Vietnam President Set to Arrive on 3-Day Trip

Vietnamese President Tran Duc Luong arrives this morning for a three-day state visit—his first since a planned trip a year ago was cancelled due to a terrorist attack on government buildings in Phnom Penh that killed at least four people.

Tran Duc Luong will sign agreements on promoting and protecting both Vietnamese investments in Cambodia and Cambodian investments in Viet­nam, and another agreement on trade in border areas. The two countries will also sign a memorandum of understanding on foreign affairs and a joint declaration on bilateral cooperation.

The main goal of the visit is to further strengthen the relationship between Vietnam and Cam­bodia in all areas, Viet­namese Ambassador Ngu­yen Duy Hung said Sunday. He said a year had elapsed since the last scheduled visit only because it was difficult to find a mutually convenient time for the leaders to meet.

Tran Duc Luong is scheduled to meet with King Norodom Sihanouk, Prime Minister Hun Sen, Senate President Chea Sim and National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh today. On Tuesday his delegation will fly to Siem Reap for sightseeing. They will return to Hanoi Wednesday afternoon.

According to a release from the Council of Ministers, 4,000 officials, citizens and schoolchildren will meet Tran Duc Luong at the airport and another 100,000 will line the road into Phnom Penh, cheering and waving flags.

Meanwhile, a student group says it will hold a non-violent protest on the grounds of the Royal University of Phnom Penh.

In a letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Democratic Front of Khmer Students and Intellectuals say they want Viet­nam to stop border encroachment, take back illegal Viet­namese immigrants to Cam­bodia, stop pressuring the Cam­bodian government and respect Cambodian sovereignty.

Cambodians have long harbored ambivalent feelings toward Vietnam, their powerful com­munist neighbor that first nurtured the Khmer Rouge, then liberated Cambodia from its bloody clutches in 1979.

Many current political leaders, including Hun Sen and Chea Sim, first came to power during the 10-year Vietnamese occupation; student groups and the opposition Sam Rainsy Party have often accused these leaders of being puppets of Hanoi.

More recently, the two nations have continued to disagree over ill-defined land and sea borders and control of Mekong River shipping and tariffs. Vietnam has looked suspiciously on Cambo­dia’s increasing relations and trade with China.

Nguyen Duy Hung said the disputed borders were bound to come up in the talks, but would not predict whether the two countries would come to any agreement on the issue. Both countries announced they would settle the border problems by the end of 2000, but no agreement was ever reached.

Tran Duc Luong’s visit last year would have come two weeks after a visit by Chinese President Jiang Zemin. Dip­lomats said at the time that the Vietnamese president’s visit seemed intended to demonstrate that Vietnam’s relationship with Cambodia was just as strong as China’s. Nguyen Duy Hung flatly denied that China would be a point of contention in the talks. Vietnam and Cambodia both have a good relationship with China, he said.

Tran Duc Luong, 64, was elected president in 1997. He is also the president of the Vietnamese Communist Party. He has degrees in geology and mining and worked as a cartographer before joining the party in 1959.


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