Prime Minister Hun Sen Thursday again defended a controversial upcoming border treaty with Vietnam, saying it would win back land for the nation rather than lose it, and accused previous Cambodian leaders and the French of ceding Cambodian territory in the past.
Hun Sen is scheduled to visit Vietnam on Monday to negotiate a supplemental treaty based on the 1985 border agreement with Vietnam, whose terms will be kept secret until it has been ratified by the National Assembly, according to documents obtained Sept 14.
“The French drew maps biased [to Vietnam], we lost a lot of territory,” Hun Sen said during a graduation ceremony at the National Institute of Education, adding that this was not the fault of the French governor of Indochina, but of French officials who mapped out the border.
Referring to unnamed former Cambodian leaders, he added: “In the old days, Cambodia’s provinces were given away. Now I take back land, [and] I am criticized.”
Notes written by retired King Norodom Sihanouk and obtained Wednesday state that King Norodom Sihamoni will not be in the country to sign off on the upcoming treaty, leaving the decision to sign up to the interim head of state.
Prince Sisowath Thomico, special secretary to the retired king, said, “In this particular case I do not believe the government is serving the interests of the country.”
The issue is not so much whether land is lost or gained in the treaty, but one of principle, he said, explaining that the 1985 agreement was signed during the Vietnamese occupation.
“In accepting to negotiate on the grounds of that treaty, the government is accepting to recognize the domination of Vietnam,” said Prince Thomico.
The treaty should be based on border declarations reached in the 1960s, when Norodom Sihanouk was head of state, he added.
An official at the Vietnamese Embassy said the supplemental treaty will go “as planned,” but said he did not know how it would benefit either country.
Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said critics are undermining the government’s position in the negotiations, adding that Cambodia needs a clearly defined border.
“We try to negotiate a treaty to have a clear border…for the next generation,” he said. “To do this we need one voice from all Cambodians.”
He added that many people are trying to politicize the situation without understanding it.