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Talks on Border End in Stalemate

Taing Vida / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Vienam’s Le Hoai Trung left the talks and returned to Vietnam early yesterday morning. KT/Mai Vireak

Vietnam and Cambodia were unable to come to a consensus on a variety of issues relating to the border between the two neighbors, failing to release a joint statement after they reached an impasse on the issue of France’s involvement in the border demarcation process.
Va Kim Hong, chairman of Cambodia’s border committee, and Le Hoai Trung, deputy minister of the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry in charge of border affairs, met in Phnom Penh on Monday but only chatted online yesterday after Mr. Hoai Trung curiously returned to Vietnam early yesterday morning – before any of the major issues had been settled.
The two-day meeting was contentious, with Vietnam refusing to apologize for its continued constructions within banned border areas and only saying they would take Cambodia’s complaints to their superiors. But the main sticking point for both sides is what role France should play in defining both countries’ borders.
The issue boils down to seven problem areas along the border that both sides contend. Cambodia believes only two of the seven points need France’s arbitration, while the rest can be handled by technical experts from both countries. Vietnam vehemently disagrees, saying they want France to decide on all seven areas using their high-tech mapping equipment and “Bonne” maps from their time as colonial rulers in Southeast Asia.
“The main principal of Cambodia’s government is to solve the border issue based on peaceful negotiation. We do not want to violate the territory of other countries or let other countries violate our territory,” he said. “We should not bring this border case to international courts because the two countries can solve this. It just takes time.”
In a March 19 meeting in Ho Chi Minh City, both countries agreed to ask France to provide technical mapping experts and specific border maps for post numbers 30-40 in Rattanakiri province and border posts numbers 138-147 in Svay Rieng province.
Despite the failure of the meetings to lead to anything substantial, Mr. Kim Hong said the two sides did agree to finish border demarcation starting in September. For more than nine months, government officials have said “83 percent” of the border had been demarcated, but have yet to update the figure or show any evidence of the process moving forward. Even in agreeing to restart the border demarcation effort, both sides said they would not share funding to complete the project.
But the biggest issue – Vietnam’s construction of ponds and buildings in areas designated no-man’s land in a decades-old agreement – was left hanging in the balance, with Cambodia’s threats of military action having little effect on Vietnam’s view of the issue.
Two weeks ago, Cambodia issued its 23rd diplomatic note to Vietnam, asking it to stop building ponds and structures near the border post in Pok Nhai commune across from Vietnam’s Gai Lai province, which was designated as a no-man’s land until defined borders were created in a January 17, 1995, agreement between the two countries.
The diplomatic note also asks Vietnam to stop any building along the border in Svay Rieng, Kandal and Takeo provinces. But Vietnam has ignored every diplomatic entreaty and continues, to this day, to build structures in the open view of Cambodian citizens.
Tensions with Vietnam are on the rise due to a number of issues, most involving either the border between the two countries or the actions of the Asean regional bloc.

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