Border Chief Defends Talks With Vietnamese

Under stark criticism that he agreed to relinquish Cambodian territory during a confidential meeting with Vietnamese leaders, border disputes commission chief for the Council of Ministers Var Kim Hong maintained Sun­day that he merely discussed a possible border agreement at the March talks.

“I don’t know why they accuse us of giving up land to Vietnam,” he said. “I asked them where the land was being encroached…they could not answer,” Var Kim Hong said of a meeting Saturday with 40 students.

Brandishing a copy of the minutes from the March 22-27 talks, representatives of the Students’ Movement for Democracy in a Thursday news conference ac­cus­ed Var Kim Hong of violating the 1991 Paris Peace Agreement that vows to protect Cambodia’s “sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.”

“These agreements are illegal and betray the Kingdom of Cam­bodia,” head of the student movement Siro Sivutha charged.

Siro Sivutha argued the document represents a formal agreement between the two nations, but the minutes clearly state that discussions are ongoing.

For instance, Cambodian officials requested Vietnam recognize a 1939 maritime border be­tween the two nations called the Brevie line. But Vietnamese officials refused, the document read.

In what appeared to be amicable discussions, Vietnamese officials agreed to reopen discussions on border agreements made in 1985.

Despite differences, negotiators pledged to “come up with a mutually pleasing map…to survey and resolve any disputes” and stressed principles of “nonintervention” and “peaceful coexistence,” the document read. Var Kim Hong said an agreement should be reached by next year.

The students are scheduled to meet with National Assembly President Prince Norodom Rana­riddh on Thursday to air their con­cerns.

During a June visit by Viet­namese diplomats shortly after Cambodia’s admittance to Asean, hundreds of angry students protested what they believed were continued attempts to en­croach on Cambodian territory.

(Additional reporting by Debra Boyce and Graeme Wood)


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