Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong has come under fire from an opposition lawmaker and villagers in Tbong Khmum province after sending a letter to National Assembly President Heng Samrin this week asserting that a piece of land being farmed by Cambodians actually belongs to Vietnam.
Mr. Namhong wrote the letter in response to a request from CNRP lawmakers for the foreign minister’s intervention following reports from farmers in Memot district’s Choam commune that three Vietnamese soldiers were among six Vietnamese nationals who killed their crops with chemicals on April 19.
While the farmers claim to have been cultivating the land for decades, Mr. Namhong said their crops had crossed over a border marker that was modified as part of a 2011 memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Cambodia and Vietnam.
“Recently, in 2015, our citizens grew crops on 16.6 hectares of land on Vietnamese soil that caused Vietnam to react by spraying chemicals on our farmers’ crops,” Mr. Namhong wrote in the letter, dated Monday.
Mr. Namhong’s assessment was on Wednesday refuted by opposition CNRP lawmaker Mao Monyvann, who said he visited the area recently, and would consider calling the foreign minister for questioning at the National Assembly.
“I think that Hor Namhong’s interpretation is just based on the maps made in 1982 or 1983 that were nullified by the Paris Peace Agreement [in 1991], as [the maps] were made while the Vietnamese controlled our country,” Mr. Monyvann said.
Ky Tet, who claims he has been farming in the area since 1982, said that he and about 100 other villagers witnessed the six Vietnamese destroying their crops and managed to detain the three soldiers.
“The three Vietnamese carrying three chemical tanks were able to flee, but we held three Vietnamese authorities for more than an hour,” Mr. Ket said, adding that local police persuaded the villagers to let the soldiers go after promising to help settle the matter.
Im Khlauk said his two hectares of corn, bean and rice crops were completely destroyed.
“Hor Namhong’s account, stating that our land is located on Vietnam’s soil, is like he’s stabbing me to death,” he said. “We farmed the land before and after the fall of the Khmer Rouge.”
Provincial police chief Mao Pov said it was unclear which country the disputed land belonged to, due to poor border demarcation.
“Between border marker numbers 94 and 95, no temporary border posts have been installed,” he said. “That is why sometimes Vietnamese farmers also supposedly grow crops on our soil.”