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Cambodia Seeks Official UN Maps for Vietnam Border

  • Neou Vannarin

FILE - Marchers with opposition Sam Rainsy Party hold a Cambodia map supporting territorial claims against Vietnam on a street in Phnom Penh.

FILE - Marchers with opposition Sam Rainsy Party hold a Cambodia map supporting territorial claims against Vietnam on a street in Phnom Penh.

Cambodia’s prime minister has written to the United Nations’ chief to request maps that would help border demarcation between Cambodia and Vietnam.

The news came as the two countries began three days of border talks on Tuesday.

Officials say Prime Minister Hun Sen wrote to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon late Monday, requesting the U.N. maps, delivered by Cambodia in 1964, to quell potential "extreme nationalism and ill intent" from "confused" public opinion.

U.N. spokeswoman Eri Kaneko confirmed Ban had received the letter, saying, "We are studying it for now."

The request follows a clash between pro-opposition activists and Vietnamese security personnel last month near the border in Svay Rieng province. At least 10 people were injured in the clash when Cambodian opposition officials led a delegation to investigate reported encroachment by Vietnam.

Rescue Party lawmaker Um Sam An, who was among those injured in the border scuffle, applauded Hun Sen’s request. But he said it should have been made a long time ago. The request "means the current map being used is not correct," he said.

He urged the government to put together a bipartisan committee, along with U.N. mapping experts, to resolve the border demarcation issue.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said Hun Sen’s request was made to end public confusion, but he said a bipartisan committee was unlikely. "Border demarcation is a government duty, which is not involved with political parties," he said. "We have to make this clear."

Maps reflect controversy

The maps that Cambodia currently uses in border talks with Vietnam are highly controversial, as are any dealing in general with the border. The border remains unsettled in many places, despite years of demarcation talks.

The two sides opened border talks Tuesday in Phnom Penh, but no progress has been reported. "There are lots of remaining issues to be discussed," said Var Kimhong, who is chairing the Cambodian side.

Encroachment issues tend to provoke strong nationalistic fervor among many Cambodians, making it a hot button issue for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, which has called for Phnom Penh to seek help from the International Court of Justice.

Last week, Var Kimhong dismissed the call and spent more than two hours before lawmakers demonstrating the maps currently in use to demarcate the border with Vietnam. Rescue Party lawmakers said those maps were not the same as those used by the United Nations.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Khmer service.

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