Prominent border researcher Sok Touch has been promoted to the position of vice president of the state-run Royal Academy of Cambodia, a title with a government ranking equivalent to secretary of state.
Touch said the promotion – which was made official late last month – would not colour his work, adding that he has held the same equivalent government ranking since at least 2013, though it was not publicised, and that the title was “not important” to him.
“What’s important is that we fulfil our duty to history, to national society and to the people,” said Touch, who was also named head of the academy’s International Relations Institute of Cambodia. “When I research I stand on the position of science, stand on the position of evidence.”
In a recent preliminary explanation of his Cambodia-Vietnam border research, Touch said that some border markers were indeed planted in Cambodian territory, though others were planted in Vietnam – a situation he insisted was attributable to “history”, not current or past Cambodian regimes.
Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker Um Sam An, who has campaigned aggressively on the issue of alleged territorial encroachment by Vietnam, maintained that Touch could not carry out his research in an unbiased manner, insisting that his “interpretation defends the government”.
Grassroots political activist Kem Ley, who has also conducted research on the border, didn’t accuse Touch of bias, but did urge him to proceed “independently” in his research, while noting that “everything government does is mostly in a political manner; it is not in a clear technical manner”.