In Sweeping Address, PM Defends Border Work

In a three-hour speech delivered on state television, Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday said his government has not ceded a single meter of land while demarcating Cambodia’s border with Vietnam. He also threatened further arrests of border critics and warned that war would break out if another party were running the country.

After offering a lengthy defense of the methods used by his government to demarcate Cambodia’s eastern frontier, Mr. Hun Sen once again warned the opposition against continuing its campaign to discredit the government’s border work.

The prime minister said he recently told opposition leader Sam Rainsy that the 1:100,000-scale Bonne maps the CNRP collected from France—copies of the maps mandated by the Constitution—were a bad thing for the party to have.

“Your maps are the most poisonous, more poisonous than the most poisonous animal, not because they have been used to cheat people, but because these maps brought one of your colleagues to be imprisoned up until now, and could possibly be used to have more people imprisoned,” the prime minister said.

On the orders of Mr. Hun Sen, opposition Senator Hong Sok Hour —who personally collected copies of the Bonne maps from the National Geographic Institute in Paris —was imprisoned last month for presenting a copy of a doctored border treaty in a video on Facebook.

In June, Mr. Rainsy said the CNRP planned to use the maps from France, along with a GPS system, to inspect posts along the border to see if they were planted inside Cambodian territory.

Mr. Sok Hour remains in prison despite his immunity from prosecution as a senator, and Mr. Hun Sen on Tuesday decreed once more that anyone who says his government uses the wrong maps would suffer the same fate.

“Arrest anybody who dares to say that the government has used fake maps. If such a situation is allowed to exist like this, there will be war. The country will have war if the CPP does not lead the country,” Mr. Hun Sen said.

“So I clarify that there is nobody who dares to say ‘fake’ or ‘stolen’ maps,” he said. “If so, they will not be pardoned. The law enforcement officials must conduct the arrests at the scene.

“I stress that I will not allow you to live with happiness if you do not allow me to live with happiness,” the prime minister said. “If opposition politicians continue using the sensitive border issue for their political gain, the new thing for the resolution will be to take legal action.”

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann could not be reached Tuesday.

Also during his address, Mr. Hun Sen acknowledged that the government uses maps other than the 1:100,000-scale map stipulated in the Constitution for border demarcation, but said that the borderlines drawn on those maps were exact copies of those on the constitutional map.

The CNRP has in recent months accused the government of using maps other than those specified by the 1993 Constitution, but Mr. Hun Sen said his government was even using the French-drawn maps in the 1980s.

“The 1:100,000-scale Bonne map… was used by the government of the People’s Republic of Kampuchea in signing the three agreements and treaties related to the land border with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,” Mr. Hun Sen said, referring to major treaties signed in 1982, 1983 and 1985.

However, he said when the 2005 supplemental border treaty was signed, the two countries agreed to copy the old French maps onto larger maps that use the more modern Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) map projection method, which includes coordinates for latitude and longitude.

“The 1:100,000-scale Bonne map is difficult for finding the principal points for planting border markers,” Mr. Hun Sen said. “That is why the two parties agreed to transfer from the 1:100,000-scale Bonne map to a 1:50,000-scale UTM map.”

Mr. Hun Sen said the process of updating the Bonne maps into UTM maps was ongoing, and that Cambodia and Vietnam have plans to draw even larger UTM maps.

“In the future, when we hire a Danish company—the two parties will hire a Danish company—we can reach a phase of transferring the map to a 1:25,000 scale,” he said.

The prime minister said there was nothing wrong with using UTM maps instead of the Bonne maps named in the Constitution, as officials have been careful to ensure the borderline is identical on both.

Mr. Hun Sen also argued that since the agreement to turn the Bonne maps into UTM maps was in the 2005 supplemental treaty, which was passed by the National Assembly and signed into law by King Norodom Sihamoni, the arrangement was constitutional.

“It did not make the government lose land,” he said. “Cambodia has never lost any land, not even one square meter.”

The 2005 supplemental treaty with Vietnam was based upon the 1985 treaty, which was considered illegal by a number of figures including the late King Norodom Sihanouk, as it was signed during Vietnam’s occupation of Cambodia.

With his son, the reigning King Sihamoni, appearing reluctant to sign the treaty with Vietnam into law, Mr. Hun Sen suggested abolishing the monarchy entirely.

“If the king would not sign, he should give reasons,” Mr. Hun Sen said in a speech at the time. “Why do we keep the monarchy?”

A number of opponents of the treaty, including current CNRP Vice President Kem Sokha, were jailed for criticizing the treaty, whose terms were not revealed until it passed into law with the king’s signature in November 2005.

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