The head of the Federation of Cambodian Intellectuals and Students said Sunday that he is planning to hold a series of protests to demand that Foreign Minister Hor Namhong apologize for saying a disputed 16.6-hectare plot of land on the border of Tbong Khmum province belongs to Vietnam.
Mao Pises—a nationalist activist who helped organize similar protests last year demanding that a Vietnamese diplomat apologize for saying Cambodia lost the Mekong Delta region to Vietnam “a very long time” ago—Sunday led about 150 students to the tract of land on the border in Memot district.
Cambodian villagers farming the land say Vietnamese soldiers destroyed their crops by spraying chemicals on them in April. Responding to a letter from CNRP lawmakers over the incident, Mr. Namhong said on May 4 that the land was in fact in Vietnam, leading to Mr. Pises’ trip to Tbong Khmum, which the activist said Sunday had revealed that Mr. Namhong was incorrect.
Mr. Pises said that the disputed 16.6 hectares of land, which lie between two border markers, have been farmed by local Cambodian villagers for generations but that Vietnamese and Cambodian officials had only recently begun enforcing the border as being a straight line between the posts.
“We were able to conclude that the land belongs to our Khmer people and that the Cambodian authorities had planted some boundary posts in 2008, but they did not tell the people about the boundary line,” Mr. Pises said. “The Khmer people have cultivated [that land] since the period of their ancestors.”
According to Mr. Pises, the border was not previously taken to simply be a line between the posts, which he said are set too far apart to provide a useful indication for the actual boundary.
“We will hold a meeting with our youth group after we arrive in Phnom Penh, because we plan to hold demonstrations to demand Hor Namhong correct his actions, or we will likely demand he step down from his position because he has acted contrary to article 52 and 55 of the Constitution,” he said.
Article 52 of the Constitution states that the government has to “protect the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Cambodia,” while Article 55 states that any treaty incompatible with those responsibilities must be annulled.
Tbong Khmum deputy provincial governor Ly Leng said he separately visited the disputed land on Saturday to tell villagers that official maps confirmed that a straight line between the two posts delineated Cambodia’s territory.
“We are able to conclude that the area belongs to the Vietnamese side because the boundary experts have shown the maps of the borders of the two countries,” Mr. Leng said.
“We met with the villagers, and explained to those people [that they need] to understand the border line between the two countries, and avoid an incorrect understanding about the borderline,” he added. “The villagers showed us the area they used to cultivate but they were disappointed after we explained the obvious view [of the posts] and the legal method.”
Yet opposition lawmaker Mao Monyvann, who wrote the letter to Mr. Namhong requesting his intervention in the case last month, and who hosted his own public forum on the issue in Tbong Khmum on Saturday, said he was not satisfied with the official decision.
“Villagers have accused the Cambodian government of not defending the people’s assets but, instead, listening to the words of Vietnamese authorities,” Mr. Monyvann said.
“I will write a letter to Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong next week to ask him to come to give an explanation at the National Assembly,” he said, adding that he supports Mr. Pises’ plans.
“I wish to totally support a demonstration demanding the deputy prime minister step down,” he said.