Editorial | Articles about Cambodia | Khmer

Tuesday, October 25, 2005



The Cambodian prime minister is absolutely right when he utters, There is no leader in the world who is so bad even if he is as bad as Pol Pot that would rush to give away land to other countries.

But he seems to ignore at least two important facts there is commonly an exception to the rule, and usually there is no rush in giving away land to any neighbour. It took about half a century for Kampuchea Krom to formally become the present southern part of Vietnam.

Successive Cambodian governments up to 1979 had refused to accept the Brevier line as a legitimate maritime border demarcation between Cambodia and Vietnam. They always argued that the line had only been for administrative convenience, not a maritime demarcation. The Brevier line, drawn up in 1939 singly by Governor General of Indochina Jules Brivie, allocates the whole Koh Tral (Phu Quoc) to Cochin-china, currently Vietnam.

The break came with the 1979 liberation of Cambodia from Pol Pot regime by the invading Vietnamese troops at the invitation of the ruling party under the resourcefulness of the current prime minister. Vietnam's troops and administrators were then stationed in Cambodia for the next ten years during which a string of treaties relating to border issues were signed and sealed. It is indeed impossible to imagine that those treaties signed under a seemingly master-slave relationship would be free and fair from all parties' perspective. The Khmer gratitude for the historic liberation or favour would need to be somehow fully reflected somewhere.

A border concession has traditionally been one of fit tributes for such a dramatic liberation. Contrary to its successors that had taken a hard stance in rejecting the Brevier line, the State of Cambodia in 1991 was prepared to let go of it to avoid further hassle.

The border tribute is revealed in a leaked transcript/minutes of a top level meeting on 29 July 1991 specifically convened to address a complaint of the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs dated 10 July 1991 in regard to Cambodia's earlier call for commercial bidding among exploration companies to search for oil deposits in Cambodian maritime territory. Vietnam maintained the exploration would involve maritime border demarcation and disputed areas which had yet to be resolved. It referred to the treaty signed between the two countries on 7 July 1982, which did not yet determine their maritime border.

The meeting was chaired by Comrade Chea Soth, vice-chairman of the Council of Ministers, and attended by twelve other comrades: Bou Thang, vice-chairman of the Council of Ministers; Say Chhum, vice-chairman of the Council of Ministers; Kong Sam Ol, vice-chairman of the Council of Ministers, Hor Nam Hong, minister for foreign affairs; major general Noun Sok, deputy minister for national defence; Tep Hen, deputy-minister at the cabinet of the Council of Ministers; Bun Uy, deputy-minister at the cabinet of the Council of Ministers; It Prang, deputy-minister for industry; Souv Chiv Kun, department head of mineral resources; Kang Keng, department head of industry construction in the cabinet of the Council of Ministers; Hor Peng Hour, deputy director general at the cabinet of the Council of Ministers; Hour Sithy, secretary to the chair of the Council of Ministers.

In the above 29 July 1991 meeting, according to the following excerpt of the transcript, comrade Hor Nam Hong Minister for Foreign Affairs, gave away Koh Tral by accepting the legitimacy of the Brevier line. He said,

If the exploration has not started, the negotiation will be easy. With respect to the Brevier line, I have seen so clearly in the French notation that it is an administrative line in order to facilitate the people living in the regions [including Koh Tral]; [it] makes all administrative documentations not too difficult; [it is] too far for the people to travel to Kampot [for them]. At the time the three countries were under the French administration. In fact, this Brevier line is not a border line; and the fact is that the places have been ours since the old time. But save the hassle, they have already taken them, let them have them why bother to claim it back for peace's sake. And if they don't accept that much, it is going to be complicated in the future and we wait until then. For now we solve the other part first because we already have the agreement.

Comrade Chea Soth then said,

We have not done the exploration yet. We have just made the announcement; we have not yet measured [the lots allocated for exploration].

At the end, the meeting decided to seal the fate of Koh Tral and other regions separated by the Brevier line. The Cambodian foreign minister recapped the decisions, or sealed the fate of Koh Tral then.

Comrade Hor Nam Hong said,

Now let's take up this position we all agree so that it is easy for me to talk to them:

Issue 1: We pull back all those lots allocated for the exploration from the historical maritime border; they also pull back both sides all pull back from the areas under disputes.

Issue 2: If we are going to have joint ventures, we are going to discuss further among the three partners with signatures among us Vietnam and the exploring companies.

Issue 3: We will meet in the future to demarcate the maritime border between the two parties.

Issue 4: We must accept as our base the Brevier line outside the historical water boundary.

Details of the Supplementary Convention to the 1985 Treaty that prime minister Hun Sen signed with Vietnam on 10 October 2005 are not known. It is, however, promised to be available for the National Assembly ratification. It is not opened for any scrutiny before then. But the decision of the ruling party has been clear since 1991at the latest that it will sooner or later finalise a fit tribute package that delivers the southern archipelago to Vietnam.

Of course, the current prime minister who was not present at the 29 July 1991 cabinet meeting could claim innocence, just like Khieu Samphan, Pol Pot, Noun Chea, Duch and other high profile Cambodian leaders, dead or alive, who do not have any courage to accept full responsibility for what they have done, in one way or another, to the Khmer people. Sadly, they have always claimed they are in the right even while the country is going down the drain

Sim Sina (Mrs) 24 October 2005

NB: A copy of the original minutes/transcript in Khmer is available on request.

SUBMITTED BY: Sim Sina (Mrs), Email: sim...@westnet.com.au Sun, 23 Oct 2005

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