The vice president of the Khmer People’s National Liberation Front said yesterday that a statement he made on Sunday-calling on Cambodia and Vietnam to “co-manage” Vietnam’s Phu Quoc island-was not a request for retired King Norodom Sihanouk to discuss the issue during his visit to Vietnam this week.
Son Soubert said yesterday that his statement, released to coincide with the retired King’s upcoming visit to Vietnam, had been designed to encourage Cambodians to push the government to negotiate a deal with Vietnam over the island, known to Cambodians as Koh Tral.
“I did not request that the retired King demand the island from Vietnam,” Mr Soubert said. “I want all Khmer people to stand up and demand justice, [because] our island was illegally [given] to Vietnam,” he said.
Phu Quoc island was awarded in 1939 to the French colony of Cochinchina that is now southern Vietnam.
Prince Sisowath Thomico, personal secretary to the retired King, said yesterday that he was surprised Mr Soubert had used the retired King’s trip to Vietnam as the occasion to make a political statement.
“I was surprised when I saw this statement because it is connected with a political issue,” Prince Thomico said, adding that the retired King had made it clear that his trip to Vietnam was of a purely “private” nature.
Tith Sothea, spokesman for the press and quick reaction unit at the Council of Ministers, said yesterday that Mr Soubert should not involve the retired King’s trip in a “political issue.”
Officials at the Vietnamese Embassy could not be contacted for comment.