Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong has demanded an end to opposition politicking on the Vietnam border issue, following the second and “final” verification of maps used by the government to demarcate the eastern boundary against French charts.
Namhong, also a deputy prime minister, yesterday presided over the reception of 26 colonial-era “Bonne” 1/100,000-scale maps of the Kingdom, delivered courtesy of French President Francois Hollande from the National Geographic Institute in Paris.
During a three-hour ceremony at the Council of Ministers, the charts were overlaid with government maps.
As with a similar event in August involving maps loaned by the United Nations, the maps appeared to match. No questions were permitted. The efforts are in response to claims made by some opposition lawmakers that the government had used “fake” maps favourable to Vietnam to delineate the border.
Yesterday, Namhong, clearly irritated with the CNRP accusations, declared the matter finished, ruling out further “verifications” and saying he hoped the official French maps had “opened their eyes”.
“The border problem, the maps problem, should end. [We should] not let a political party take this problem and turn it into a campaign to incite Khmer citizens to oppose the government,” he said.
“It is not a different border. Why isn’t it different? Because we have used it for decades since 1985 when we signed a treaty with Vietnam to demarcate; we have used the maps Bonne 1/100,000 that we have had already; that’s why it is not different.”
However, CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrith, who led the opposition delegation to the verification, said questions remained about whether the maps corresponded with border posts.
He said the party wanted to borrow copies of the French and governments maps to verify them independently.
“We need map experts and we also need to undertake separate research in order to declare our stance, too,” he said.
He added it was “regretful” Namhong used the opportunity to attack the party, rather than promote national unity over the issue.
Sok Touch, head of the border research group at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said the French maps were authoritative, and the same as the government charts, and should “end the controversy”.
Touch said his attention would now turn to where border posts were planted.
During the ceremony, Namhong explained that although the government had used the official maps, it had also considered the actual situation of border regions when delineating, as well as the 1914 decision of a French governor granting Cambodia an additional parcel of land in Mondulkiri province.
Namhong also addressed the issue of National Assembly President Heng Samrin’s birth village Anlung Chrey, in Kampong Cham’s Punhea Krek district.
He said although, according to the Bonne map, it was in Vietnam, Cambodia would negotiate a village swap to secure it.
The demarcation treaty allows land exchanges to accommodate Cambodian or Vietnamese communities living in contested areas.