Opposition lawmakers who were this week prevented from visiting a temporary border marker in Kompong Cham province by a Vietnamese patrol were inadvertently trying to cross through Vietnamese territory at the time, officials said yesterday, a claim rejected by SRP parliamentarians.
“They planned to cross through [Vietnamese territory] where the Vietnamese forces stopped them,” said provincial governor Hun Neng, brother of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
The lawmakers were attempting to visit temporary border marker 103 in Memot district’s Roung commune, a post ringed by Vietnamese territory, Mr Neng said.
Border Committee Chairman Var Kimhong said in an e-mail yesterday that since the border around post 103 was not yet defined, it would have been easy for the lawmakers to end up on Vietnamese territory “accidentally.”
“The Vietnamese troops or the Cambodian authorities can prevent the opposition lawmakers from destroying the temporary border post 103…to protect it from destruction, like the border post 185 in Svay Rieng province,” he wrote.
But SRP lawmaker Son Chhay, who led a delegation of 18 MPs and party members to visit border markers 108 and 109 and temporary post 103 on Tuesday, said the group was on Cambodian soil when they were confronted by about 20 Vietnamese personnel armed with AK-47 assault rifles.
“The marker was still 100 meters away…. To be governor of a province, you must know where Cambodian soil is,” he said.
Mr Chhay said the party would not pursue the matter with the Vietnamese government directly but hoped Cambodian authorities would take up the case on their behalf.
“We want to see the Cambodian authorities daring to protect the rights of their own parliamentarians,” he said.
Mr Chhay said lawmakers were investigating complaints from local villagers who claim they are losing land to Vietnam. The delegation claimed to have discovered evidence that at least 17 villages in the area around border posts 108 and 109 have been lost land to Vietnam since the late 1970s, he said.
The SRP will compile a report on instances of encroachment and submit it to parliament and the prime minister early next week, Mr Chhay added.
Repeated calls to the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh went unanswered yesterday, while Embassy spokesman Leminh Ngoc could not be reached.