Opposition leader Sam Rainsy on Monday defended a CNRP lawmaker who was reportedly attacked by Vietnamese civilians during a trip to a disputed patch of the border in Svay Rieng province, while provincial authorities said that the trip was provocative and violated the “culture of dialogue.”
A group of opposition activists led by CNRP lawmaker Real Camerin on Sunday attempted to visit a disputed border area in Kompong Ro district but were met by a large group of Vietnamese civilians who prevented them from moving toward a border post.
A brawl broke out in which Mr. Camerin was reportedly struck with wooden sticks, and Mr. Rainsy told reporters Monday it was clear the land was in Cambodia and that the Vietnamese civilians—backed by soldiers—were in the wrong.
“It’s our right. In Cambodian territory, we can go to visit the Cambodian people along the border areas who have been victimized by losing their plantations and rice fields,” Mr. Rainsy said outside the National Assembly after a session on the 2013 budget.
“We are considering whether to sue at the national and international levels to prevent violence on faultless Cambodians who just go to protect Cambodian territory.”
“We want the Cambodian authorities and the people to join forces to be against the foreigners who look down upon and hurt Cambodians, and swallow the land owned by Cambodians along the border,” Mr. Rainsy said.
However, the Svay Rieng Provincial Hall on Monday released a statement disavowing Mr. Camerin’s actions by saying they violated the so-called “culture of dialogue” being promoted by Mr. Rainsy and Prime Minister Hun Sen.
“The trip to check the border led by Real Camerin was not notified to the local authorities for the organization of security, safety and to inform our Vietnamese counterparts in order to avoid any incidents from happening,” the statement says.
“[The trip]’s intention was to cause insecurity at the border and was completely against the culture of dialogue led by the two top leaders, which sticks to negotiating national issues, territorial integrity and border sovereignty.”
Var Kimhong, chairman of the joint border committee with Vietnam, said he was unsure whether Mr. Camerin had remained on Cambodian land, entered into Vietnam or entered into a patch of territory that has yet to be demarcated.
“I have not yet received a report about this,” Mr. Kimhong said. “We do not know where they went.”
Mr. Camerin denied his trip had violated the “culture of dialogue” and said he and his group were clearly on Cambodian land when they were attacked, as they had not yet reached the border marker they were seeking to review.
“The location belongs to Cambodia. As border marker 203 was further in, therefore this territory belongs to Cambodia,” Mr. Camerin said. “When they come to hit us in our land, and the authorities refuse responsibility, that is shameful.”
“We cannot use the culture of dialogue to allow the Yuon to take our land as it wants,” he added, using a word for Vietnamese that is often derogatory. “The CNRP stands behind the culture of dialogue, but this culture is to benefit the nation.”