Following a trip to the Vietnamese border in Svay Rieng province with about 100 students Sunday, prominent union leader Rong Chhun on Wednesday held a press conference calling on the National Assembly to move to rescind the controversial 2005 supplemental border treaty with Vietnam.
The appeal was immediately rejected by the government’s senior border affairs official, Cambodia Joint Border Committee director Var Kim Hong, who said the nine-year-old treaty is a legitimate and irreversible accord.
At a restaurant in Phnom Penh, Mr. Chhun, who is the president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association, said the treaty with Vietnam—which is based on a 1985 accord signed during the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia—has led to numerous losses of territory long held by his country.
“We saw that many border posts were planted inside our Cambodian territory,” Mr. Chhun told reporters of his trip to the border in Svay Rieng’s Rumduol district.
On the trip, farmers showed Mr. Chhun border posts they claimed border authorities had moved hundreds of meters into their land as recently as February, and the union leader pledged to take their concerns to Phnom Penh.
“The 123 lawmakers [in the National Assembly] must raise this supplemental treaty and send it to the Constitutional Council of Cambodia to revoke it,” Mr. Chhun said at the press conference Wednesday.
Mr. Kim Hong, the government official, said Mr. Chhun’s request could not be fulfilled.
“Please ask him to give the reasons he wants to cancel it. The National Assembly approved this treaty, the Constitutional Council of Cambodia agreed to it, and the King offered his signature,” Mr. Kim Hong said.
“How can it be canceled? Who can cancel it? It’s not Rong Chhun, who is just a small guy, who can cancel it,” he said. “Don’t just make accusations. What they are doing is just a way to become popular and get political gain.”
Mr. Chhun was among four civil society leaders who were imprisoned in late 2005 for criticizing Prime Minister Hun Sen for passing the border treaty into law that year.
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