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‘Vietnam, Cambodia Both Violating Border’

Taing Vida / Khmer Times Share:
Sok Touch, head of the Royal Academy research team tasked with investigating Vietnam border demarcations, presents his findings at a news conference at the Royal Academy of Cambodia in Phnom Penh. KT/ Vireak Mai

After four months of study, Sok Touch, the head of a research group from the Royal Academy, announced yesterday that both Cambodia and Vietnam are in violation of each other’s borderlines, but was hesitant to release his team’s exact findings to protect the government from a “headache.”
The research spanned 500 kilometers in four provinces, including Kampot, Kandal, Svay Rieng, and Tbong Khmum province, and focused on the discovery of 1,000 border demarcation posts, Mr. Touch said in a press conference.
He added that among the 1,000 posts, some were abnormally planted in either Cambodian or Vietnamese territory, but declined to comment on whether either country stood to profit from the irregularities.
“I could not tell you how many posts. If I told you all now, there would be a big war and the government would have a headache because of this. Let’s wait [until] after the Ministry of Land management takes pictures and registers the land and then see. The border area has no villagers living on it. If I pointed out the irregularities, some might grab the land there and it would bring argument,” Mr. Touch said. 
Regarding the issue of 16 hectares of crop land in Memot, Tbong Khmum province that Cambodian villagers have accused the Vietnamese of spraying chemicals on, Mr. Touch said it was a result of bad intention on the part of the Vietnamese.
“Vietnam did not respect the agreement between the two countries. Why did they do that to Cambodia? It’s because they want to exchange the land,” he said.
Va Kimhong, senior minister in charge of the Cambodian Border Affairs Committee, declined to respond directly to Mr. Touch’s statement, saying that his is just a study by a Royal Academy team and would not be considered.
“I did not know where and when he went down, and what posts. There is not basic evidence for his claim. He said he was there to find the reality so he will need to be responsible for it. To me, this is just a report or messages for his presentation after his research,” Mr. Kimhong said.
During the conference, Mr. Touch also touched on the role the opposition party has played in stirring the border issue, but dismissed their claims that Cambodia ceded sections of its land to Vietnam by citing a lack of evidence given by the CNRP. They used only parts of official maps, he said. 
CNRP lawmaker Um Sam An, who is currently abroad, told Khmer Times yesterday that Mr. Touch is deliberately protecting the government in order to keep his position. He acknowledged, however, that the research leader’s critique was not entirely baseless. The border issue will not be resolved until thorough research into its demarcation is conducted. He was adamant about the opposition’s stance on the border.    
“The opposition did not simply stir up trouble. We just want to prevent Cambodia from losing territory,” he said. 
The placement of demarcation posts between Cambodia and Vietnam’s 1270 km border has been oft criticized by the opposition party, who claim land has been intentionally ceded to the Vietnamese. The ruling government rejects these accusations and argues that the map used by Cambodia for border demarcation with Vietnam is identical to the authenticated maps used by France and the United Nations.

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