Prime Minister Hun Sen took to Facebook on Friday and Saturday to explain why Cambodia was asking France to draw up a bigger version of the colonial-era map the government is constitutionally bound to use to demarcate its disputed border with Vietnam, saying the new map will be more accurate.
Mr. Hun Sen used his busy Facebook page last week to announce that Cambodia and Vietnam had just agreed to ask France to turn the so-called Bonne map mandated in the Constitution—drawn at a scale of 1:100,000—into a bigger version at a scale of 1:50,000.
“Transferring or copying the map must be done with accuracy based on the original map, and it will be used to make accurate measurements and demarcation,” he elaborated in a post on Saturday. “We have asked for French experts because France is the one that made this map while France colonized Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.”
“A scale of 1:100,000 makes it difficult to find the points to demarcate on the border because it is too small,” he said in a post on Friday. “Therefore, it is essential to transfer it…at a scale of 1:50,000, which will make it easier to measure and find the points to demarcate.”
Cambodia in fact already has a version of the Bonne map at a scale of 1:50,000. In a speech last year, Mr. Hun Sen said Cambodia and Vietnam had made it using a more modern Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) method, as per a supplemental treaty the neighbors signed in 2005.
The government has yet to explain why it wants a new UTM map at 1:50,000 when it already has one.
The opposition CNRP has long accused Hun Sen’s government of using the wrong maps to demarcate the border and quietly ceding large swaths of Cambodian land to Vietnam.
Last week, CNRP president Sam Rainsy said Cambodia’s turn to France for a new map was a tacit admission that the current UTM map could not be trusted to stake border posts in the right place.
“If you read between the lines, this is a confession,” he said from France, where he is living in exile, barred from returning to Cambodia.
Local news outlet CEN reported on Sunday that a delegation of mapping experts would arrive today from Vietnam for a three-day visit. Var Kimhong, head of Cambodia’s joint border committee, declined to speak with a reporter on Sunday.