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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - National Assembly approves border treaty

National Assembly approves border treaty

Members of parliament from the two main political parties voted on November 11 to

approve a supplemental border treaty with Vietnam after discussion on the issue that

spanned seven hours and which saw SRP members walk out of the Assembly in protest

before the final vote.

The remaining 97 parliamentarians from the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP)

and Funcinpec voted unanimously to approve the supplemental treaty by a raised-hand

vote.

King Norodom Sihamoni is expected to sign the treaty, although he is being lobbied

from several quarters not to do so. Sources say that both Prime Minister Hun Sen

and Deputy Prime Minister Sok An spent around four hours at the Palace on November

6 briefing the King on the details of the treaty.

Previously, in a speech delivered on October 17, Hun Sen had warned that the monarchy

might be abolished if it was "difficult to sign" the treaty.

The treaty will become effective when the ratified documents are officially exchanged

between the two parties at a ceremony in Phnom Penh at an as yet undisclosed date.

Yim Sovann, an opposition parliamentarian, said the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) would

appeal to King Sihamoni not to sign the controversial supplemental border treaty

because of doubts over its Constitutional validity.

"The supplemental border treaty violates the Constitution and many technical

issues need to be clarified," Sovann said.

Hun Sen promised the National Assembly that the government was committed to maintaining

Cambodia's existing territorial integrity and said he was working to build an exact

and peaceful border between Cambodia and Vietnam.

"On behalf of the government, I would like to promise to the National Assembly

that we would like to work hard from the bottom of our heart and do everything in

order to carry out all the treaties to be effective," Hun Sen said.

He said the government will continue its work on border demarcation, including the

installation of border markers, and continue to negotiate with Vietnam over the outstanding

issues on both land and sea borders.

"I hope that history will not condemn me as a traitor while I have been working

hard to resolve the border issues," Hun Sen said.

Sok An said the supplemental border treaty is designed to build an exact border line

that will be verifiable both on the ground and from maps.

"Our target is to build a clear border [with Vietnam] and a treaty that would

not result in ceding Cambodian territory," he said.

He explained to the National Assembly that negotiations on the border issue with

Vietnam have been based on 26 separate maps printed in 1964, which he said were recognized

by more than 30 countries.

He said the border negotiations have been based on maps with a scale of 1:100,000

and 1:50,000, but Sovann said this was contrary to Article 2 of the Cambodian Constitution.

According to Sovann, Article 2 of the Constitution says the territorial integrity

of the Kingdom of Cambodia is inviolable, with the border defined using 1:100,000

scale maps made between the years 1933 and1953 and internationally recognized between

the years 1963 and1969.

However, Sok An said that Cambodia and Vietnam had not used maps during the negotiations

that would cause Cambodia to lose territory, and that the maps used to negotiate

the treaty signed in 1983 between the then People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK) and

Vietnam were the same as those made in 1964.

"I think that there is nothing strange about verifying and negotiating over

the border issues; we need to define the precise border with Vietnam, and then the

border issue can no longer be used for political purposes," said Sok An.

Funcinpec had previously called the PRK-era treaties signed with Vietnam "illegal."

With its opposition to the treaties dropped, Funcinpec MPs were now fully on board

with the ruling CPP during the Assembly vote.

Hun Sen said in his speech to the National Assembly that Cambodia's land border with

Vietnam ran for 383.5 kilometers: 191 of which was in Ratanakiri, Mondolkiri and

Kratie; 173 kilometers in Kampong Cham, Svay Rieng, Prey Veng, Kandal and Takeo;

and an additional 19.50 kilometers on river areas in Prey Veng and Kandal.

The supplemental agreement resolves six out of seven disputed border areas with Vietnam.

One outstanding area of contention is a 50-square-kilometer piece of territory in

Dak Dam commune, Orang district, Mondulkiri province. The treaty stipulates that

both countries will continue to discuss the disputed area in an effort to find a

solution to the disagreement.

In a press release issued on November 11, opposition lawmakers mourned the supplemental

border treaty, saying that "Cambodia lost its sovereignty to Vietnam."

Radio journalist Mam Sonando and teachers' union leader Rong Chhun are being held

in prison, and arrest warrants have been issued for others who allegedly accused

Hun Sen of ceding land to Vietnam via the border treaty.

"We have taken action against those who tried to use the border issue for political

purposes in order to create chaos and topple the government, and make the country

unstable," Sok An said.

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