Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen sent letters to the leaders of the three western countries on Wednesday asking to borrow a decades-old map to try to settle disputes over alleged territorial encroachment by Vietnam.
The Cambodian leader sent letters to U.S. President Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron to ask for their “cooperation and assistance on an important issue about territory integrity of the Kingdom of Cambodia” by lending him the 1964 map so it could be compared to Southeast Asia nation’s official map.
Besides copies of the map of mainland Southeast Asia prepared by former colonial ruler France, Hun Sen asked the three western leaders to provide a group of experts to verify the map that is being used by Cambodia and Vietnam to demarcate the border, according to copies of the letters obtained by RFA’s Khmer Service.
“The request is based on national interests…and to avoid any incitement from extremists who would devastate Cambodia,” the letters said in an unspecified reference to opposition politicians who have accused the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) of using maps drawn by Vietnam, which invaded and occupied Cambodia in 1979.
“This request is aimed at building a peaceful border with neighboring countries,” the letters continues. “So for the sake of regional peace and our Cambodian people, I hope that you will cooperate and provide us the requested assistance.”
Var Kim Hong, chairman of Cambodia’s border committee, said his country would use the maps loaned by the three western nations to verify the Cambodian map being used to demarcate the border with Vietnam and clear up persistent accusations against the government that its official map is fake.
“We will use the maps to verify with our Cambodian one if people still don’t believe [the government],” he said. “The opposition party continues to criticize us. They said our map is fake. We are seeking assistance from foreign countries to prove the government’s stance.”
Earlier this month, Hun Sen had asked U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon to loan him the map prepared by France so it could be compared to the one Cambodia is using to demarcate the border.
Disputes lead to clashes
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 road that the Vietnamese constructed in a disputed area of Svay Rieng province, according to the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). The Vietnamese say they were also attacked by Cambodians.
Now CNRP lawmakers say they will lead about 1,000 of their supporters to the site of a border dispute with Vietnam in the southeast Cambodian province, where they claim that Cambodia has lost about 30 hectares of land to its more powerful and populous neighbor.
CNRP Lawmaker Ou Chanrith said the group will visit villagers in the area to tell residents that they can cultivate crops on the contested land in the province’s Romdoul district.
“If the Vietnamese prevent them from trying to take the land, then please report it to us, and we will ask the local authorities to intervene,” he said.
But CNRP lawmaker Riel Khemarin said Svay Rieng authorities informed him that they will allow only 100 supporters to access the site, while the rest of the group must stand 200 to 300 meters away.
“The authorities told me that they will not allow such a large group of people because they are afraid that they will step on people’s crops,” he said.
But Riel Khemarin said he does not accept that explanation.
“We must go to see the border posts,” to make sure all activities along the border are stopped, he said.
On Tuesday, Interior Minister Sar Kheng instructed about 400 officials, including border police and provincial governors from the regions bordering Vietnam, not to make informal deals concerning disputed land with their Vietnamese counterparts, The Cambodia Daily reported.
The CNRP also sent a letter asking the government to call off its work on demarcating the border until after the next general election in 2018, but National Assembly [parliament] president Heng Samrin refused to endorse it, the report said.
Last week, the Cambodia-Vietnam Joint Border Committee held talks in which the two countries recognized that the process of land delineation was “complicated,” despite having completed around 83 percent of the 1,228-kilometer (763-mile) border so far, and “agreed to finish demarcating the border very soon.”
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.