The country’s leading border authority denied Sunday that he had not taken seriously allegations of border encroachment by Thailand and Vietnam.
In an interview aired by state-owned TVK, Var Kim Hong, border disputes commission chief for the Council of Ministers, responded to accusations leveled against him last month by the Students’ Movement for Democracy. The group said he was working against national interest, calling for his resignation.
“Responding to some students’ criticism of me, I don’t understand it as I have visited several [sites of reported encroachment],” Var Kim Hong said.
He particularly noted an area of Banteay Meanchey province where Thailand allegedly had moved border markers into Cambodian territory. “We went there in July, and the Ministry wrote a report in September,” Var Kim Hong said.
The students’ criticism came on the heels of international reports that two letters sent by the country’s co-Interior ministers to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had outlined specific cases of encroachment by Thailand and Vietnam. Both have denied border tampering.
Calling the letters as “a normal legal procedure,” Var Kim Hong said he would not lodge an official protest before determining the government’s position.
Likewise, the border chief denied he had publicly dismissed allegations that markers were moved into Cambodia by Vietnam. “I never said so. I said there was a moving of the border [markers]….This is why we are holding talks [with Vietnam to clarify the border].”
Var Kim Hong’s comments on national television Sunday failed to satisfy representatives of the Students’ Movement for Demo-cracy, which demanded an opportunity to cross-examine the border chief in a public forum.
“In the interview, he just tried to [clarify] what he has already said,” said Um Sam An, the group’s sub-general secretary.
(Additional reporting by Tom Welsh)