Deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha said yesterday that the CNRP’s policy would be to take a leaf out of US president-elect Donald Trump’s book and build a wall along Cambodia’s 1,228-kilometre border with Vietnam – if only the country could afford it.
Trump – who, like the CNRP, has campaigned heavily against illegal immigration – has pledged to build a “big, beautiful wall” along the 3,201-kilometre US-Mexican border to make crossings harder, and insists Mexico itself will be made to pay for it.
Speaking at the CNRP’s headquarters, where he has been living since police attempted to arrest him in May, Sokha appeared to acknowledge it was unlikely Vietnam would pay for such a plan, so a CNRP government would instead just develop the border.
“The CNRP already has its policy. When we win the election and lead the country, we will protect our border,” Sokha said, explaining that larger population numbers along the border should help reduce illicit crossings and seizures of sovereign territory.
“We don’t have the money to build a wall like Mr Trump. We don’t have the money like the US. We don’t have the money to build a wall at the border. So what will we do? We will develop the border for citizens to live.
“One thing is to make a border belt. Secondly, we will organise to have markets, pagodas, schools, jobs and factories, and agriculture,” he added.
Over the past year, the government has attempted to clamp down on the sensitive topic of illegal immigration and border violations, deporting thousands of Vietnamese and banning the leasing of land along the border for Vietnamese farms.
Yet Sokha said nothing less than heavily developing border areas would work. “Just calling on people not to rent land to them is not effective,” he said.
An opposition senator and lawmaker are currently in jail on Prime Minister Hun Sen’s orders for crimes related to the CNRP’s campaigns on alleged Vietnamese border violations, with the party toning down its criticism last year after threats from the premier.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan – a US citizen and Trump supporter who also chastises the CNRP as being racist for their policies on Vietnam – called the idea for a border wall “a joke”.
“Sometimes they pretend like they are like the opposition in Burma, and now they are pretending to be Trump . . . It’s monkey see, monkey do,” he said. “We did not want to see separation like that . . . It is against the principle of ASEAN, because we are not prejudiced against anyone. Building walls inside of ASEAN is a joke.”
Additional reporting by Alex Willemyns