Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Researcher calls for calm over VN border

Researcher calls for calm over VN border

Royal Academy of Cambodia researcher Sok Touch talks about the results of his border investigation yesterday during a press conference in Phnom Penh.
Royal Academy of Cambodia researcher Sok Touch talks about the results of his border investigation yesterday during a press conference in Phnom Penh. Pha Lina

Researcher calls for calm over VN border

The Royal Academy’s head border researcher has appealed for calm in the wake of findings that some Vietnamese border posts were indeed planted inside Cambodian territory during the 1980s, telling people to blame “history”, more specifically, the French.

Six months after a furore over alleged territorial encroachment by Vietnam, propelled by some Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmakers, sparked what many saw as the beginning of a brutal state crackdown on the opposition, academic Sok Touch asked that cooler heads prevail as the countries continue their ongoing delineation of disputed border regions.

After reiterating findings, first revealed on Sunday, that three posts in Tbong Khmum were between 5 and 50 metres within Cambodia, Touch moved to stress that the situation wasn’t permanent, and that GPS technology, as well as the future publication of his research, would ensure boundaries were clear and respected in the future.

“I told people not to be worried, there is no loss of land. We will exchange the land back,” Touch said, estimating more than 10 hectares was likely affected.

By the same token, Touch noted that his research, which was commissioned by the government after last year’s controversy and remains ongoing, had discovered two border markers that were positioned in Vietnamese lands, including number 171 in Bavet town, which had been planted in the middle of a Vietnamese house.

Touch said that the government had, on his advice, inspected the two areas, which could be used in a land exchange, and also noted the presence of border markers within Cambodia evoked a somewhat more excessive reaction than those erected within Vietnam.

“If [border posts] were planted inside our Khmer land, a demonstration would take place,” Sok Touch said.

National sensitivity over the integrity of Cambodia’s borders grew over centuries as the neighbouring powers of Siam (today’s Thailand) and Vietnam ate into the dwindling Angkorian Empire.

Touch suggested French efforts to map the region in the 19th and 20th centuries, when it ruled as a colonial power, had created many of the disputed areas.

As for who made Cambodia lose territory, he said, “It is history. It is not Hun Sen. It is not Lon Nol. It is not Pol Pot,” he said.

In recent years, anxiety over the border, particularly the eastern boundary, has been wielded by the CNRP to rouse popular support, often by linking the government to Vietnam, whose military helped oust the Khmer Rouge regime and installed the current ruling party’s core members in power in the 1980s.

CNRP lawmaker Um Sam An, among the opposition’s most ardent border campaigners who led rallies to disputed sites last year, dismissed Touch’s findings as government-biased.

“Ask farmers on the border if they lose farmland or not,” he said.

Senior Border Affairs Minister Var Kimhong declined to comment yesterday, while government spokesman Phay Siphan backed Touch’s work.

MOST VIEWED

  • Serious flooding across country

    The Kampong Speu provincial Committee for Disaster Management on Wednesday issued an alert after non-stop heavy rain caused widespread flooding. In Koh Kong province, authorities are working with the disaster committee and the Cambodian Red Cross to assist those affected after more than 350 homes were

  • CNRP points to King in call for vote boycott

    Leaders of the former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) have taken a new tack in their call for a boycott of the national elections later this month. They are now claiming that the people should follow the King, who is expected to abide by tradition

  • Actress’s NGO takes heat for promoting the ruling party

    An actress’s NGO which participated in an election campaign event contrary to the Law on Association and Non-Governmental Organisations (Lango) has been slammed. Chorn Chanleakena, a celebrity and the president of the Association of Artists Volunteering to Help Society, allegedly led its members in

  • Troop moves ‘won’t worry people’

    Senior officials at the Ministry of Defence and National Police said on Tuesday that riot training provided to the country’s police forces were aimed at preventing unexpected demonstrations and strikes before and after the July 29 national elections. The troop mobilisation, they said, would not