THIS WEEK IN HISTORY
Vol. 11, No. 1
January 4th – 17th 2001
THE government's self-imposed deadline of December 31, 2001, to solve the country's various border controversies came and went with no agreements reached.
That, said opposition MP Cheam Chan Ny, showed there was no political will to solve the border issue.
"Cambodia is weak and does not have the strength to protect its land, sea and airspace. The only way we can do so is by the law," said Chan Ny.
Chan Ny said that Cambodia and its neighbours - Vietnam, Thailand and Laos - had promised to sign a border dispute protocol by year's end. Var Kim Hong, chief of the Council of Ministers' commission that deals with the issue, declined to talk to the Post.
Border reform has long been a contentious issue, with the latest dispute over Preah Vihear temple on the Thai border. The temple is no stranger to controversy: Thailand and Cambodia went to an international court over ownership of the temple 40 years ago. The tribunal ruled in Cambodia's favor.
Cambodia sent hundreds of troops to the area last month after the temple, which is accessible only from the Thai side, was closed by the Thai authorities December 17. At least one foreign embassy has advised tourists to stay away from the area.
Preap Tan, governor of Preah Vihear province, said the Thais claimed water pollution was damaging a border village, adding that there had been no confrontation between Thai and Cambodian soldiers. The entire episode, he said, had not left the Thais looking good.
The border issue also strikes a chord with the country's students. The highly vocal Students Movement for Democracy regularly claims that Thai and Vietnamese soldiers shift the border markers further into Cambodia every few months. Seven student associations formed the Youth Council of Cambodia December 10 to pressure the government to pay more attention to the issue.