Border Meeting Ends With Champagne, No Details

At the end of the third and final day of the meetings of the Joint Border Committee in Phnom Penh on Thursday, the Cambodian and Vietnamese delegations clinked champagne glasses during a public signing ceremony and departed, offering no details about their negotiations.

Continuing his almost complete silence about the talks, Var Kimhong, the CPP government minister in charge of border affairs, shuffled through a crush of reporters and into an elevator after the meeting at the Council of Ministers building.

Ho Xuan Son, left, and Var Kimhong speak during a ceremony on the final day of Joint Border Committee meetings in Phnom Penh on Thursday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Ho Xuan Son, left, and Var Kimhong speak during a ceremony on the final day of Joint Border Committee meetings in Phnom Penh on Thursday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

“It’s in a statement. I issued a statement already, so please look at that,” Mr. Kimhong told reporters following the meeting, which lasted more than eight hours. “We discussed everything.”

Speaking in English, Vietnamese Deputy Foreign Minister Ho Xuan Son, the head of Vietnam’s delegation in the talks, declined to be interviewed, telling reporters: “I have to go to the airport.”

Kuy Pisey, the Cambodian deputy chief of the border committee, said Monday that the meetings would deal with unfinished border demarcation as well as a number of incidents that have recently broken out along the border as the opposition CNRP has led trips to examine border posts.

However, the brief statement handed out after Thursday’s final meeting revealed no specifics about the results.

“The meeting proceeded in a tight-knit atmosphere…with a mutual respect for the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of each country,” the statement said.

“1. Both parties recognize that border work and the demarcation of land between each country has complications, even if both countries have already demarcated about 83 percent. Both parties agreed to make an effort to quickly end the border issue in the near future,” it said.

“2. Both parties agreed to thoroughly work according to the spirit of the joint declaration of January 17, 1995, on taking care of the current situation along the border,” it continued.

“3. Both parties agreed the technical working groups on the border, as well as relevant provincial authorities in each country, will cooperate to effectively resolve every incident that occurs along the border to prevent and avoid them spreading, which can impact the two countries’ good relations.”

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said by telephone after the meeting that the official statement made it clear that the two sides had failed to resolve the recent border issues.

“Their statement shows there are problems, problems which have not been solved. The way it is written shows they could not come to an agreement,” Mr. Rainsy said.

Yet Mr. Rainsy said he hoped that was a sign Mr. Kimhong and the other Cambodian negotiators had refused to bow down to demands from the Vietnamese side.

“The CNRP stands behind the government, as long as the government adopts the right attitude of firmness,” he said.

“We want to encourage them to remain firm and become firmer, and we will combine our efforts with the government’s for the purpose of defending Cambodia’s territorial integrity.”

(Additional reporting by Alex Willemyns)

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