CAMBODIA'S traditionally uneasy relations with Vietnam remain in the political spotlight,
after First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh lashed out at alleged land-grabbing
by the Vietnamese.
Days after debate over Vietnam's history in Cambodia was revived by the reinstatement
of the January 7 public holiday, Ranariddh alleged a recent Vietnamese "invasion"
in the form of encroachments on Cambodian land.
The Funcinpec leader accused Vietnamese farmers, backed by soldiers, of advancing
several hundred meters into Cambodian territory in Svay Rieng and Prey Veng provinces.
Ranariddh said that Vietnam's moving of the border between the countries by 300-400
meters - or "even one centimeter" - still represented an invasion of Cambodia.
Vietnam farmers and tractors were not working on lands which they had not before,
he said, protected in at least one Svay Rieng border area by Vietnamese troops.
Ranariddh's comments won the support of Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party faction
leader Son Sann, who said Khmers had suffered for many years from such incursions.
Sann - a leader of the Khmer Krom, who descend from former Cambodian land now part
of southern Vietnam - urged the Vietnamese government to pursue a "long overdue"
peaceful settlement over border disputes.
Even Sam Rainsy, who Ranariddh was instrumental in having expelled from Funcinpec,
offered a degree of praise for the Prime Minister by saying he was correct to raise
But Rainsy urged Ranariddh to go further, and to take action to try to get border
treaties with Vietnam - signed by the former regime headed by current Second Prime
Minister Hun Sen - cancelled.
"It's not a matter of being anti-Vietnamese," Rainsy said. "If we
have some problems with Vietnam, which we do, we should say so."
Several political observers spoken to by the Post largely attributed Ranariddh's
comments to domestic politics. They noted Hun Sen's recent move to expel Funcinpec
secretary-general Prince Norodom Sirivudh, and to bring back the January 7 holiday
marking Vietnam's 1979 invasion to oust the Khmer Rouge regime.
"Maybe some of Ranariddh's advisers are telling him it's time to strike back,"
said one observer.
"He's testing Hun Sen, like Hun Sen was testing him over Sirivudh and January
Other observers pointed to the recent return of Sam Rainsy - a strong critic of the
loss of Cambodian land to Vietnam - as a contributing factor for Ranariddh's statement.
Speaking Jan 17, Ranariddh accused Vietnam of "a complete violation" of
an agreement to preserve the border status quo until a joint working group was set
up to discuss disputed territory.
He urged the working group be formed urgently.
Vietnam, in several statements issued by its Phnom Penh embassy, responded by saying
it always respected Cambodia's territorial integrity. It said any disputes should
be settled peacefully by negotiation, at either the local level or through the joint
"Regrettably...this mechanism has not been used yet," a Jan 20 statement
from the embassy said.
Ranariddh, in his comments, spoke of one Cambodian being killed and two Vietnamese
injured in border clashes. But Cambodian and Vietnamese officials were unable to
confirm that report.
Cambodian Interior Ministry spokesmen said staff had been sent to several areas to