Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen sent a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon on Monday, requesting UN recognised maps from 1969 to compare with current maps used to demarcate his country’s border with Vietnam.
Hun Sen’s government heavily criticised the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) for not pushing claims based on the original map which was prepared by Cambodia and Vietnam’s colonial ruler France over the years of 1933-1953.
According to a post on Hun Sen’s Facebook page on Monday, by providing the original copy of the maps, the UN will “avoid and end the incitement of extreme nationalism and ill-intention to cause confusion within national and international public opinions.”
Hun also criticised attempts at “making political gains by some quarters in Cambodia that may lead to catastrophe to the whole Cambodian nation.”
The letter came shortly after claims by CNRP leader Sam Rainsy that some irregular border posts have been detected.
For a month, the lawmakers from the CNRP have five different provinces in Cambodia many times, highlighting supposed Vietnamese encroachments in the provinces. One of the trips led to clashes at the end of June, when Vietnamese villagers attacked Cambodian activists.
The CNRP has demanded the Cambodian government publicly release the official border map, allowing for a comparison between current borderlines and those on the map.
On Monday, leader of the CNRP party Sam Rainsy said that requesting the original map from the UN proved that the government has never had the proper map of the country and that this has geopolitical implications.
“It is proof the current Cambodian government, the Hun Sen government, has never had that map deposited at the U.N., which is constitutionally mandated to be used as the basis to delineate the border,” Mr. Rainsy said.
“This means that what they have been doing with demarcation of the border with Vietnam is not in line with the Constitution and was not based on the map deposited at the U.N.,” he added.
“This could have far-reaching implications.”
But, Cambodian People’s Party spokesman Sok Eysan said Mr. Hun Sen requested the map because he wants tangible proof of Cambodia’s borders which will halt the demarcation dispute once and for all.
“This is nothing involving the CNRP but it is the business of the government’s Joint Border Committee to openly display [the map] to the public,” he said.
“There is no need to give it to the CNRP, as the government would be borrowing it from the U.N. and would need to ensure the map’s safety,” he added.
Opposition lawmakers and NGOs in Cambodia have welcomed the attempt but demanded the government include them in the process in which UN’s maps and current maps will be compared.
“It is good news that the prime minister has written to the secretary-general to receive the real copy of the map,” Hong Sok Hour, a senator for the Sam Rainsy Party said in an interview with Turkey’s Anadolu Agency on Monday night.
“I think this is a good way to resolve the problem in Cambodia and Vietnam,” he added.
The Phnom Penh-based Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee was among the supporters of the government’s move.
“This will clear all doubts and resolve our border problems with neighboring countries,” a committee member, Suon Bunsak said.
Council of Ministers spokesperson Phay Siphan also called the letter an “historic event,” adding that it will help the public to clearly understand the border issue.
A committee set up by Cambodia’s National Assembly with the participation of all the country’s political parties will examine and compare the maps, according to Siphan.