Students, Monks Meet With King Over Border Disputes

Thirty-five members of the Students’ Movement for Democ­racy and five monks met with King Norodom Sihanouk at the Royal Palace Saturday to discuss land grabs allegedly made on Cam­bodia’s borders by Thais and Vietnamese, according to one of the student group’s leaders.

The students and monks spoke with the King for two hours, asking him to pressure the government to take the border disputes to an international tribunal. They also asked the King to urge the government to develop border areas and enforce immigration laws, said Students’ Movement for Democracy leader Oum Sam An.

The King said he would heed these requests, Oum Sam An said.

The students spoke of an alleged Thai incursion in Banteay Meanchey province and an al­leged Vietnamese land grab in Svay Rieng province.

Last Thursday, the King apologized for his inability to act against border land-grabs, saying in an open letter that Cambodia’s Constitution dictates that “the King reigns, but does not rule.”

Prime Minister Hun Sen said Friday the King was only reacting to pressure from the Students’ Movement for Democracy. He added that the government “does­­n’t need someone else to give advice.”

Also on Friday, Vietnam’s For­eign Ministry spokesperson Phan Thuy Thanh reaffirmed Viet­nam’s respect for agreements on borders and territory signed with Cambodia, according to a Voice of Vietnam report.

The statement came in re­sponse to a question from an Agence France-Presse correspondent in Hanoi about King Siha­nouk’s public expression of sorrow over the land grabs.

In response to Hun Sen’s comments, Oum Sam An said “If the government and the prime minister do not listen and respect the peoples’ ideas, then he is a dictator.”

On Monday, the Sam Rainsy Party sent a petition containing 23 signatures to the King’s Cabinet supporting the King’s open letter.

The petition asked the government to appeal to neighboring countries to respect Cambodia’s borders.

The opposition leader frequently targets Cambodia’s neighbors, accusing them of taking the country’s land.


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