Members of parliament from the two main political parties voted on November 11 to
approve a supplemental border treaty with Vietnam after discussion on the issue that
spanned seven hours and which saw SRP members walk out of the Assembly in protest
before the final vote.
The remaining 97 parliamentarians from the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP)
and Funcinpec voted unanimously to approve the supplemental treaty by a raised-hand
King Norodom Sihamoni is expected to sign the treaty, although he is being lobbied
from several quarters not to do so. Sources say that both Prime Minister Hun Sen
and Deputy Prime Minister Sok An spent around four hours at the Palace on November
6 briefing the King on the details of the treaty.
Previously, in a speech delivered on October 17, Hun Sen had warned that the monarchy
might be abolished if it was "difficult to sign" the treaty.
The treaty will become effective when the ratified documents are officially exchanged
between the two parties at a ceremony in Phnom Penh at an as yet undisclosed date.
Yim Sovann, an opposition parliamentarian, said the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) would
appeal to King Sihamoni not to sign the controversial supplemental border treaty
because of doubts over its Constitutional validity.
"The supplemental border treaty violates the Constitution and many technical
issues need to be clarified," Sovann said.
Hun Sen promised the National Assembly that the government was committed to maintaining
Cambodia's existing territorial integrity and said he was working to build an exact
and peaceful border between Cambodia and Vietnam.
"On behalf of the government, I would like to promise to the National Assembly
that we would like to work hard from the bottom of our heart and do everything in
order to carry out all the treaties to be effective," Hun Sen said.
He said the government will continue its work on border demarcation, including the
installation of border markers, and continue to negotiate with Vietnam over the outstanding
issues on both land and sea borders.
"I hope that history will not condemn me as a traitor while I have been working
hard to resolve the border issues," Hun Sen said.
Sok An said the supplemental border treaty is designed to build an exact border line
that will be verifiable both on the ground and from maps.
"Our target is to build a clear border [with Vietnam] and a treaty that would
not result in ceding Cambodian territory," he said.
He explained to the National Assembly that negotiations on the border issue with
Vietnam have been based on 26 separate maps printed in 1964, which he said were recognized
by more than 30 countries.
He said the border negotiations have been based on maps with a scale of 1:100,000
and 1:50,000, but Sovann said this was contrary to Article 2 of the Cambodian Constitution.
According to Sovann, Article 2 of the Constitution says the territorial integrity
of the Kingdom of Cambodia is inviolable, with the border defined using 1:100,000
scale maps made between the years 1933 and1953 and internationally recognized between
the years 1963 and1969.
However, Sok An said that Cambodia and Vietnam had not used maps during the negotiations
that would cause Cambodia to lose territory, and that the maps used to negotiate
the treaty signed in 1983 between the then People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK) and
Vietnam were the same as those made in 1964.
"I think that there is nothing strange about verifying and negotiating over
the border issues; we need to define the precise border with Vietnam, and then the
border issue can no longer be used for political purposes," said Sok An.
Funcinpec had previously called the PRK-era treaties signed with Vietnam "illegal."
With its opposition to the treaties dropped, Funcinpec MPs were now fully on board
with the ruling CPP during the Assembly vote.
Hun Sen said in his speech to the National Assembly that Cambodia's land border with
Vietnam ran for 383.5 kilometers: 191 of which was in Ratanakiri, Mondolkiri and
Kratie; 173 kilometers in Kampong Cham, Svay Rieng, Prey Veng, Kandal and Takeo;
and an additional 19.50 kilometers on river areas in Prey Veng and Kandal.
The supplemental agreement resolves six out of seven disputed border areas with Vietnam.
One outstanding area of contention is a 50-square-kilometer piece of territory in
Dak Dam commune, Orang district, Mondulkiri province. The treaty stipulates that
both countries will continue to discuss the disputed area in an effort to find a
solution to the disagreement.
In a press release issued on November 11, opposition lawmakers mourned the supplemental
border treaty, saying that "Cambodia lost its sovereignty to Vietnam."
Radio journalist Mam Sonando and teachers' union leader Rong Chhun are being held
in prison, and arrest warrants have been issued for others who allegedly accused
Hun Sen of ceding land to Vietnam via the border treaty.
"We have taken action against those who tried to use the border issue for political
purposes in order to create chaos and topple the government, and make the country
unstable," Sok An said.