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New doubts, new maps

Senior Minister of Border Affairs Var Kimhong inspects maps at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh last month.
Senior Minister of Border Affairs Var Kimhong inspects maps at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh last month. Heng Chivoan

New doubts, new maps

A researcher investigating Cambodia’s border demarcation has cast doubt on whether the late King Norodom Sihanouk indeed deposited maps with the United Nations in 1964, which the opposition says are the original, constitutionally recognised charts of the Kingdom.

The comments by Sok Touch, head of the border research team at the Cambodian Royal Academy, came as the government set Thursday as the date for verifying the maps it uses for demarcation against charts to be delivered from France.

Amid disputes over alleged Vietnamese encroachment, the government has of late asked several foreign countries for copies of the “Bonne” maps, developed by the French colonial authorities to mark Cambodia’s borders, in order to “verify” its own demarcation charts.

It also asked the United Nations for the original Bonne maps submitted by King Sihanouk in 1964.

The UN sent charts from its library, but said they were not the charts requested.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said the UN-lent maps were charts submitted by Sihanouk in the 1960s to the UN as part of a protest against bombing by the US and South Vietnam during the Second Indochina War. They were not the Bonne maps, but rather UTM maps, developed by the US and based on the French colonial charts, Siphan said,

Touch said it was “strange” the UN could find the UTM maps, which he said were submitted in 1963, but not the charts supposedly submitted in 1964 to gain international recognition for Cambodia’s borders.

Based on this, Touch said he doubted the 1964 submission took place.

“I say because they did not find [the maps], they were not deposited,” he said,

He added that the maps loaned by the United Nations were the same as those used by the government.

Cambodia National Rescue Party spokesman Ou Chanrith, however, maintained the government should find the 1964 maps to properly demarcate the border, Meanwhile, the government yesterday said Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong would on Thursday lead a ceremony at the Council of Ministers to receive and verify maps delivered from France, which would involve five representatives from the CNRP and Funcinpec.

The announcement followed a letter from French President Francois Hollande, dated Monday, agreeing to Hun Sen’s request for maps from the country’s National Geographic Institute but noting the country’s strong neutrality in the delineation of Cambodia’s border.

Hollande said an additional request of a French expert to help the verification would only be permitted if Vietnam agreed.

In a response, Prime Minister Hun Sen thanked his French counterpart and said the maps would help end the “nationalism” sparked by the issue.

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