Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Talks aimed to defuse border tensions with Hanoi

Talks aimed to defuse border tensions with Hanoi

Talks aimed to defuse border tensions with Hanoi

D AYS after Prince Norodom Ranariddh hinted at the use of Cambodia's military against

alleged Vietnamese land-grabbing, the Prime Minister this week met Vietnam's top

official.

Vietnam President Do Muoi, in talks with Ranariddh in Laos, reportedly agreed that

negotiations should be held to resolve the border issue.

The pair's Mar 17 meeting, while they were in Vientiane to attend a Laotian Communist

Party congress, came after the war of words over the border had grown more heated.

The day before they met, Hanoi labeled as "regrettable" public statements

by Ranariddh which implied that he was willing to use military might against Vietnam.

On his return from Laos, Ranariddh said he had asked Do Muoi to assist in securing

a meeting with Vietnam Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet over the border issue.

Muoi, he said, agreed and said that Kiet could perhaps visit Phnom Penh if that was

considered necessary.

"I think Vietnam also intends to solve this issue," said Ranariddh. "We

must look for peaceful means to settle the problem."

Earlier, Vietnam's Foreign Ministry had announced that Kiet was "too busy"

to meet Ranariddh but could do so at a "suitable" date in the future.

Muoi's comments after the Laos meeting, as quoted by the official Vietnam News Agency,

were limited to a call for improved bilateral relations between Vietnam, Laos and

Cambodia.

The three countries "should rely on each other and work together for national

reconstruction to be rid of poverty on the basis of mutual respect for independence

and sovereignty," he was quoted as saying.

Ranariddh, who for two months has complained of Vietnamese encroachments in several

parts of the border, toughened his stance against Vietnam in a Mar 14 speech in Svay

Rieng.

He said that if a peaceful solution couldn't be found, his personal view was that

"we must find other means - even if it is what is done to with Khmer Rouge."

He added that "I would like to assure national and international opinion that

I do not love war [but] this is the task and duty of the...Royal Cambodian Armed

Forces as well as that of the national police."

Vietnam's Foreign Ministry responded with a statement saying that Ranariddh's "regrettable"

comments were not in line with "the interests of friendly relations between

the two countries."

Second Prime Minister Hun Sen, in speech at the Ministry of Interior in Phnom Penh

Mar 6 - before Ranariddh had referred to the military option - stressed a peaceful

resolution to border complaints.

But - in an apparent reference to smaller Cambodian political parties, particularly

those with links to Kampuchea Krom (southern Vietnam) - Hun Sen said: "If they

want to fight for Kampuchea Krom, go ahead. I will prepare coffins for them."

He added, apparently sarcastically: "If they're short of arms, I'll help."

Ranariddh's outspokenness on the issue has earned him the praise of a range of politicians

at home, including in Funcinpec, the Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party faction led

by Son Sann (who is from Kampuchea Krom) and Sam Rainsy's Khmer Nation Party.

In one development this week, a petition was circulated around the National Assembly

pledging "firm support" of Ranariddh's defense of Cambodia's territorial

integrity.

Sam Rainsy, in a Mar 19 statement, commended Ranariddh and expressed regret at the

quietness of Hun Sen, "which shows the embarrassment of some Cambodian leaders

too tightly-linked to Hanoi."

But the statement went on to reject the use of military force against a neighboring

country, saying the idea "should not even come to the mind of responsible leaders."

One political observer also questioned whether it was wise for Ranariddh to extort

the use of Cambodia's military - given that CPP was believed to control most of it

- in any circumstances.

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