Demarcation of the remaining borders with Vietnam, Thailand and Laos is turning out to be complicated in terms of technical and legal documents, but substantial progress is being made, a top official said.
Cambodian Border Affairs Committee vice-chair Koy Pisey said in an exclusive interview with The Post that the work continues a mission started by King Norodom Sihanouk and once completed, will be a substantial symbol in Cambodia’s history.
For now, Pisey and her team is chugging along to get the boundaries right.
Pisey said Cambodia has so far planted 315 out of a total 375 border markers with Vietnam, or 84 per cent.
Cambodia has also planted 121 of 145 border markers on the Thai border, equivalent to 86 per cent.
Cambodia and Thailand have also located 45 of the 73 old border markers planted by the French-Siam joint border committee during the French colonial era. That is 62 per cent complete.
She said the planting of remaining border markers between Vietnam and Lao was also difficult in terms of maps and techniques in drawing and copying maps because the countries had used a Bonne 1/100,000-scale map.
“These maps were published long ago. We cannot take them as the basis to plant markers on the actual land because markers on the maps and the actual locations are not the same.
“Regarding Thailand, we have explored old markers and there are currently 28. We haven’t reached a consensus on the locations because they are different from the original,” Pisey said.
She said the border demarcation negotiations also involve interpreting documents containing the decisions of the governor-general of Indochina.
Each party has to take the documents as evidence. “So they have a map belonging to them, but our Cambodian side has another document. Hence, we need time and talks to find a solution,” she said.
Pisey said the government is carrying out a mission left over from King Norodom Sihanouk after Cambodia gained independence from France.
“The 1993 Constitution states that our Bonne 1/100,000-scale map was published by the Indochinese geographical team between 1933 and 1953. This is the main resource that the government has as reference for border issue solutions,” she said.
Pisey said while gaining independence from France, King Sihanouk had placed the map at the UN for the international community to recognise the current Cambodian borders.
“It means we accept the borders as France handed them over to us. We are not demanding more than that. Sihanouk’s markers had not yet been planted, so the government has taken over the mission to plant markers on the actual land,” Pisey said.
She said she takes great pride in her work on the boundaries because previously the borders had been war zones and abandoned. Today the border areas are developed and many people live there, thereby making them stronger.
Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a circular in 2015, banning all people from renting or selling land along the borders to the people of neighbouring countries.
It was aimed at maintaining land titles and legal interests and raising Cambodian living standards. The goal was also to facilitate the task of demarcating and planting boundary markers to preserve territorial integrity and national sovereignty.
In October last year, on the occasion of signing a document recognising border markers with Vietnam, Hun Sen said: “The Royal Government of Cambodia will transform the Cambodia-Vietnam borderlines and the Cambodian borders with Lao and Thailand alike into a true international border to end border [conflicts].
“We will join together to transform the border areas into a free-fear zone and a harmonious and glorious development zone forever.”
A Svay Rieng province resident Va Sameth told The Post on Wednesday that he was happy when the government planted a large number of border markers. He requested that the border work be accelerated rapidly and definitively.
“I find that the planting of border markers now is very good. I’m happy because if one house has a proper fence, we can defend it.
“We are no longer afraid and worried about people around us invading our land. I encourage the government to achieve it soon because once it is done, our people can see that the borders are marked,” Rieng said.
Pisey said the government has a strong desire to complete the border affairs and wants to finalise them under Hun Sen’s leadership. The joint border committees, she said, will do what it takes to draw a map that matches the actual land and location.
“We cannot leave our country with no fences. We need to erect a fence and plant border markers. Our people want a reconciliatory and peaceful border,” she said.