Cambodian and Vietnamese officials will visit Svay Rieng province next week as part of efforts to resolve ongoing border disputes, but the exclusion of journalists has sparked criticism over the negotiations’ lack of transparency.
Border Post 203 in Kampong Ro district has been a flashpoint in a rumbling conflict between the two nations, with violence erupting between Vietnamese civilians and authorities and a visiting group of Cambodians on June 28.
According to Cambodian Border Affairs Committee vice chairwoman Koy Pisey, the Cambodian delegation will be led by Foreign Ministry Secretary of State Long Visalo, and the clash will be on the agenda on July 16.
Pisey defended the decision not to allow journalists to observe the visit and meeting, warning it could disrupt negotiations and reverse progress already made.
“Border negotiations are sensitive so we must do them secretly,” she said.
However, that secrecy was criticised yesterday, with Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker Um Sam An suggesting the refusal to allow the press to attend pointed to fear from the government about journalists reporting on any agreements that were not advantageous to the Kingdom.
“There is no problem if they won’t allow opposition party members to go, but journalists absolutely must be allowed to report [the reality] to people,” he said.
Meanwhile, former independent political analyst Kem Ley, who recently announced his intentions to form a new political party, lamented the lack of transparency the exclusion entailed.
“If the committee is doing things properly there should not be anything to hide. If the government is committed to transparency, it must allow civil society and journalists to join,” he said.
His comments come after a three-day meeting last week of the Cambodia-Vietnam Joint Border Committee at the Council of Ministers in Phnom Penh, after which little was made public, though both sides said the process of demarcation was more than 80 per cent complete.
In recent months, disputes have also been seen over Vietnamese encroachment in Ratanakkiri province and the building of a Vietnamese border post in Kandal province.
Border issues have long been a key platform for the CNRP, with leader Sam Rainsy yesterday publishing a map on Facebook he said showed land “annexed” by Vietnam.
However, the government has recently become more proactive on to the issue. Last week, Prime Minister Hun Sen requested a map from the United Nations in order to establish the correct frontier between the two nations.