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Cambodia, Vietnam Deadlocked on Border Dispute

  • Ith Sothoeuth

FILE - Cambodian police officers stand guard as Vietnamese people wave their national flags at the Cambodia-Vietnam border in Svay Rieng province, July 19, 2015.

FILE - Cambodian police officers stand guard as Vietnamese people wave their national flags at the Cambodia-Vietnam border in Svay Rieng province, July 19, 2015.

A closed-door meeting on border issues between Vietnam and Cambodia ended in deadlock Tuesday.

The two sides met in Phnom Penh to discuss how to address disputes over alleged encroachment on Cambodian territory by Vietnamese interests. Cambodian officials have vowed to forcefully dismantle recent construction and development projects that, they say, intrude on Cambodian territory.

Va Kim Hong, head of the Cambodian Border Committee, told reporters there was no joint statement following the meeting because the parties could not agree on how to delineate their common border.

Chairman of Cambodia's border committee Var Kim Hong (R) shakes hands with Vietnamese Deputy Foreign Minister Le Hoai Trung before a meeting about the border between Cambodia-Vietnam at the Council Ministers in Phnom Penh, Aug. 29, 2016.

Chairman of Cambodia's border committee Var Kim Hong (R) shakes hands with Vietnamese Deputy Foreign Minister Le Hoai Trung before a meeting about the border between Cambodia-Vietnam at the Council Ministers in Phnom Penh, Aug. 29, 2016.

Kim Hong said Cambodia observes the border with Vietnam as it was set in 1983, according to maps of Indochina — the former French colonial territory that now comprises Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

The Cambodian official said he referred to specific maps with a scale of 1/100,000 — "the map that the colonial power left for us when we gained independence in 1953."

Vietnamese delegates declined to talk to the media after Tuesday's meeting, but it was understood that their negotiations would continue, and the two sides would work on a draft letter to be sent to the French government requesting technical assistance to resolve their border dispute.

Son Chhay, a lawmaker from the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, said direct negotiations with Vietnam would be ineffective due to Cambodia's internal political crisis. He urged the government to seek international assistance on the border issue.

"We have the Paris [Peace] Agreement, in which signatory countries guarantee our sovereignty," Son Chhay said, "and we are a member of the United Nations, which can use the international court system to help."

Kim Hong said Cambodia is not yet in a position to bring its border claims before an international court, due to the complexity and cost of that process.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Khmer Service.

Correction: An earlier draft of this story indicated that Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar were once part of French Indochina. The territory of the former colony is in fact the present states of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos only. VOA regrets the error.

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