale as the government’s own 26 maps, matched Cambodia’s charts, and that the matter was resolved.
“You will be surprised [if] you criticize the Cambodian and Vietnam border issue in order to exploit the political situation,” said Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong. “If you don’t stop the criticism, then it will be up to the government to take action on this matter.”
He also said the government expected to receive a map from former colonial ruler France on Thursday, so it could be compared to the ones Cambodia is using to demarcate the border.
The Cambodian government requested maps from France, the United States and the United Kingdom in July to verify its border demarcations.
Hor Namhong ruled out taking the matter to the International Court of Justice, which issues rulings on land disputes between countries, because the process would require a lot of time and money.
On Tuesday, he presided over a ceremony at the Council of Ministers to return the maps to Mereani Keleti Vakasisikakala, acting president of the U.N.'s Dag Hammarskjold Library.
Sok Touch, head of border research for the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said he already had received a 26-piece set of maps from France, which appeared to be printed according to the same 1/100,000 scale as Cambodia’s maps and published by Indochina Geographic Group.
“I had received this map a long time ago,” he said. “I believe it is the same map. I don’t want to say yet because I need to wait for the official one.”
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said he welcomed France’s response to Cambodia’s request.
He said that Cambodia did not belong to the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) alone, and that the CNRP was willing to do everything for sake of the nation.
“Cambodia belongs to the citizens, so everything that involves its territory will be involved with our people,” he said.
Disputed border areas
In the meantime, tension continues to mount between Cambodians and Vietnamese in disputed border areas.
On Thursday, a villager from Thna Thnong commune in the Romdoul district of Svay Rieng province accused local Vietnamese of destroying his rice field in one such area after spraying it with a chemical powder.
"They have sprayed chemicals on my crops twice already, and the crops have rotted,” he said. “All the land here belongs to Cambodia. I don't know why they won't allow us to grow rice here."
Cambodian villagers feel insecure because authorities do not seem to care that the Vietnamese are encroaching upon the country’s border territory, he said.
"Why are the Vietnamese able to grow rice there, but the Cambodian cannot?,” he said. "It’s sad that we can't do anything on our land."
In late June, several CNRP lawmakers and activists were injured when a group of Vietnamese villagers attacked them with sticks while they inspected an area of the border in Svay Rieng province’s Kampong Ro district, where they say Vietnamese authorities built a road in Cambodian territory.
Reported by Brach Chev and Tha Thai for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Sarada Taing. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.