Cambodia would have to give two villages to Vietnam if it wanted to retain another two deemed the territory of the Kingdom’s eastern neighbour by the former French Indochina colonial administration, a government minister said yesterday.
Last year, the Cambodian government announced it was speeding up the process of demarcating its borders with Vietnam and Laos, which were renegotiated in 1985, six years after Vietnam ousted the Khmer Rouge.
Va Kimhong, senior minister in charge of the Cambodian Border Affairs Committee, said the government would have to compromise to keep Thlok Trach and Anlung Chrey villages, in Kampong Cham province’s Ponhea Krek district, as part of the border demarcation process.
“We have still kept both the villages the same, but we have an obligation to find any area in Kampong Cham province to give back to Vietnam,” he said. “That is what we call a compromise.”
Va Kimhong did not specify which villages would be given to Vietnam in exchange for retaining the territory, which includes Anlung Chrey, the home town of National Assembly president Heng Samrin.
But Sean Penh Se, president of the INGO alliance Cambodia Border Committee, said from France yesterday that any exchange would be unacceptable without consulting those who stood to lose land from such a deal.
“As I know, the map that France has kept [for us] has [Ponhea] Krek [district] belonging to the Khmer,” he said. “There has never been such an exchange, like an exchange of bread and oranges. [We] must have agreement from all people, because that land does not belong to Va Kimhong and Hun Sen.”
Alleged Vietnamese encroachment on Cambodian territory stirs strong passions in the Kingdom and has been a pivotal issue in all of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party’s election campaigns.
Party president Sam Rainsy lives in self-imposed exile in France after receiving more than a decade in jail terms in Cambodia for pulling up a border demarcation post and publishing a Google map to support his claim of Vietnamese encroachment.
SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said yesterday the Vietnamese claim was based on an unacceptable 2005 supplementary treaty to the 1985 Treaty on Delimitation of National Boundaries between the two countries.
“I think Va Kimhong is very wrong. According to the names of the villages, they belong to Cambodia, and since the beginning, we did not agree with the additional treaty since 2005,” he said.
Ros Va, 71, and Chum Chin, 71, residents of Po Preuk village, which neighbours the two villages in question, said they believed the villages were inside Cambodian territory but had been used as hiding places by Vietnamese soldiers during the war with the US.
“Those villages really are Khmer land. It is not confusion,” Ros Va said.
Heng Samrin could not be reached for comment yesterday, but senior Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Cheam Yeap said the National Assembly president had lived in Anlung Chrey village for close to 80 years.
“I have gone [to Heng Samrin's village] often; it is next to the border. Samdech Heng Samrin has already declared that since he was born. He has lived there since a long time ago,” Cheam Yeap said.