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VN "policies"

To the editor,

The report in the Post's first December issue headlined:

"Families forced from land as Vietnamese border dispute flares" whereby an

estimated 1,000 families were evicted from their land by Vietnamese authorities

yet again underlines, if you can't get your way by cool-headed subtle

deceptions, force it in!

In my recent article to the Post I humbly

attempted to show the consistency with which Vietnamese leaders past and present

pursue the territorial policy. During my visit to Cambodia in 1993 I had the

privilege to traverse and meet people from various walks of life including those

who lived in border regions such as Prey Veng and Svay Rieng. I shall not go

into detail about the social topography of these provinces which had been

drastically shaped by Vietnamese occupation policies and the proceeding KR

misrule. Suffice it to say that Hanoi appears to have taken the opportunity

during its occupation to unleash a program of active settlement as well as to

annex substantial portions of Cambodian territory partly because it felt it

could get away with it, but also because the annexed territory acts as an

insurance policy for the illegal settlers. As Cambodia settles to relative peace

and unity once more (at last) the nation would direct its attention to the

question of territorial disputes. Thus, the seized land is intended to

strengthen VN's bargaining stake and at the same time to further burden and

complicate the whole process of dispute settlement, of claims and

counter-claims.

No nation can bring itself to tolerate such naked attacks

upon its sovereignty and dignity. All available instruments of diplomacy and

non-violence must now be considered: the UN, the International Court of Justice,

and France whose colonial administration was prejudiced against and generous

with Khmer territories. If nothing else it is barely conceivable that a people

the Vietnamese have always looked down upon as lazy for not making use of every

available square of land should feel the need to cross over the border to farm

on rented foreign soil. What a reversal in more than two thousand years of

history!

The government is right to point out that future generations

will complain if Cambodia were to lose the claims. My overwhelming impression is

that this very generation is already bitterly unhappy about the whole episode.

It is to be expected that the newly acquired land will be given Vietnamese names

["Phu Quoc" is a relatively recent example] and granted to it the usual status

of having been under Vietnamese control "for generations."

Some foreign

friends can not comprehend this national obsession with territorial boundary.

After all, it is reasoned, had not the nation enough urgent crises on its plate

already? Rural poverty, insurgency, drought, unexploded mines, urban migration,

deforestation? Indeed, these are sufficient to choke and enslave any country. It

is essentially my contention that these are directly or indirectly outcomes of

this obsession. In a region where the rule of law is not the established norm

such acts of aggression between nations can only throttle attempts to bring

about harmony and peace between peoples and ultimately stimulate and promote the

radical cause. After all, what is a country if not its sea, its islands, its

rivers, its lakes, its pagodas, its land? In their inextricable total they

constitute its very flesh, blood and soul. The real challenge for Cambodia now

is not learning to live "on the same planet as Vietnam", but to fight for the

right to have any planet at all to live on.

- Marith Pen, London, England.

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