The furor over the border issue quieted somewhat Wednesday following the release to the National Assembly on Tuesday of the text of the additional agreement to the 1985 border treaty with Vietnam.
The issue itself remains hot, but the tortured grammar and turgid language of the agreement seem to have left lawmakers curiously silent as they scurried to consult experts to find out exactly what it means for Cambodia’s frontier.
One of the more digestible passages of the agreement states: “In the zone adjacent to Taveng Krom, Taveng district, Ratanakkiri province, Cambodia, and the Mo Rai commune, Sa Thay district, Kontum province, Vietnam…the two Parties concerned…agree to modify this sector as follows: From point A situated at the confluence of a stream without name, along the stream until it reaches point B.”
“We are consulting with border experts, we are in the discussion stage,” said Sam Rainsy Party Cabinet Chief Sam Rithy Duong Hak.
Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay cited Say Bory, a former member of the Constitutional Council, as one of the “experts” along with several international lawyers and academics.
“We’re collecting all that [expert information on the border], and we’ll present it to parliament,” said Son Chhay, insisting that some documents and experts will show that the 1985 treaty does not benefit Cambodia.
“We need all this evidence because we don’t want to be arrested,” he jokingly added.
Say Bory, in a letter dated Oct 5 and posted to retired King Norodom Sihanouk’s Web site, voiced his strong opposition to the agreement, and retired King Norodom Sihanouk in a handwritten note supported Say Bory’s views.
Var Kimhong, chairman of the government’s border committee, said the agreement was too complicated to explain in a short phone conversation.
Three parliamentary commissions—legislative, foreign affairs and home affairs—are now reviewing the text of the additional agreement. No date has been set for it to go before the full Assembly.
Funcinpec lawmaker Monh Saphan, chairman of the home affairs commission, said the document would take about two weeks to review and said he hoped it could be put before Parliament before the Water Festival.
Opposition Secretary-General Eng Chhay Eang said parliamentary debate about the agreement was little more than theatrics.
“It is a rubber-stamp Assembly. It could be stalled by lack of quorum, but I have little hope,” he said.
The border agreement requires a simple majority to pass, and the ruling CPP controls 73 of the Assembly’s 123 seats.