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State enlists mapping firms

REPRESENTATIVES from the Cambodian and Vietnamese governments accepted proposals yesterday from five land surveying companies that are hoping to secure a two-year contract to produce topographic surveys of the two countries’ sensitive shared border.

The officials convened at the Council of Ministers building to begin their search for a firm that would replace existing maps – which are nearly six decades old – with more detailed maps using GPS technology.

Var Kimhong, the senior minister in charge of border affairs, said it was necessary to upgrade existing maps, which date from the French colonial era, “to confirm the results of demarcation work on the ground” and ensure the government hasn’t “made mistakes” in its  work.

Proposals were accepted from BLOM Geomatics AS (Denmark), IGN France International, Kokusai Kogyo Corporation (Japan), Samboo Engineering Company (South Korea) and Pasco-FINNMAP (Japan/Finland).
In the firms’ respective proposals, the cost of creating the maps ranged between US$1.5 million and $4.5 million, with the costs to be split between the two countries.

“We’re letting technicians from both [countries] study the proposals,” said Var Kimhong. “Then we will make a choice in one week, and let the companies know which will do the work on [the border].”

Var Kimhong said the project would last from December until August 2012, and would involve officials from both countries at demarcation posts to maintain the transparency of the process.

Nguyen Hong Thao, deputy director of the border committee of Vietnam, said during the bidding ceremony that the project was an “important measure to promote the process of establishing peaceful and cooperative borderlines between Vietnam and Cambodia”.

Over the past year, the opposition Sam Rainsy Party has waged a campaign to expose alleged Vietnamese border encroachments in Svay Rieng province. The party’s president, Sam Rainsy has been
sentenced to a total of 12 years jail on a series of charges related to the campaign.

In February, Sam Rainsy released a series of maps, which he claimed was evidence four border posts had been shifted up to 500 metres into Chantrea district. The SRP has said the maps were assembled with the help of European experts and were based on GPS coordinates of the four markers in question.

SRP spokesman Yim Sovann, didn’t think that bringing in mapping firms from overseas would alleviate the border demarcation concerns.

“The private companies care about profit,” he said. “They don’t care about losing land or not. The government will ask them to do what the government wants.”

Yim Sovann said separate United States aerial surveys conducted in the 1960s were accurate and that new ones would result in the loss of  land to Vietnam. Var Kimhong, however, said that the US-drawn maps were not considered official because “the US was never master of Indochina”.

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