City Residents Call for Stronger Border Council

Phnom Penh residents on Mon­day called on the government to grant the Supreme National Coun­cil on Border Issues power to do its job and regain Cambodian territory lost to neighboring countries.

Last week, retired King Noro­dom Sihanouk, who chairs the se­ven-person council, wrote on his Web site that he was “head of a council which has no po­wer, [and] no right to inform you [of] the re­sults of the council meetings.”

The council met for the first time in Beijing on May 11. Although the proceedings are supposed to be confidential, Funcin­pec lawmaker Princess Norodom Va­­cheara, vice-pre­sident of the council, said Sun­day that she had proposed to amend a ro­yal decree on establishing the council in order to give it more po­wer.

“The powerless council is better than no such council, but it will work effectively when it is offered power,” bus driver Hem Samborn said near Hun Sen Park.

All of the country’s political parties must work together if they want to re­solve the issue, Hem Sam­born said.

“We must be quick to get along while retired King Norodom Siha­nouk is still alive,” he said.

Norodom Sihanouk also ap­pealed in a letter posted on his Web site on Sunday to “nationalists” to go to the border, find in­for­ma­tion on border encroachment and then re­port secretly to him the real facts about Cambodia’s border situation.

“I hope you will not face dangers,” Norodom Sihanouk wrote.

But cyclo driver Tuon Virak said that excerpts of the meeting that were broadcast on TV only showed the positive sides of the event.

“[The retired king] did not ask the people to report to him secretly on the border issue,” Tuon Vir­ak said, adding that the government should give the council more po­wer to resolve border is­sues.

“The retired King is our only hope,” he said.

Bus driver Touch Sophat said the governments of Thailand, Viet­nam and Laos, as well as local au­thorities, must have the will to re­solve the problems if they want to be effective.

Pang Sokhoeun, president of the Students’ Movement for De­mo­cra­cy, said he plans to go to Kra­tie prov­ince to report on the Viet­nam­ese border there to the re­tired King.

The council also needs the po­wer to negotiate with neighboring countries, he added.

The retired King has repeatedly sta­ted he would not recognize any bor­der agreements made be­tween Vietnam and Cambodia during the 1980s—treaties which the two countries still consider binding.

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