Border Chief Rejects Appeal to Stand Down as Talks Continue

Following the second day of talks with Vietnam over the two countries’ disputed border, Var Kimhong, the CPP government’s minister in charge of border affairs, on Wednesday brushed aside an appeal from an opposition CNRP lawmaker for him to stand down.

Mr. Kimhong, who chairs the Joint Border Committee along with the Vietnamese deputy foreign affairs minister, Ho Xuan Son, has come under fire from the CNRP over the past month for allegedly using unconstitutional maps that place border markers inside Cambodian territory as the basis for talks with Vietnam.

Var Kimhong, the minister in charge of border affairs, speaks to reporters after the second day of meetings with Vietnamese officials at the Council of Ministers building in Phnom Penh on Wednesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Var Kimhong, the minister in charge of border affairs, speaks to reporters after the second day of meetings with Vietnamese officials at the Council of Ministers building in Phnom Penh on Wednesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

After meeting at the Council of Ministers building in Phnom Penh on Wednesday, Mr. Kimhong, who refused to talk to reporters after a meeting on Tuesday, offered few details about what was raised behind closed doors.

“We are negotiating and cannot answer, as it is not finished yet,” Mr. Kimhong said. “We will finish tomorrow.”

The bilateral border committee is charged with negotiating the demarcation of the Cambodia-Vietnam border, which has since early last month become one of the CNRP’s most active policy concerns.

Led by lawmakers Um Sam An, Real Camerin and Mao Monyvann, the opposition has visited four eastern provinces to highlight alleged territorial encroachments.

On Wednesday, Mr. Kimhong rejected a demand from Mr. Sam An that he resign due to his apparent inability to stop the alleged violations.

“That is up to the prime minister. It is not up to Um Sam An to remove me,” Mr. Kimhong told reporters, adding that he would also not accept an invitation from Mr. Camerin to join him on a trip to the border in Svay Rieng province.

“I have no obligation to respect that excellency. I am on the government side in the executive, and he is in the legislature,” he said. “He can go to see it by himself.”

Contacted by telephone, Mr. Sam An said Mr. Kimhong’s refusal to make public maps the government uses—in order to prove they are the ones mandated by the Constitution—was cause for him to step down.

“This is an issue for the whole nation, and which the villagers want to know about, and when he tries to hide information, it means he’s colluding to cut land to the Yuon,” he said, using a term for Vietnamese that can be derogatory.

Separately, Interior Minister Sar Kheng said at a ceremony at his ministry Wednesday that there would be a course about the border for provincial governors, police and military police on Tuesday.

“[T]here will be…a training course about checking the border, to make everyone know how to manage the situation on the border, because they cannot manage the border as they do not know which side belongs to us and to them,” he said.

Mr. Kheng said Interior Ministry officials and members of Mr. Kimhong’s committee would host the event.

(Additional reporting by Mech Dara)

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