Opposition lawmaker Um Sam An on Tuesday denied claims by the government that he was inciting instability in a Facebook post last week in which he boasted about finding a copy of a map of Cambodia’s border with Vietnam at the U.S. Library of Congress.
Var Kimhong, senior minister in charge of border affairs inside the Council of Ministers, on Friday warned Mr. Sam An, who is still in the U.S., against continuing to accuse the government of using “fake maps” after the lawmaker again suggested that Mr. Kimhong uses Vietnamese border maps.
“Relating to the issue of me finding 26 Cambodian map pieces at the Library of Congress, that is not incitement,” Mr. Sam An said in a voice message Tuesday.
“It is just part of my studies to find out which ones are the correct maps, and other ordinary people also have such a right to study about the maps.”
It was not, in fact, Mr. Sam An’s accessing of the U.S.-held maps that led Mr. Kimhong to hold a press conference, but rather his suggestion in a Facebook post attached to an image of him holding the map.
“Var Kimhong told a lie: that he took the maps here from the 5th floor. In fact, the maps are held at the underground floor,” Mr. Sam An wrote on his Facebook page.
“Maybe he has never been here and he has used maps attached to a 1985 treaty when the Yuon controlled Cambodia,” he said, using an often derogatory term for Vietnamese.
In an effort to stifle the CNRP’s border campaign, Prime Minister Hun Sen said last month that anyone who claims the government uses maps other than the French-drawn ones mandated by the Constitution will be arrested.
Mr. Sam An is one of the few CNRP lawmakers who has continued to criticize the government’s demarcation of the Vietnamese border since opposition leader Sam Rainsy said last month he wanted to let an angry Mr. Hun Sen cool down.
Mr. Sam An said Tuesday he is due to come back to Cambodia in early November, and that he knew he might be arrested.
“Indeed, the government has been poked on the right sensitive issue, so the arrest might happen,” Mr. Sam An said. “But I will be back for certain in early November.”
Sok Eysan, spokesman for the ruling CPP, said he was confused by past statements from Mr. Rainsy and deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha saying that Mr. Sam An was working on the maps issue on his own as a lawmaker, and not on behalf of the CNRP.
“His party’s leaders have repeatedly announced that they have never assigned him to do this work,” Mr. Eysan said. “I do not understand the CNRP’s policy, because the leaders speak like this but the followers speak and act differently.”
Mr. Eysan added that maps from France will arrive in Cambodia on Thursday and that comparisons with those held by the government will prove beyond any doubt that the government’s maps are the ones mandated by the Constitution.
“There will be no more suspicions about the government, since on September 3 we will verify with the maps from France, which is the source the maps come from,” he said.
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