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Border chief to be grilled over Vietnam deal

Ben Sokhean / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Cambodia Border Affairs Committee chairman Var Kimhong. KT/Siv Channa

Cambodia Border Affairs Committee chairman Var Kimhong will appear before the Supreme Consultative Council today to be questioned over the signing of border documents with Vietnam last week.

In Hanoi earlier, Mr Hun Sen and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc presided over the Review Conference on Cambodia-Vietnam Land Boundary Demarcation, where several documents were signed, including ones to ratify 84 percent of the demarcated border. Now only 16 percent remains to be marked and both nations will ask France to assist in the process.

Mr Kimhong, who was present during the signing, was requested to brief SCC members on the outcome of the agreement. He said yesterday that he will appear before the council.

“I received an order from Prime Minister Hun Sen to appear before the SCC. I will come,” Mr Kimhong said. “We have nothing to hide. Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered me to clarify things, so I will do it.”

“When the Prime Minister orders his official to appear for the meeting, I have to accept the order,” he added.

The SCC said in a press release yesterday that members will question Mr Kimhong regarding general border demarcation work and the documents signed with Vietnam last week.

“This meeting is very important for the SCC so it can have a basic understanding in order to explain the process to the people,” it said. “It is also to explain the efforts of the government led by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who is aiming to develop cross-border development and peace with neighbouring countries.”

Pich Sros, the president of the Cambodian Youth Party who requested Mr Kimhong’s appearance, yesterday in a letter to Mr Hun Sen said that the council wants to know more details about the documents signed with Vietnam.

“Please…allow senior minister Var Kimhong to lead his delegation to appear before SCC members to elaborate on the positive and negative points regarding the two border agreements signed between Cambodia and Vietnam,” Mr Sros said in his request letter, which was swiftly approved by the Premier.

Reached by phone, Mr Sros said the meeting with Mr Kimhong will be held at the Peace Palace and the questions that are going to be asked will reflect public interest. “People are concerned about transparency in border work,” Mr Sros said. “I will directly question him during the meeting to clear things up. I cannot tell you what I will ask him.”

He added that after Mr Kimhong is questioned, the SCC will inspect the Cambodia-Vietnam border.

“We cannot just believe what people say, we have to carry out our own studies,” he said. “We have the right to summon him to be questioned. We will record everything he says and then study the border areas.”

Mr Sros noted that in the past, the SCC has summoned other government officials to be questioned.

“The SCC has the right to summon national and sub-national officials to appear if we want to know what those officials are doing,” he said.

“He was not the only official to appear. There were many others, including the chairman of the Anti-Corruption Unit.”

When asked about Mr Kimhong’s scheduled appearance, political analyst Lao Mong Hay yesterday suggested that the SCC is obligated to carry out its duties.

“It’s another instance of that council’s useful impersonation of parliament in holding the government which created it accountable,” Mr Mong Hay said.

The Kingdom shares a 1,270-km border with Vietnam and the two nations have been demarcating it since 2006. The agreement with Vietnam came one month after Mr Hun Sen and Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith ratified 86 percent of the border between their two countries.

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