A scholar who has been tasked with resolving a domestic dispute over the country’s border with Vietnam asked the opposition CNRP to find two missing pieces of its 26-piece border map on Friday during a press conference attended by lawmakers from the ruling and opposition parties.
Sok Touch, head of the border research group at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, told the audience of about 100 at the academy in Phnom Penh that maps from the government and opposition were identical, apart from two pieces of the CNRP’s maps.
“We will give time for the CNRP to find the two missing pieces. If they cannot find them, we will deny the CNRP’s maps,” Mr. Touch said, adding that one map submitted by the CNRP was an unofficial map of Vietnam’s Lam Dong province.
“If you use that section of the map, we will have a dispute that can lead to war with Vietnam,” he said.
Mr. Touch has laid out a three-step plan to assess the government’s work in demarcating its eastern border with Vietnam, starting with reviewing the maps used by various parties, followed by an analysis of border treaties signed by Phnom Penh and Hanoi, and finally physical visits to border markers to ensure they are placed correctly.
Responding to criticism that the research will be biased by virtue of the Royal Academy being a state institution, Mr. Touch said that the team of researchers would use hard evidence to support its findings.
“We will not say anything if there are no documents to use as a reference,” he said. “We say things based on clear and physical documents, because we could be called fortune tellers or traditional healers for saying things without having documents for reference.”
For the past three months, the CNRP has waged a campaign to discredit the CPP government’s work in demarcating its eastern frontier, leading trips to border areas where they claim Vietnam has violated Cambodian land.
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who has long accused the CPP of ceding land to Vietnam, said that the recent conviction of 11 CNRP activists on insurrection charges was a warning for the party to halt its trips to the border.
Mr. Touch said on Friday that he hoped his research would help resolve a political dispute that was dividing the country.
“Before we go find a solution with foreign countries, we need integrity first because we have seen so far the two political parties have accused each other of using incorrect or fake maps,” he said.
Acting CNRP spokesman Ou Chanrith, who attended the press conference, said he was not immediately prepared to respond to Mr. Touch’s request.
“I need to meet and discuss with the CNRP’s leaders on this matter,” he said.