Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay on Thursday urged the government to publicly reveal the details of border talks with Vietnam before seeking parliamentary approval for the controversial supplemental border agreement.
Son Chhay also said the government should refrain from seeking the National Assembly’s approval at the moment, during what he called a “time of turbulence and tension.”
“It is not a good time for the government to seek the Assembly’s approval because every single lawmaker feels insecure,” he said.
“Lawmakers should get fuller explanations and make their investigation, including trips to border areas if necessary,” he said.
The controversial border agreement may be put before the National Assembly shortly, if the Council of Ministers adopts it today as planned, Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said.
But, he added: “No timetable was set about how [soon] the National Assembly should get it done. It is up to the National Assembly.”
Khieu Kanharith added that Son Chhay had only a surface-level understanding of the issue.
“He just talks and talks, but doesn’t know how technical the issues are. Please entrust the government and our [border] technicians. We also love the nation. Nobody wants land to be lost,” he said.
Khieu Kanharith added that the government was prepared “to swallow the gravel,” in suffering the opposition’s criticism.
“History will tell who is right and who is wrong,” he said, though he added that it is currently impossible for the government to reveal further information about the matter to the public.
“We guarantee that the land was not cut off [in the new agreement] but we would gain more back than is stipulated in the 1993 Constitution,” he said.
CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap discounted Son Chhay’s call for public hearings on the issue, saying these could only hinder the talks on the border.
Chea Vannath, president of the Center for Social Development, said transparency on this issue could benefit the government.
“As long as the government keeps things this secret and unexplained, the public are always suspicious of their action,” she said.