Mixed Take on Hun Sen’s App’t To Border Body

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s re­cent ap­­pointment as head of the Na­tional Au­thority on Border Af­fairs has been met with mixed re­action by both officials and ordinary Cambod­ians, according to an in­formal poll con­­ducted in recent days.

Opposition parliamentarian Son Ch­­hay said Wednesday that ap­point­ing Hun Sen sole head of the au­­­thority was a superfluous gest­ure because the Supreme Nation­al Coun­cil on Border Affairs, headed by retired King Norodom Siha­nouk, was already in a good position to solve border issues.

“The supreme council decides and the government implements,” is how Son Chhay said he thought bor­der issues should be re­solved. “What we are doing now…it shows division” on border issues, he said.

Lao Mong Hay, of the Center for So­­­cial Development, suggested the best solution was finding a system that would allow Hun Sen and the retired King to work to­gether.

“The head of the government is responsible for national affairs,” he said, but “the retired King has popular support.”

To harness the premier’s power to the retired King’s popularity, the gov­­ernment should appoint Noro­dom Sihanouk as a special envoy on border issues, he said. The re­tired King would be able to use his con­­siderable expertise to advise Hun Sen on border issues, but the prime minister would have the fi­nal say on border decisions.

He admitted, however, that this ideal solution in theory would be po­­litically fraught in reality.

“Both men do not seem to trust each other,” he said. “The key is trust between the two.”

When asked about the border is­sue, several ordinary Cambodi­ans of­fered their opinions though several feared giving their names, es­pecially in the wake of the premier’s angry words against those who sought to use the border is­sue to destabilize his power.

While nearly all agreed that Hun Sen has the power to decide border issues, not all believed that he could deliver.

“I believe 50 to 60 percent that the gov­ernment has the will to solve border issues,” said Suon Sam­­bath, 54, a part-time investigator for a local NGO and motorbike taxi driver.

“If Hun Sen works on it like [he works on] building schools, roads…I believe him 100 percent.”

Others were less sanguine. “The border issue cannot be solved until the UN comes back,” said Dy Chan­thoeun, 34.


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