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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Border deadline passes

Border deadline passes

The government's self-imposed deadline of December 31, 2001 to solve the country's

various border controversies came and went with no agreements reached.

That, said opposition MP Cheam Chan Ny, showed there was no political will to solve

the border issue.

"Cambodia is weak and does not have the strength to protect its land, sea and

airspace. The only way we can do so is by the law," said Chan Ny.

Chan Ny said that Cambodia and its neighbors - Vietnam, Thailand and Laos -had

promised to sign a border dispute protocol by the year end. Var Kim Hong, chief of

the Council of Ministers' commission that deals with the issue, declined to talk

to the Post.

Border reform has long been a contentious issue, with the latest dispute over Preah

Vihear temple on the Thai border. The temple is no stranger to controversy: Thailand

and Cambodia went to an international court over ownership of the temple 40 years

ago. The tribunal ruled in Cambodia's favor.

Cambodia sent hundreds of troops to the area last month after the temple, which is

accessible only from the Thai side, was closed by the Thai authorities December 17.

At least one foreign embassy has advised tourists to stay away from the area.

Preap Tan, governor of Preah Vihear province, said the Thais claimed water pollution

was damaging a border village, adding that there had been no confrontation between

Thai and Cambodian soldiers. The entire episode, he said, had not left the Thais

looking good.

The border issue also strikes a chord with the country's students. The highly vocal

Students Movement for Democracy regularly claims that Thai and Vietnamese soldiers

shift the border markers further into Cambodia every few months. Seven student associations

formed the Youth Council of Cambodia December 10 to pressure the government to pay

more attention to the issue.

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