The situation at the Vietnamese border is “more than serious,” as Vietnam continues to hold a 12 km stretch of disputed land between the two countries, the leader of a parliamentary investigative board said Sunday.
Vietnam has displaced hundreds of Cambodian farmers in an area in Svay Rieng province known as “the White Area,” a disputed zone between the two countries, Princess Norodom Vacheara said.
The princess was the leader of a six-member National Assembly delegation that went to the border area last week to investigate allegations of Vietnamese encroachment.
The controversy could become more serious in the coming months, because the farmers have been prevented from working their land and earning a living, the princess said.
The local government informed the Vietnamese ahead of time of the delegation’s visit, to prevent “misunderstandings” by the Vietnamese authorities, Princess Vacheara said.
The delegation is scheduled to present its full report to the Assembly this week and the two sides should “find a diplomatic and political solution,” the princess said.
Several lawmakers went to Svay Rieng last week, depriving parliament of a sufficient number of members to conduct business. About 40 parliamentarians were absent from Friday’s session, but just six lawmakers were assigned to go to Svay Rieng to investigate the border, according to National Assembly Second Vice President Nguon Nhel.
“It was illegal for them to be absent without permission. We will take measures against them according to regulations,” National Assembly First Vice President Heng Samrin said.
But Princess Vacheara said that “a lack of quorum for one day is not serious compared to the people’s suffering.”
The delegation scheduled its fact-finding tour after more than 1,000 Svay Rieng farmers marched in Phnom Penh in early May, claiming they had been uprooted from their land and demanding government action.
On Friday, Heng Samrin endorsed a letter by Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Son Chhay, in which Son Chhay asked Prime Minister Hun Sen about the status of treaties with Vietnam.
“The government hired a company of Australian lawyers for the border issue with Thailand, but the government didn’t hire such a group of lawyers for border issues with Vietnam,” he said.
King Norodom Sihanouk has asked the government to investigate land encroachment by the Thais and Vietnamese and apologized to his subjects that he is not strong enough under the constitution to intervene himself.