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Map researcher threatened

Sok Touch, the head of the research team tasked with investigating border demarcation, talks at the Royal Academy of Cambodia earlier this month during a press conference.
Sok Touch, the head of the research team tasked with investigating border demarcation, talks at the Royal Academy of Cambodia earlier this month during a press conference. Hong Menea

Map researcher threatened

A prominent researcher studying Cambodia’s border with Vietnam said yesterday that he had received numerous threats on Facebook amid the protracted and fiery debate surrounding the disputed frontier.

Sok Touch, the head of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s research team tasked with investigating border demarcation, said that while he has received public support for the process he and his researchers are undertaking, he has also suffered harassment and insults through Facebook and other mediums.

“Since I’ve started work on the border research, there has been [a lot] of curses and criticism,” he said yesterday.

Earlier in the month, as the Cambodia National Rescue Party and others contested the validity of government maps used to demarcate the border, Touch’s team stated that despite all the controversy, most of the maps – including 24 out of the 26 collected by the CNRP – were mostly the same.

The findings regarding the border – which the opposition has long blamed the government of failing to properly demarcate – have stirred anger among social media users, however.

On Saturday and yesterday, Touch publicly posted threats he received on the internet: a screenshot of a man named Dy Chheun calling him “a vietname [sic] dog”; another user posting a series of pictures with intimidating text, including one of a pistol with bullets lined up next to it.

“The group who placed the photos with the gun and bullets wrote, ‘This is for shooting the head of . . . the Vietnamese dog,’” Touch said.

Klot Thida, the president of the Royal Academy, expressed concern over the explicit threats but assured that the research into the issue would continue.

“As researchers, we do not concern [ourselves] with curse words .As we are the Royal Academy, we must help the nation first,” she said, adding that the group would hold meetings to discuss the matter in the coming days.

Koy Pisey, the deputy head of Cambodia’s border committee, said she, too, was subject to public threats on social media and aired hope that the government would take action against those who take part in such antics.

“I did not do anything illegal. I am just doing my job,” she said.

Meanwhile, a lawyer for arrested Sam Rainsy Party Senator Hong Sok Hour, who is currently sitting behind bars for his Facebook posts on the border disputes, said that there will be an appeal hearing on September 2 over what they deem their client’s unlawful pretrial detention.

“Based on the law, Sok Hour must be present to monitor and address the allegations,” said defence counsel Sam Sokong. “We hope Sok Hour will be released on bail.”

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