Border Scholar Ready to Present Initial Findings

Sok Touch, a prominent aca­dem­­­ic tasked last year with researching the Vietnamese border, said on Sunday that he had completed the first phase of his investigation and planned to present his findings to the public this week.

In July, the scholar was appointed as head of the nine-member team at the the Royal Academy of Cambodia whose study of border maps and posts was meant to put an end to the heated political controversy surrounding demarcation.

On Sunday, Mr. Touch said the researchers had finished documentary research into the borders in the provinces of Kampot, Svay Rieng, Kandal and Tbong Khmum.

While he declined to detail the findings, he said most border posts were placed within 3 to 5 meters of the correct location.

“We saw most of the border posts which were built in 1985 and 1987 were in our Khmer land and the border posts which were built in the French colonial [period] were planted in Khmer land and some posts were in Vietnamese land, but not by much—just 3 meters to 5 meters,” he said.

The group found just a single border post—number 314, located in Kampot province—planted a significant distance from the known border, located 93 meters inside Vietnamese land.

Mr. Touch said the conference set for Thursday was intended to calm the rancor surrounding the border issue, which has become a political flashpoint in the past year. In September, a man was jailed for threatening to kill Mr. Touch in a Facebook message.

“People have accused me as researcher of selling my head to Hun Sen,” he said. “We are holding the press conference to explain people to understand clearly about the truth.”

The opposition CNRP, which has assisted in the research, has refused to say it will accept the findings. Party spokesman Yem Pon­hearith said on Sunday that he hoped the conference would clarify issues surrounding the border.

“I think that the explanation of Mr. Sok Touch is his right, but someone else also has right to talk about border,” he said.

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