Authorities in Svay Rieng province have slammed the minister in charge of negotiating border issues with Vietnam, saying he has not kept the military and governor’s office in the loop regarding the ongoing dispute with Cambodia’s neighbour.
Cheang Am, the provincial governor, told a meeting of officials yesterday that Va Kim Hong, senior minister for border affairs, had not fostered good relations between Am’s office, the military and the working group overseeing negotiations with Vietnam.
“So I have a proposal: I would like our national border committee to explain in this province where [the Vietnamese] encroached, where we lost our land, because people are confused at this point,” he said.
“Some posts have been planted, and it’s not clear where land has been gained or lost . . . Our principle is that we will not let people lose their homes, and we have told the people as much.
“However, it has not been revealed to us what we have gained or lost. People do not know . . . Please clarify this point for the people,” he went on to say.
Neang Phay, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Defence, repeated many of Am’s sentiments.
In late June, an opposition-led delegation brawled with Vietnamese authorities and villagers after “inspecting” a Vietnamese-built road in disputed territory in Svay Rieng.
The following day, Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak backed up the opposition activists and condemned the Vietnamese actions.
Vietnam later issued its own condemnation of what it termed “Cambodian extremists”.
Speaking at the border affairs meeting yesterday, Interior Minister Sar Kheng agreed that information on the ongoing negotiations must be more widely accessible.
“It’s necessary that we have constant contact with the border authorities and . . . relevant authorities, such as the police and armed forces,” he said.
Governor Am claimed that an area of land in Kampong Ro district is under the de facto control of Vietnam.
Kim Hong, the border affairs minister, hit back at Am, saying he had failed to report such alleged encroachments to the committee and had instead been sending his complaints directly to Kheng.
“His Excellency forgets his Excellency’s proper role,” Kim Hong quipped.
Phat of the Defence Ministry said it was important to ensure transparency.
“If we only talk within our group, people will continue to argue and it will never end.”