Prime Minister Hun Sen will go to Vietnam in October to negotiate Cambodia’s border with Vietnam, according to a Council of Ministers document dated Aug 11 and signed by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An.
The document, obtained on Wednesday, states that negotiations will be based on a border agreement signed between Cambodia and Vietnam in 1985 while Cambodia was under Vietnamese occupation, and that a “supplemental treaty” will be negotiated.
Some critics have alleged that the 1985 agreement ceded significant amounts of Cambodian land to Vietnam.
“The supplemental treaty must not be publicized until the National Assembly ratifies [it],” the document specifies, adding that the treaty will have to be approved by lawmakers in both Vietnam and Cambodia.
Before Hun Sen leaves for Vietnam, the premier will visit King Norodom Sihamoni, the document states.
In 2003, then-King Norodom Sihanouk declined to sign any new border pacts between Cambodia and Vietnam.
According to the document, the Council of Ministers decided to initiate the negotiations after receiving complaints about border issues from local officials.
Several months ago, tensions over the border issue led to heated rhetoric from both Hun Sen and retired King Norodom Sihanouk, then-chair of the Supreme National Council of Border Affairs. The prime minister was subsequently named the sole figure with authority to negotiate the country’s border issues.
Var Kimhong, president of the government’s border commission, was not available for comment. Minister of Information and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith declined to comment.
Critics of the proposed treaty say it should not be based on agreements signed by Cambodia while it was under Vietnamese occupation.
“We are concerned that the new agreement will not benefit the country,” said opposition parliamentarian Son Chhay.
“It just legalizes the 1985 treaty,” he claimed, arguing that negotiations should instead be based on the 1991 Paris Peace Agreement, which gave Cambodia the right to renegotiate border contracts signed while the country was under Vietnamese occupation.
Son Chhay also objected to the secrecy surrounding the text of the treaty.
“This is of concern to every Cambodian,” he said.
“By working behind closed doors in this way, it cast doubt… about whether the government is working to protect our sovereignty and [territorial] integrity.”