Cambodian lawmaker calls for ASEAN website to be blocked over missing land

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Saturday, June 2, 2007


Thirty-five square kilometers, or 13.5135755 square miles, or 3,500 hectares or 8,648.68835 acres.

However you figure it, it's a sizeable chunk of land.

And it's missing from Cambodia on the website for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, a 10-member regional body of which Cambodia is a member.

In Cambodia (highlighted on map), border disputes are a sensitive topic.

The apparent rounding down of Cambodia's territory, 181,035 square kilometers, on the ASEAN website, has some Cambodian lawmakers up in arms.

Parliamentarian Keo Remy, a member of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, is calling for the ASEAN website to be blocked by Cambodia's Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications if the number is not corrected.

"We know that Cambodia has border disputes with its neighbors, and Khmer citizens are paying attention on these issues. We cannot accept such incorrect points. The most important thing is that the government should close this web site," Keo was quoted as saying by the Khmer-language daily newspaper Kampuchea Thmey.

Though Keo acknowledged the error could be an honest, if careless, mistake, he said it could mean something more sinister – that ASEAN is trying to undermine Cambodia's sovereignty, and that perhaps ASEAN is working for neighboring nations. It could even be treasonous, he said.

"If it was intentional and perpetrated by a Cambodian, this is treason. It is like not knowing your own parents," Keo was quoted as saying by Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

Other lawmakers also called on the Cambodian government to take action.

“The royal government must react urgently, especially the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation," Monh Saphan, a Funcinpec parliamentarian was quoted as saying by Kampuchea Thmey. "The website [must] be corrected, because it affects the territorial integrity of the Kingdom of Cambodia."

And non-governmental organization leaders weighed in.

"The state’s figure is more important and appropriate than figures of other organizations. Therefore, we should urge the government to check this issue," Seng Theary, executive director of the Center for Social Development, told Kampucha Thmey. "We also wonder where ASEAN got this figure."

Kek Galabru, president of the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights, said that incorrect figure is most likely a mistake, but said the government should investigate it. "Otherwise a small problem might turn into a bigger issue," she said.

Government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said he would investigate, and called for cooler heads in the meantime.

Border disputes are a hot-button political issue in Cambodia, which has some long-standing unresolved boundary conflicts with neighbors Thailand and Vietnam.

Cambodia joined ASEAN in 1999, the last country to gain admittance to the regional geo-political and economic body for Southeast Asia. It was founded in 1967 by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Other members are Brunei, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

Sources

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