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Border chief ordered to address public concerns

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National Authority for Border Affairs chairman Var Kimhong. Hong Menea

Border chief ordered to address public concerns

Prime Minister Hun Sen has instructed top border official Var Kimhong to meet residents in Tbong Khmum province along the Vietnamese border who claim Cambodia had lost land to the neighbouring country.

The order came during a closed-door meeting of the Supreme Council for Consultation and Recommendations at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. Hun Sen was quoted as telling officials to be open with the public about border demarcation with Vietnam.

The council’s meeting followed the arrests of union leader Rong Chhun, Khmer Win Party president Suong Sophoan and some supporters of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party who recently participated in protests against the planting of border poles with Vietnam.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has placed them in pre-trial detention on charges of “incitement to cause social unrest”.

Chhim Phal Virun, the head of the council secretariat, said Hun Sen has advised the Council of Ministers to hold public forums to clarify border issues to citizens and students. He said any decision on field visits rests with the border affairs committee and citizens themselves.

Phal Virun said the government has been open about border issues and has only withheld confidential information deemed crucial to national security and interests.

“Samdech [Hun Sen] has made it clear that citizens can make field visits to wherever they request.

“As to when they can visit, it is up to the border committee and residents themselves. Border committee officials can decide when to meet citizens on their request,” he said.

“I don’t know how committee officials will meet with citizens, but usually such a meeting is open to the public. Samdech Techo [Hun Sen] has said border issues cannot be hidden.

“We have nothing to hide, but we also cannot disclose some issues that are still under negotiations. We want citizens to understand that,” he said.

Neither National Authority for Border Affairs chairman Var Kimhong nor border affairs committee vice-chairperson Koy Pisey could be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Cambodia Youth Party president and Supreme Council for Consultation and Recommendations member Pich Sros told The Post on Monday that his party delegates planned to accompany Kimhong during his future visit to meet residents in Tbong Khmum province.

“With or without permission, I’ll still have to go to the border to find out the truth regarding controversial border issues that resulted in the recent arrests. I want to know why residents claimed Cambodia has lost land?

“I also want to observe how the border affairs committee will address the issue if Cambodia lost land [to Vietnam]. The process must be transparent,” he said.

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