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Borderline compliment

Borderline compliment

Vietnamese soldiers block a group of Sam Rainsy Party members who were trying to visit a controversial border marker in Kampong Cham province’s Memot district in December 2010.

Exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy, a long-time and vociferous opponent of the ruling party’s relationship with Vietnam, has written to Prime Minister Hun Sen, praising the premier for his work on demarcating the contentious Cambodia-Vietnam border in Svay Rieng province.

The shock letter of praise obtained by the Post yesterday was originally sent by Sam Rainsy to Hun Sen on December 26. “I would like to express my support to the Royal Government for taking a proper stance on defending the territorial integrity of Cambodia,” Sam Rainsy wrote. “Please [Hun Sen] believe that all Khmer patriots would surely join forces completely with the Royal Government … in an effort to find an appropriate resolution to the border demarcation.”

In his letter, Sam Rainsy also wished his political rival a happy new year and sent well wishes to the prime minister’s family.

There are long-standing bitter relations between the two party leaders, who take opposing political stances toward Vietnam.

Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party was initially brought into power with the backing of Vietnam in 1979 when Cambodian and Vietnamese coalition forces ousted the Khmer Rouge from Phnom Penh. The CPP and the premier are quick to praise the “friendship” of Vietnam, an ally they view as “liberating” Cambodia from the Khmer Rouge.

Sam Rainsy and his eponymous party conversely see Vietnam as a predator that “occupied” Cambodia and continues to encroach on the Kingdom’s territory. In 2009, Sam Rainsy was sentenced by Phnom Penh Municipal Court to two years in prison after he uprooted boundary marker 185, which he claimed was incorrectly placed in the middle of a rice paddy in Cambodian territory.

In a letter to Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarians on December 2, Hun Sen said the Cambodia-Vietnam border in Svay Rieng has yet to be defined “in a suitable and acceptable manner” and that the Cambodia-Vietnam commission working to define the border was “continuing to negotiate the position of [the border] markers and others over which agreement is need in the future”.

SRP parliamentarians, and the party’s leader, took this as evidence the charges against Sam Rainsy were baseless, as the border marker he had uprooted was not an official border post.

“It means that the marker post removed by Sam Rainsy in October 2009 is not a mistake of Sam Rainsy, and the government must drop a lawsuit against him to pave the way for him to return home for the upcoming election,” SRP spokesman Yim Sovann told the Post yesterday.

Senate and commune elections are scheduled to be held this year, with national elections scheduled for 2013.

Sam Rainsy now resides in France, where he fled to escape up to 10 years of incarceration in Cambodia for various convictions on what the 62-year-old politician sees as trumped-up charges.

Despite the letter of “support” to Hun Sen, Sam Rainsy’s tone flipped from cordial to caustic in an open statement published yesterday that was highly critical of the ruling CPP’s Victory over Genocide Day celebrations.

“There are only traitors or people who have sold themselves to traitors or people who have been duped by the traitors’ propaganda who celebrate January 7,” Sam Rainsy’s statement read.

The Council of Ministers’ Press and Quick Reaction Unit spokesman Ek Tha dismissed the criticisms of Sam Rainsy yesterday.

“This time praise, this time attack – it is his tactic, policital strategy,” Ek Tha said. “The 7 January victory over [the Khmer Rouge regime] is recognised by the world.”


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