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.