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Quan-điểm của Cambodia về

Hải-phận Việt-Nam và Khmer phân-chia theo đường Brévíe

Document created: 2 May 02
Air University Review / September-October 1980

Southeast Asia Today:
Cultural Continuity and Political Instability

Dr. Thomas J. Bellows

 THE probability of proxy wars increases as the United States adjusts to strategic parity under the pending SALT II agreement. Although there may be a nuclear stalemate with the Soviets, we must not assume that the Chinese or Soviet Communists will forego other strategies to expand their influence through force and violence. The developing nations are especially aware of the potential danger. The July 1978 Foreign Ministers for Non-Aligned Nations meeting in Belgrade expressed grave concern about the growing phenomenon of proxy war. The nuclear balance of terror rules out military confrontations in the Northern Hemisphere, so it is reasoned that conflicts will be initiated or prolonged by Communist proxies in the Third World.1

The U. S. S. R is systematically advancing Soviet power beyond the Warsaw Pact area. The Chinese Communist leadership is acutely sensitive to this latest challenge, particularly when the scenario is played out adjacent to borders where Peking believes she should have the predominant voice. Indochina War III is demonstrating that the Chinese will use military means through a proxy, or directly if pushed too far, to achieve what they regard as national security objectives. We cannot assume, however, that Peking will continue limiting coercive tactics to Communist opponents on her border, particularly if the People's Republic of China (PRC) succeeds against so determined an opponent as Vietnam.

In a proxy war the armed forces of the proxy state serve the interests of both principal and proxy. Sustained military activity and intervention would not be possible without the support of the patron. As a principal or patron power, the Soviet Union attempts to make the proxy dependent to a point where, in essential matters, Moscow can enforce its will.

Countries involved in regional conflicts are drawing the attention of Communist strategists in order to increase the number of allied states and restrict the influence that rivals may have in the Third World. During this decade, regional hostilities in the Third World may often be transformed into proxy conflicts and thus become the arena in which great power rivalries are allowed violent expression. Indochina War III is striking because it involves a confrontation between the two Communist giants: the People's Republic of China (proxy: Democratic Kampuchea or Cambodia) and the Soviet Union (proxy: Vietnam).

The Cambodian-Vietnam Conflict

Indochina War III formally began when Vietnamese forces crossed the border into Cambodia in December 1977. Although this war had its own local causes, its origins and continuation at current scale place it in the proxy war category. Each of the Communist superpowers seeks advantages through military actions of its respective proxy.

territorial integrity and ethnic hostility

Phase 1 of Indochina War III lasted between 1974 and the initial limited Vietnamese invasion in December 1977. Dominating this first phase were disputes over boundary lines and the question of survival for a Cambodian nation that historically has had portions of its territory absorbed by both Thailand and Vietnam. Today approximately one million Khmer Krom (Cambodians in Lower Cambodia) live in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam, an area controlled by the Cambodians 150 years ago. The Cambodian core was saved by the French protectorate established between 1864 and 1867. Vietnamese territorial advances were halted by the French, and two provinces seized earlier by Thailand were returned to the French colony in 1907. Ethnic hostility toward the Vietnamese grew, however, because of the Vietnamese minority in Cambodia, many of whom were brought to Cambodia by the French. During this century the Vietnamese have constituted approximately 9 percent of Cambodia's population. The Khmers have resented the Vietnamese, who were used by the French in supervisory positions over "less energetic" Cambodians.

A legacy of distrust affects contacts with both Thailand and Vietnam, though much more so with Vietnam because of the mutual ethnic dislike between the Khmers and Vietnamese. During the Vietnamese expansion westward through the Mekong Delta in the nineteenth century, the Vietnamese referred to the smaller, darker Cambodians as tho or barbarians. The Cambodian Communists or Khmer Rouge have used ethnic hostility in an even more pronounced fashion. Shortly before the overthrow of the Pol Pot regime, the Foreign Ministry of Democratic Kampuchea published a 112-page Livre Nair (Black Book) in which it chronicled a long list of Vietnamese crimes and boasted that since the Angkor epoch the Khmer people have referred to the Vietnamese as youn or savage.2

Despite suspicions of Vietnamese Communist motives, former Head of State Prince Norodom Sihanouk concluded border agreements in 1967 with the North Vietnamese government as well as the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam. These agreements recognized the poorly marked boundary drawn up by the French in 1939 (the Brevie line) which has few official border crossings and does not follow topographical features. After the 1975 Communist seizures of power in Cambodia and Vietnam, border disagreements were quickly magnified in the minds of the new Cambodian leadership as issues of state survival. The Vietnamese in turn played on Cambodian fears to increase the level of conflict and distrust.

Also present were serious military security problems. Highway 1, linking Ho Chi Minh City with Phnom Penh, traverses the Parrot's Beak (Svay Rieng province), a piece of Cambodian territory which juts deeply between Tay Ninh and Kien Tuong provinces to within 40 miles of the former Vietnamese capital. The Parrot's Beak is a dagger pointed at Vietnam's second major city. Similarly, the December 1977 Vietnamese invasion of Cambodian territory along Highway 1 brought the invaders to within 35 miles of Phnom Penh. Enemy incursions endanger the political/military vitals of each country.

Cambodian/Vietcong clashes began in 1974, a year before the 1975 Communist victories. Cambodian Communists sought to evict Vietnamese residents and Vietcong troops from Cambodian delta territory. Military clashes over disputed offshore islands occurred in 1975, and the Vietnamese continued their efforts to "adjust and clarify" the Brevie line. Border skirmishes increased during April and May 1977, and by September of that year the Vietnamese launched retaliatory incursions. These Vietnamese actions, according to the Cambodian Communist chief of state, included foreign nationals (Russian and Cuban) who advised military companies and tank squadrons.3

party rivalries

Angka Loeu, the "Organization on High," the cruel oligarchy which ruled Cambodia under Pol Pot until January 1979, was the administrative arm of the Cambodian People's Revolutionary Party (PRP) founded in 1951. This was the same year the Lao Dong party was established in Vietnam. The Pol Pot Communists, however, date the PRP's origin as 1960 in order to minimize their relationship with the Vietnamese Communist party.4 When the 1954 Geneva Agreement ended the first Indochina war, the Cambodian Communists received the worst deal. They were instructed to dissolve their organization, and their cadres were to go to North Vietnam. Most of the original Khmer Communists crossed into Vietnam for 16 years of training and indoctrination. A second generation of local Khmer Communist recruits began organizing in the late 1950s and were vigorously opposed by the Sihanouk government. Tough and resourceful, this second generation of Communist leaders, many educated in France, were the rulers of Democratic Kampuchea under Prime Minister Pol Pot. The top four Democratic Kampuchea leaders (Pol Pot, Ieng Sary, Khieu Samphan, and Son Sen) were educated in Paris and took part in radical student politics in the 1950s.5

Khmer Rouge suspicions of Vietnamese comrades grew when Hanoi pursued a policy of conciliation with Sihanouk in the 1960s. Hanoi's aim was to protect the Ho Chi Minh Trail and station thousands of Vietcong in Cambodia's provinces. Sihanouk's ouster from power in March 1970 changed Hanoi's policy. A major Vietnamese assistance program was begun to undermine the Lon Nol government and to reduce pressure on the Hanoi-controlled portions of Cambodia. The assistance package included 2000 to 3000 Hanoi-trained Cambodians, who returned to assist their local Khmer Rouge comrades. The resulting intrigues, which included Hanoi, the second generation Khmer Rouge, and the returned exiles, remain obscure. The post-1960 Khmer Rouge leaders believed that the returning cadre were instructed to gain control of the Khmer Rouge movement. The repatriated comrades failed, but the plots, counterplots, executions, and assassinations of fellow Communists continued through 1978.6 All of the Hanoi-supported coup attempts by Cambodian Communist factions were detected and mercilessly crushed. Comradely distrust and hatred could hardly be greater than that between the deposed Pol Pot regime and Hanoi.

the war itself

Phase 1, the undeclared war of hit-and-run clashes conducted by both the Vietnamese and Cambodians since 1974, erupted into phase 2, open conflict, in December 1977. On 30 December the Cambodian Foreign Ministry cited the ferocious and barbarous aggression launched by Vietnam against Cambodia and severed diplomatic ties with Hanoi. Within a month there were 60,000 Vietnamese soldiers occupying the Parrot's Beak. Cambodia's 25,000-man Eastern Army had suffered severe casualties. By the end of January the invasion halted, with Vietnamese troops holding a corridor up to 18 miles deep in the Cambodian border areas and deeper still in the Parrot's Beak. Cambodian raids continued throughout 1978, and a Vietnam army spokesman claimed in March that Cambodian troops occupied portions of Vietnamese territory in 13 border regions. East European sources explained that Khmer presence was tolerated as evidence of Cambodian aggression.7

Resistance by the Khmer Rouge army of 90,000 was unexpected. Vietnamese strategy in phase 2 intended to: (1) halt Khmer Rouge border incursions; (2) cripple the Cambodian army to the point of collapse; and (3) bring about a palace coup in Phnom Penh which would install a pro-Vietnamese government. Hanoi failed to achieve any of these objectives. The hostilities continued until June, when additional Vietnamese troops and air power began attacking Cambodian targets. Simultaneously, refugees, captured Khmer Rouge soldiers, and some Khmer Krom were enlisted into a Vietnam-based resistance force which grew to 30,000 by late 1978. Nevertheless, the Pol Pot regime continued in power. The Soviet/Vietnamese strategy failed in its objectives.

Phase 3 began in late November 1978, the start of the dry season, with the official creation of a Hanoi-sponsored Kampuchea United Front for National Salvation. The massive Vietnamese invasion was launched on Christmas Day. Phase 3 ended when Democratic Kampuchea formally came to an end on 7 January 1979 with the seizure of Phnom Penh and the establishment of the Hanoi/Moscow-backed People's Republic of Kampuchea. A high-level Chinese team had visited Phnom Penh the previous November. It had recommended that the Pol Pot government not defend its capital in the event of a Vietnamese invasion. This would publicize the aggressive designs of Hanoi and Moscow and ultimately defeat the Vietnamese by bogging them down in a costly no-win guerrilla war. Thus a nearly successful proxy conquest might be stalemated by a classic people's war as the two Communist superpowers attempt to expand their influence in the region.

support by the principals
and long-range objectives

Peking believes that the struggle in the Third World against the U.S.S.R requires an all-out Chinese effort to reduce or eliminate Russian influence wherever possible. Just before the formal outbreak of Indochina War III, Peking was expanding its influence in Southeast Asia, and Moscow was losing influence. Asiaweek, published in Hong Kong, reported that by late 1977 there were clear signs pointing to the "increased isolation of the Soviet Union and the emergence of China as the leading force for peaceful progress in the region."8 As the Soviet Union seeks to increase its position on a worldwide basis, one of its major goals is to limit Chinese influence. The tilt in Southeast Asia was toward Peking, not Moscow, and this led to a more aggressive Soviet policy.

The parties involved in Indochina War III regularly declare that this is a proxy war. Peking accuses Vietnam of pursuing "regional hegemonies," serving as the "Cuba of the East" and the "junior partner" in a Soviet plot to dominate Southeast Asia.9 Hanoi also stresses the proxy character of the war. Nhan Dan, the Vietnamese party newspaper, analyzed the November 1979 visit of Wang Tung Hsing, Vice Chairman of the Chinese Communist Central Committee: "By sending the fifth ranking personage of hegemonism to Phnom Penh on such a hasty visit, the Peking ruling circles have shown their desperation as well as those under their protection. The PRC who nurses a great power hegemonistic dream is worried about the expansionist enterprise." The visit meant "an increase in Chinese aid to remedy the lackey's situation. "10 The Moscow-based Far Eastern Affairs recently reviewed PRC ambitions in Southeast Asia. The article warned of "Peking's great power designs of aggrandizement," and the pivotal role of Vietnam in thwarting these ambitions. Vietnam is described as the "main obstacle" to PRC "hegemony in this area."11

Without the support of their principals, neither Democratic Kampuchea nor Vietnam could have taken the actions they have since 1975. Soviet/Vietnamese accusations that Cambodia "systematically violated" Vietnamese territory since May 1975 are correct.12 Khmer Rouge motives discussed previously were reinforced by the advice and support of Peking. Traditionally, China has opposed the emergence of strong neighbors on its borders, particularly those unresponsive to China's strategic needs. This policy required opposition to a united and strong Communist Vietnam on China's southern border. From April to May 1975 onward, Peking assisted Khmer Rouge raids into Vietnam. A principal objective of these raids was to support southern dissidents. The ultimate goals were to: (1) counter Russian influence in Hanoi; (2) keep Vietnam only loosely federated; and (3) make Vietnam a weaker and more pliable neighbor. The Cambodian incursions were the principal means of delivering supplies to both disaffected National Liberation Front/Vietcong and anti-Communist guerrillas. This was not an excessively costly venture until the outbreak of the Sino-Vietnamese war on 17 February 1979. Chinese aid between 1975 and 1978 totaled about $100 million.

A major premise of this article is that the Vietnamese military activities depend on Russian advice and support. A Vietnamese victory would fit neatly into Soviet global strategy. A Vietnamese-controlled Indochina federation would intimidate other Southeast Asian nations, especially Thailand. It would assist in expanding Soviet influence. And, most immediately, it would restrain the growth of Chinese influence in the region.

Domination of Laos was the first step in the creation of a Moscow/Hanoi-controlled Indochina federation. Laos has a 25-year friendship treaty with Vietnam and is host to 50,000 Vietnamese troops. It is under the virtual control of Moscow and Hanoi. In addition to the large Vietnamese presence, there is a total of 1200 to 1500 Russian advisers in Laos. Peking charges that Vietnam and the U. S. S. R are turning Laos into an Asian Czechoslovakia.13 The main obstacle to an Indochina federation between 1975 and January 1979 was Pol Pot's Democratic Kampuchea. This last obstacle to a Moscow-oriented Indochina federation has now been removed.

An ambitious and expansionist Vietnam needs a big power ally to limit Chinese reprisals and provide needed economic assistance. One such example is the Vietnamese/Soviet friendship treaty signed in November 1978.14 Vietnamese successes are Soviet successes, even if they stem initially from the surge of Vietnam's historic objectives rather than a need to follow the Kremlin's instructions. The quid pro quo for the Soviets will, though, be determined during the coming months. An accommodating Vietnam must be the inevitable basis of the relationship.

Confrontation of the Soviet Proxy

It is unusual in a proxy war for one of the sponsoring powers to go to war directly with the other sponsor's proxy. This happened in Indochina in the 1979 Chinese invasion of Vietnam. The reasons are threefold: (1) the People's Republic of China and Vietnam have a common border; (2) the mistreatment of the 1.5 million Chinese minority in Vietnam; and (3) the military overthrow of the Pol Pot regime by Vietnam.

On 24 March 1978 a series of directives from Hanoi launched collectivization of South Vietnam. This led to the complete breakdown of relations between Hanoi and Peking. The first edict ordered the abolition of all "bourgeois trade," traditionally dominated by the Chinese. Many Chinese were ordered to the New Economic Zones (NEZ). These areas were being opened up to develop distant mountain and border areas where living conditions are primitive and in order to transform urban residents into subsistence farmers. Hanoi's new economic policies had strong racial overtones because the Chinese minority was the group most affected. Relations between China and Vietnam reached a 30-year low as a result of: (1) Chinese attempts to flee Vietnam; (2) the inability of Hanoi and Peking to agree on which and how the panic-stricken Chinese might leave; and (3) border clashes between Chinese and Vietnamese security and military personnel beginning in June 1978. By midsummer more than 160,000 refugees had fled to south China, at a reported resettlement cost to Peking of $870 per refugee. 15 China cut off its 30-year assistance program to Vietnam in July. Peking's total assistance to the Vietnamese Communists over the years had exceeded $10 billion. Its recent annual assistance averaged $300 million.16 This was a substantial loss for a Vietnam faced with continuing economic deterioration.

Was this split between Vietnam and the People's Republic of China deliberately provoked? Probably so, although the reasons are not entirely clear. One consequence was that Moscow and Hanoi moved closer together. The English language reporter covering the Cambodia/China/Vietnam/Soviet Union quadrangle most comprehensively in Nayan Chanda. He concluded in March 1978 that Hanoi officials did not foresee an open rift with China and maintained a "safety margin" in dealing with their colossal northern neighbor.17 Within days of Chanda's article, the events described led to an abrupt break in Sino-Vietnamese relations. The Soviet Union gained, but so did the PRC if one assumes that a Vietnam with resources stretched too far rather than a strong Vietnam benefits Peking.

From Hanoi's point of view, the Peking-sponsored Cambodian military incursions into Vietnam grew progressively more severe and disruptive in 1977. As part of Hanoi's collectivization and pacification of the south, more than eighty New Economic Zones involving nearly 1.3 million people were set up, several near the Cambodian border. The security of a substantial part of South Vietnam and many NEZs was threatened by Cambodian probes. Vietnam had either to endure the disruptive raids supported by China or hope that chewing up the Eastern Cambodian Army would cause an internal coup and provide the basis for permanent Vietnamese influence in Phnom Penh.

The Vietnamese initiatives of invading Cambodia and the doctrinaire economic reforms which put severe pressure on many of the 1.5 million Viet-Chinese must be considered alongside certain other facts. Disputes with China and Cambodia came at a bad time. Hanoi apparently had hoped to devote most of the Vietnamese national energies to unifying the country and rebuilding an economy devastated by 30 years of war and three years of Communist mismanagement. Agriculture was given top priority in the five-year economic plan launched in 1976. A serious setback occurred in the fall of 1978 when the Mekong Delta experienced the worst floods in 40 years. The economy was further jeopardized by growing border confrontations in 1977. These forced Hanoi to shift ten divisions from civil action to military duty. Democratic Kampuchea, with fewer than 7,000,000 people and an army of 90,000, exhorted by China, succeeded in disrupting the internal structure of Vietnam, a country with a population of 50,000,000 and the best war machine in Southeast Asia. Not only was the emergence of a Vietnam-controlled Indochina federation postponed but the very viability of Vietnam was threatened. With Soviet urging and support, decisive steps were possible, even if they led to a direct confrontation with the PRC.18

Today Vietnam's military forces are mobilized and stretched so far that economic development is difficult to achieve. Its expansionist plans will be reduced without increased support from the U.S.S.R In addition to the Cambodian problem, there is instability in the client state of Laos. Thirty percent of the lowlands where the Lao reside is in the hands of insurgents. Nearly all counterinsurgency operations are conducted by the Vietnamese. Finally, there was the need to deal with the Chinese invasion of Vietnam in February 1979. Hanoi could cope with any one of these problems and perhaps two simultaneously but would be hard put to handle all three without substantially more Soviet assistance.

China remains committed to a primitive political leadership which destroyed its own towns, abolished its currency, murdered more than 15 percent of its own population, and, despite a small army, subjected its political system to a continuous round of bloody purges. Peking supported Cambodia as a buffer to Vietnamese expansion and as a pipeline for support to insurgents in Vietnam. The People's Liberation Army's invasion of Vietnam, which began on 17 February and by mid-March resulted in the withdrawal of most Chinese forces, was inconclusive. The PRC felt compelled to take action or lose face both as a result of the fall of Pol Pot and because of the heavy-handed treatment of the "overseas" Chinese in Vietnam. One paradox in big power international politics is that minimal prestige or the loss of prestige may force a country to rely on force more extensively. It is this relationship between prestige and the use of force that led to the Chinese invasion. The binding of Cambodia into a Hanoi-controlled federation close to the PRC border without any response would have confirmed the PRC as a paper tiger. Future attempts to oppose Soviet influence would receive little support or respect from other countries. Moreover, given the constant internal political intrigues in Peking, no faction wants to be responsible for "who lost Cambodia."

Instability and Limited Victories

Proxy confrontations and Communist superpower involvement will continue in Indochina for some time. One unpleasant lesson is that maneuverings for expanded influence by the two Communist titans may catch the non-Communist world unaware and unprepared to respond. A fall 1977 survey of 65 political, diplomatic, and military leaders in Southeast Asian countries is pertinent here. Nearly all of those interviewed regarded open aggression by Hanoi as "most improbable." They saw little external military threat to their national security in the next five years and concluded that "the Soviet presence would not easily be linked to any credible danger scenarios."19 Within two months Vietnam had invaded Cambodia. Today a major worry of Southeast Asian leaders is whether their national security is threatened either by a spillover from Indochina War III or by efforts of Peking and Moscow to extend their regional influence.

We must assume that the Indochina situation will remain unstable during phase 4, which began with the flight of the Pol Pot government from Phnom Penh in January 1979. In its efforts to maintain its modern army and subdue Cambodia, Hanoi is encountering difficult logistical problems. Less than a month after the fall of Phnom Penh, Radio Democratic Kampuchea announced a two-day conference attended by 183 of the Khmer Rouge from nine battlefronts. The conference was to coordinate Pol Pot's China-backed guerrilla war, and it was stated that Pol Pot and the Chairman of the State Presidium, Khieu Samphan, were personally directing the struggle in Cambodia.20 There are now reports of villages recaptured and of assassinations of the new government's local officials. The reemergence of the Khmer Rouge policy of executing all opponents discourages most individuals from cooperating with the new regime. One intelligence analyst offered the following summary: "In the west it's like the last years of the Lon Nol government. In the east, the Vietnamese have somewhat more control-it's like South Vietnam."21 The recent Vietnamese offensive against the Khmer Rouge was only partly successful. Many Khmer Rouge insurgents, with Thai assistance, escaped to regroup and provide the core for an extended insurgency.22 Both sides have garnered some successes in phase 4 of Indochina War III. This can only encourage further efforts to gain a decisive advantage.

The February Chinese invasion and continuing border incidents compelled Vietnam to reassign some forces to the northern border in the hope that this will slow the consolidation of an Indochina federation. Within a week of the Chinese invasion, a Hong Kong pro-Communist newspaper reported that Vietnamese troops in western Cambodia were pulling back and several regiments of troops were being transferred from Laos to northwest of Hanoi. It was alleged that a power vacuum was being created in Laos and authorities were urging the people to be vigilant and "prepare to annihilate enemies who cause trouble."23 Chinese officials hope their actions will reduce the pressures on Chinese-supported insurgents in Laos and Cambodia. Moreover, almost simultaneously with the March announcement by Peking that it was withdrawing its forces, Vietnam announced general mobilization and placed its economy on a war footing. The future suggests continuing border pressures by Chinese Communist forces against both Laos and Vietnam and aid to antigovernment insurgents in Laos. Vietnam must maintain sizable numbers of troops in the northern areas of Vietnam and Laos to contain Chinese-supported insurgents in Laos and in case the PRC forces decide to cross the border in force again.24 The Chinese activities further weaken Vietnamese economic development programs and are intended to restrain its regional ambitions.25

Peking is using Indochina War III to illustrate the danger of Soviet strategy to all concerned. It warned the Western world that Chinese initiatives were required to contain Soviet global ambitions now being set into motion on the Asian rimland:

Europe has been the focus of Soviet-U.S. rivalry. But, the two sides are essentially at a stalemate, so the Soviet Union started a large flanking movement to encircle Western Europe with the main object of seizing sources of strategic materials vital to the West and controlling the major sea routes linking Western Europe and the United States and those linking the two with Africa and Asia.26

The PRC hoped to demonstrate to the West-especially the United States-that firm counteraction, such as the invasion of Vietnam, can be taken without incurring a direct Soviet reprisal.

Finally, Vietnam serves as a warning to non-Communist Third World nations of Soviet manipulation. The U.S.S.R, argues Peking, wants to embroil developing countries in aggressive, expansionist policies, thereby encouraging military actions that will weaken their economies and allow increased Soviet influence and control.

On the other hand, the Vietnamese have also gained from Indochina War III. The most obvious benefit is that the war has brought Cambodia into the Vietnamese sphere of influence, at least temporarily. Indochina War III also bears witness to the aggressive acts of the Chinese. Vietnam demonstrated that by a limited fallback policy and reliance on militia and border guards it can mount an effective defense against the People's Liberation Army (PLA). The PRC's resort to force has caused sharp disagreements within Peking's leadership, suggesting that even close to its borders there are major internal limitations on Chinese foreign policy. Moreover, the continuing credibility of the Vietnamese military is demonstrated once again. It is a stark reminder to Southeast Asia that Hanoi has numerous options to increase its leverage in the region.

Hanoi's dependence on and cooperation with Moscow have increased as a result of the PLA invasion of Vietnam. In this type of situation, the U.S.S.R has traditionally insisted on port rights which could lead to the establishment of a Soviet naval facility at Cam Ranh Bay. A first signal of Soviet naval success was the right of Soviet warships to call at will and establish supply depots in Vietnam. One indicator of future developments occurred when the Soviet vice foreign minister recently rejected Japanese objections and stated that the U.S.S.R is using military facilities in Vietnam to "carry out its obligations set under the Russo-Vietnamese Friendship and Alliance Treaty."27

An expanding Soviet military presence in Vietnam will alter the military balance in the Pacific Basin. It will provide a basis for future Soviet/Vietnamese actions to increase their regional influence. The Vietnam connection increases the attractiveness of proxy war as an option to expand Soviet world reach, despite the absence of total victory in Cambodia. The Vietnamese will not assume a policy of nonalignment suggested by Tito and others over the past two decades. Vietnam is much more likely to follow the Cuban model and serve as a vehicle for Communist expansion with all this implies.

PROXY war and the use of military force, as in the case of Indochina War III, can be a potent strategy if the costs are not too high for the patron and the potential benefits are great. Ambitious big powers that wish to expand their influence can treat the entire world as their universe to pick and choose selectively where they will initiate or support a proxy war. The non-Communist world, in its avowed commitment to human rights, stability, and slow, nonviolent change, finds itself at an awkward disadvantage. Great powers such as the U. S. S. R and the PRC, which view competition within a global framework and possess a willingness and capacity to wage low-cost proxy wars, may frequently conclude that this is an appropriate strategy. Their objectives can be advanced through encouraging numerous regional power rivalries, where at least some ambitious smaller powers will seek out a big-power sponsor. In a world of permeable states, the most recent and successful Communist strategy is proxy war.

University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

This article was completed with the assistance of a Pacific Cultural Foundation subsidy.



1. For a summary of Third World concerns, see the New York Times, July 31, 1978. Interestingly, this year's nonaligned meeting was held in Cuba, a principal Soviet proxy.

2. Black Paper: Facts and Evidence of the Acts of Aggression and Annexation against Kampuchea, Department of Press and Information of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Democratic Kampuchea, September 1978. English translation published by G.K.R.A.M., New York.

3. FBIS Daily Reports: Asia and the Pacific, January 3, 1978.

4. Dennis Duncanson, "'Limited Sovereignty' in Indochina," The World Today, July 1978, p. 263. For a summary of Pol Pot's version of the PRP's creation, see p. 265.

5. For more background see Brian Eads, "Cambodian Hierarchy Linked by Blood. Marriage, and Shared Schooldays," Bangkok Post, November 10, 1977.

6. One of the more readable summaries of Vietnamese/Khmer Rouge party conflict is William Shawcross, "The Third Indochina War," New York Review of Books, April 6, 1978, especially pages 16-18.

7. Far Eastern Economic Review, March 31, 1978, p. 13.

8. Ibid., December 30, 1977, p. 14.

9. Peking Review, July 21,1978, p. 8.

10. Asian Almanac, February 17, 1979, pp. 9275-76.

11. M. Kapasov, "Peking Seeks Hegemony in Southeast Asia," Far Eastern Affairs, vol. 4 (1979), pp. 29-42.

12. E.g., ibid., p. 234.

13. Ta Kung Pao (A pro-Communist newspaper published in Hong Kong), April 28, 1979. The Vietnamese Foreign Minister reportedly acknowledged that there are 50,000 Vietnamese troops stationed in Laos. Ibid., May 1, 1979.

14. The published text of the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam is available in Moscow News, supplement to issue no. 45 (2825), November 5, 1978, pp. 15-16.

15. Asiaweek, July 7, 1978, p. 20.

16. Peking Review, July 28, 1978, p. 17.

17. Far Eastern Economic Review, March 17, 1978, p. 10.

18. The Soviet Union is currently providing more than $500 million in aid annually to Vietnam. Chung Kuo Shin Pao (Taipei), March 5, 1979.

19. Franklin B. Weinstein, "The Meaning of National Security in Southeast Asia," The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, November 1978, pp. 20-28.

20. Japan Times, February 5, 1979.

21. International Herald Times, March 5, 1979.

22. Discussions the author had with one intelligence official indicate that Thailand has allowed the Chinese to send supplies to the insurgents overland.

23. Ta Kung Pao, February 23, 1979.

24. Christian Science Monitor, September 20, 1979. The Bangkok Post reported that between August and September 1979 China recruited more than 1000 Lao refugees to go to China for guerrilla training.

25. Vice-Premier Teng Hsiao-Ping stated in a secret speech that a principal reason that the PRC invaded Vietnam was to assist the Khmer Rouge. After Phnom Penh fell in January 1979, two additional Vietnamese divisions were transferred to Cambodia to destroy Pol Pot's army, most of whom fled or were bypassed by the Vietnamese invaders and their allies. See "Teng Hsiao-Ping Talks about the Sino-Vietnamese War," The Seventies, No. III, April 1979, p. 25. The Seventies is a pro-Communist monthly published in Hong Kong.

26. Peking Review, January 19, 1979, p. 13.

27. Japan Times, May 15, 1979.


Thomas J. Bellows (B.A., Augustana College; M.A., University of Florida; M.A., Ph.D., Yale University) is Professor of Political Science, University of Arkansas. He spent the spring semester in the Republic of China, Japan, and South Korea conducting research on the security situation in Pacific Asia. Dr. Bellows is author of The People’s Action Party of Singapore, co-author of People and Politics, and has published in Asian Survey.


The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.




Bora Touch Esq.


                MEMORANDUM of ADVICE

The Issue of the Cambodia-Vietnam Border

14 February 2004. 

Border between Cambodia-Vietnam

 [1]        To continue bilateral negotiations to draw up border lines  and to determine the common frontiers between the two countries so that there will be a common border recognized by the international community and especially the two countries.

 [2]        To achieve this, Cambodia will rely on laws and documented maps left over by the protectorate when we gained the independence in 1953, especially all decisions by the Indochina Governors and maps of the Service Geographique de l’Indochine  with the scale of 1/100,000, which His Majesty the King asked in 1960’s the international community to recognize and held with the United Nations for a guarantee that the size of Cambodia is 181,035 square kilometers.”

 This above counterproposal appears in paragraph 25 of the final draft of the document entitled “Platforms of the Royal Government of Cambodia for the Third Legislature of the National Assembly.

Set out below are my comments:

1.                  The Counterproposal does not mention the significant illegal 1979-1985 treaties/agreements that it signed and ratified with Vietnam during the latter’s military occupation of Cambodia.  

2.                  It is important to redirect the CPP’s attention to the fact that the treaties/agreements mentioned in paragraph 1 above are incompatible with the Agreement Concerning the Sovereignty, Independence, Territorial Integrity, and Inviolability, Neutrality and National Unity of Cambodia (1991) (“Paris Accords 1991”). Although, these treaties and agreements are not entitled (or referred to as) “military alliance” or “cooperation”, the substance of these treaties is such that they effectively amount to a military alliance and cooperation with Vietnam.  This is particularly so in the case of the Treaty on Peace, Friendship and Cooperation 1979.  As such, these treaties are in direct contradiction to Cambodia’s obligation of neutrality as specified in the Paris Peace Accords 1991.  

3.                  Article 1(d) of the Paris Accords stipulates, among other things, that Cambodia solemnly undertakes (accepts): “to terminate treaties and agreements that are incompatible with its…neutrality…” 

4.                  Besides the fact that the 1979-1989 treaties and agreements were made under the use or threat of the use of force, in violation of international law, provisions of these treaties/agreements are specifically incompatible with Article 1(d) of the Paris Accords because the clear  purpose and the spirit of these treaties and agreements were to create and/or to strengthen military solidarity (yuddha samakki),  military alliance and “special friendship” between Cambodia and Vietnam.  This is in clear breach of Cambodia’s neutrality and sovereignty. 

5.                  An example of a direct threat/influence is seen in the Minute (No.38.k.n.h) of the First Meeting of the Cambodian Committee for Delimitation/determination of Cambodia-Vietnam Boundary dated 24 March 1984.  This meeting was held on 10 March 1984 and it was attended by 14 high ranking government officials, one of whom was the Vietnamese “Expert” Comrade Ton to the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The meeting was chaired by Comrade Deputy Foreign Minister Kong Kaom. Other attendees were Mzah Loh, Prok Saroeun, Long Phal, Kheang Yeoun, Chea Dara, Khem Sarin, Kea Karanara, Sim Sarim, Thuch Chunleng, Kuor Nintmuny, Sok An, Kann Mon, Penn Sean. The Vietnamese expert Ton did most of the talking. He gave the Khmers instructions and strategies on the border affairs with Vietnam. 

6.                  Thus Cambodia has breached its international obligation under the Paris Peace Accords 1991 in its failure to terminate these incompatible treaties and agreements.          

7.                  Naturally because of the nature of Vietnam’s military occupation and the “special relationship” between Vietnam and it puppet regime in Cambodia, none of the significant 1979-1985 treaties/agreements permit Cambodia to be a neutral state.  The terms of these agreements favor Vietnam rather than promote the neutral, sovereign interests of Cambodia. The following treaties/agreements which contain terms including “military solidarity”, “special friendship” are incompatible with the Paris Accords 1991: 

(a)   Agreement on Waiver of Entry and Depart Visa (30/11/1979): 

 paragraph 3 of its Preamble. 

(b)   Treaty of Peace Friendship and Cooperation Between Vietnam and Cambodia (18/02/1979). 

paragraph 2 of its Preamble

Para    3 of its Preamble

Para    4 of its Preamble

Para    6 of its Preamble

Para     1 of  Article                1

Para     2 of Article                 1

Para     1 of Article                 2

Para     3 of Article                 5

Para     4 of Article                 5 

(c )       Agreement on Historical Waters Between Cambodia and Vietnam (20/08/1982) 

                        Para    1 of its Preamble 

(d)       Treaty of Principles for Border Resolutions Between Cambodia and Vietnam (20/08/1983). 

Para    1 of its preamble

Para    2 of its Preamble

Para    1 of Article 2 

(e)       Agreement on Border Statutes Between Cambodia and Vietnam (20/08/1983) 

                        Para 1 of Article 7 (?)

                        Para 1 of Article 16

                        Para 1 of Article 17 

(f)         Treaty on Border Demarcation Between Cambodia and Vietnam (27/12/1985).

                         Para 2 of  its Preamble.                         

8.                  The Treaty on Border Demarcation 1985 affected Cambodia’s territorial integrity because according to H.E Var Kim Hong’s testimony to the National Assembly on 13 June 2002, it resulted in the loss of a significant portion of land to Vietnam. In his statement to the session of the National Assembly H.E Var Kim Hong specifically stated that if compared to the colonial Service Geographique de l’Indochine (SGI) scale map 1:100,000 and the 1985 delimitation treaty, Cambodia has lost 9,000 hectares; and compared to U.S Defense Mapping Agency Topographic Centre (UTM) scale map 1:50,000 with the 1985 Treaty, Cambodia has lost about 7,900 hectares.

9.                  Another instance of damaging Cambodia’s interest as a result of the implementation of the 1985 Border Demarcation Treaty was the fact that Vietnam used the new Vietnamese-Cambodian map with a scale of 1:25,000, as opposed to using the SGI map with a scale of 1:100,000 and the UTM 1:50,000 during the actual surveying and demarcating (planting border markers) work of the Border Subcommittee of Svay Rieng Province, which was then headed by Comrade Sao Samuth) between 25 June 1986 to 13 August 1986. The Cambodian side complained and resisted against Vietnam using this scale because it resulted in the loss of Cambodian land. 

10.             However, Vietnam insisted on the use of the scale and, at the end of the day, it prevailed. The use of 1:25,000 map was not only disadvantageous to Cambodia, but also it was not a part of the 1985 Treaty: (for information on this issue, see also the Council of Ministers’ Minute [dated 13/8/1986] of the meeting on the Reporting of Comrade Sao Samuth, Chairman of the Border Subcommittee of Say Rieng Province to Comrade Mzah Loh, Vice Minister in charge of Cabinet of Councils of Ministers and Deputy Chairman of the Mixed Committee for Determination of Cambodia Border held on 29/07/1986, p 2 and 3). Also see Postscript below for further elaboration on the issue and Evan Gottesman, Cambodia After the Khmer Rouge, (2003), pp209-211.

11.             I would suggest that the Alliance of Democrats submit a further proposal to the CPP, in response to the Counterproposal, that there is no need “to continue bilateral negotiations to draw up border line, and to determine the common frontiers between the two countries...” because, in its unilateral declaration of 31 May 1967, the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam (“NLFSV”) and the Government of Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) agreed to respect and recognize the Cambodia-South Vietnam borders.

12.             This NLFSV Declaration was broadcast on Hanoi NVA International Service in English 1643 GMT 8 June 1967 and the Liberation Radio in Vietnamese to South Vietnam 0900 GMT 8 June 1967.

13.             The Declaration read in part ”Responding to the 9 May 1967 communiqué of the Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia, … the NLFSV Central Committee solemnly declares

1.             … 

2.      To recognize and undertake to respect the present border between South Vietnam and Cambodia”: See also Wilfred Burchett, (who was an NLFSV agent at the time), The China –Cambodia-Vietnam Triangle (1981) p142 

14.             In its letter dated 8 June 1967 to His Majesty, the Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam informed His Majesty that it “approved the Declaration of 31 May 1967 made by the Central Committee of “ NLFSV. In response to this declaration, on 8 June 1967 (10:00 GMT) Radio Phnom Penh broadcast the letter of His Majesty stating in part that the NFLSV “wishes to proclaim to the world that it is making this solemn act of recognition, and that it promises to agree to respect forever the territorial integrity of  Cambodia and its borders” 

15.             Cambodia under His Majesty in 1964 submitted to many states, including North Vietnam and its National Liberation Front, maps which showed clearly the boundary line between South Vietnam and Cambodia, with apparently the so-called Brevie Line as the international maritime boundary. It was based on this map that in 1960s Cambodia sought international recognition of Cambodia’s borders.  In my view, if the borders were not clear, Vietnam would not have “recognized” them. 

16.             In relation to border disputes, such unilateral declaration has the legal effect of a treaty and Vietnam is legally bound to observe its declaration, that is, to accept the borders that it recognized by its declaration: (see Judgment on border disputes between Norway vs Demark in P.C.I.J. Reports Series A/B/No. 52 (1933; see also D.J. Harris, Cases and Materials on International Law, 5th Edition (1998), pp772-774). 

17.             If there is anything remaining to be negotiated, the focus should be on requiring Vietnam to accept (again) what it had already recognized, in 1967, as Cambodia’s borders. In other words, delimitation of the border should not be an issue. The boundaries should be demarcated and the border markers must be planted in accordance with that 1967 agreement. In addition, the 1979-1985 treaties and agreements must first be declared null and void ab initio because they are in violation of/incompatibility with the Paris Accords 1991. 

18.             As to paragraph [2] of the Counterproposal (see above), the term Kret or Decree is not used here. “Sakdei samrach or Decision” and “Kret or Decree” are different. The French Indochina Governor’s Decree of 31 July 1914 is most relevant in term of border line of Dak Dang/Dak Huyt area or the so-called current “dispute area 4”. (This area used to be known as the “Cambodia-Annam-Cochinchina Trijunction” or “the Three Frontiers.”) 

19.             Most if not all of the pre-1954 maps or “documented maps”, show the boundary lines in this area as different from the French Decree 1914. The 1960s boundary line of His Majesty, however, followed the 1914 Decree.  

20.             Under Article 3 of the 1914 Decree, Cambodia was to retain this plot of land, which is about 21 square miles. The size of this plot of land (about 21 square miles) is a rough estimate by the U.S Central Intelligence Agency in its Intelligence Memorandum, Cambodia’s Boundary Problems, Secret CIA/BGI GM 68-2 27 February 1968, p 8. 

21.             Under the 1985 Border Demarcation Treaty, the People’s Republic of Kampuchea gave this plot of land to Vietnam, despite the fact that in 1967 Vietnam accepted His Majesty’s boundary line. This land included, at the time, a few Khmer villages. 

22.             The Historic Waters Agreement 1982 affects Cambodia’s territorial integrity as follows.  

23.             It effectively superseded the Vietnam’s 1967 Declarations, which also recognized the Brevie Line as the maritime boundary. As reasoned scholars point out that: 

“[the 1967 Declarations/agreements] have in any case been superseded by the 1982 Historic Waters Agreement which specifically provides for delimitation in the future, thus making it clear that no maritime boundary existed at the time of the conclusion of the agreement”: V. Prescott & C. Schofield, “Undelimited Maritime Boundaries of the Asian Rim in the Pacific Ocean,” Maritime Briefing, Vol. (2001) 3(1), p 18.  

24.             As legally foreseeable, 11 years after the Historic Water Agreement was entered into, Vietnam struck. In its memorandum dated 10 July 1991 to the then State of Cambodia (SOC), it reminded SOC of the Agreement’s Article 3, which basically stated that there had never been a boundary and Brevie Line was not a boundary. As such, SOC cannot behave like there has been a boundary when in 1991 SOC invited foreign oil and gas companies to search for oil and gas in Cambodia’s waters and the waters covered by the Historic Waters Agreement. And according to the Minute (dated 30 August 1991) of the Meeting of the Permanent Committee of the Council of Ministers, Vietnam unilaterally imposed the Equidistance Line as the boundary, the boundary that would cause Cambodia to lose at least another 850 square miles to Vietnam. Not to mention the fact that Cambodia had already lost Koh Tral/Phu Quoc island (and Kampuchea Krom/South Vietnam for that matter) because of the French Brevie Line 1939. 

25.             In other words, the Historic Waters Agreement renders Cambodia defenseless as it renders the Brevie Line useless. From here, Vietnam would be able to demand the use of the equidistance principle in delimiting the boundary. If the demand is successful, which is quite possible, Cambodia would lose at least 850 square miles. 

26.             Yet, according to the Minute above, the Meeting’s attendees (Comrades Chea Soth, Bou Thong, Say Chhum, Kong Sam-ol, Hor Namhong, Admiral Nuon Sok, Tep Hen, Bun Uy, Ith Prang, Sov Chhivkun, Kang Keng, Hor Peng Huor, Huor Sithy), did not seem to understand the negative legal implications the Historic Waters Agreement has on Cambodia and its stance to have the Brevie Line as the boundary. 

27.             The Counterproposal is, accordingly, rather misleading in its wording and, for the reasons set out above, damaging to Cambodia’s interest. 

28.             I refer to Prince Norodom Ranariddh’s letter to His Majesty dated 9 December 2003 published in the Royal Palace’s the Bulletin Mensuel De Documentation, 1-12 December 2003. The letter stated, among other things, that: 

FUNCINPEC asks that the Royal Government file a protest to Kingdom of Thailand and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam telling them to dissolve their Agreement on Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary of 11 [correction 9] August 1997 which violates Cambodia’s continental shelf and territorial integrity”. 

29.             If this is one of the Alliance of Democrats’ conditions or proposals in the current negotiations, in my view, this condition or proposal may not be necessary for the following reasons. 

30.             Cambodia already has already filed a diplomatic and official protest against this 1997 Maritime Agreement. This diplomatic protest was communicated by the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Cambodia to the United Nation in a “note verbale”  of 13 March 1998, was published in the UN Bulletin of Law of the Sea 1998, p 95. The Note Verbale states: 

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation present its compliments to the Royal Embassy of Thailand and the Embassy of the Social Republic of Vietnam in Phnom Penh and, with reference to the Agreement between the Government of the Kingdom of Thailand and the Government of the Social Republic of Vietnam on the Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary between the two countries in the Gulf of Thailand, has the honor to declare the position of the Royal Government Cambodia as follows

(1).      The said Agreement between Thailand and Vietnam, signed on 9 August 1997 in Bangkok, in article 1, under paragraph 3, which is based on the so-called “maritime boundary” between the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the Kingdom of Cambodia, and which Cambodia has never agreed to, constitutes a violation of Cambodia’s sovereignty and its rights over its exclusive economic zones as well as its continental shelf in this part of the Gulf of Thailand

(2)       All provisions of the said Agreement are without prejudice with respect to Cambodia, and are, under international law, neither binding upon Cambodia nor affect her rights and legitimate interests in the area in question

(3)       The boundary delimitation of the continental shelf and the exclusive economic zone in this part of the Gulf of Thailand shall be determined on the basis of agreement in accordance with both the general principles of international law and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982, which calls for all States concerned to achieve an equitable solution

(4)       In this connection, Cambodia totally reserves its position in relation to any delimitation of the maritime boundary in this part of the Gulf Thailand, which has been made or may be made without the agreement of Royal Government of Cambodia

(5)       In a spirit of goodwill, cooperation and respect of each State’s sovereignty, the Royal Government of Cambodia wishes to reiterate its readiness and determination to work in a positive, productive and friendly way with its neighbors in order to reach a provisional arrangement of a practical nature and a final agreement on this matter as soon as possible.” 

31.             Under international law, this statement is sufficient to protect Cambodia’s rights and interests because an international agreement delimiting a border to which Cambodia is not a party will not bind  Cambodia and will not create any obligations for Cambodia unless Cambodia consents. 

23.       It is a settled rule of international law that unilateral or multilateral agreements between parties cannot impose obligations on the State(s) which are not party to them. 

24.       In the Island of Palmas Case, in Reports of International Arbitral Awards (1928 Vol. II, p 831), the Judge ruled that: 

It appears further to be evident that treaties concluded by Spain with third powers recognizing her sovereignty over the Philippines could not be binding upon the Netherlands” 

25.       This rule of international law was further endorsed by the Permanent Court of International Justice in the case, Free Zones of Upper Sovoy in the District of Gex, PCIJ (1932: Series A.B No 46, p 141; and (1929) Series A, No 22, p 22).  In that case, it was held that the Treaty of Versailles was not binding on Switzerland, a non-party to the Treaty, unless and to the extent that Switzerland gave its consent.      

26.       HRH Prince Norodom Ranaridh’s intention is not clear, but the condition or proposal set out in paragraph 21 does not have to be put to the CPP in light of the rule of law that a non-party to a treaty may not be bound by that treaty.  In this respect, as a non-party to the 1997 maritime agreement, Cambodia does not need to take further action to protect its interests and rights.  

27.       In light of the importance of these matters, it is my respectful opinion that the Alliance of Democrats seek independent legal advice from a practicing international law lawyer.  I suggest that reference be made to my memorandum (and my subsequent addendum) to the H.E. Var Kim Hong dated 10 February 2003 relating to international law provisions regarding the illegality of the 1979-1985 agreements. 

Should I be of any further assistance to you in relation to the border issues, please do not hesitate to mention it.

Yours Sincerely.

 Bora Touch Esq



On an important note, I would like to point out a press release by the Cabinet of Ministers dated 22 December 2000:

From the statement, the Royal Government seems very proud of outcome of the border negotiations with Vietnam. The press release in English states, among other things, that:

 “Six and Seventh spots: Vietnam agreed to revise the border mark at the proposal of Cambodia. That means Koki Island belongs to Vietnam while the land along the Ben Yi River with 200 metres wide and 2, 500 metres long belongs to Cambodia”  

For those who have good knowledge of the “disputed” area, the statement tells us a few things as follows. 

Under the 1985 Vietnamese-Cambodia Border Delimitation Treaty, the Ben Yi’s  plot which is located close to its junction with the Bassak River was given to Vietnam. A reason, or perhaps, the reason it was given to Vietnam was because Cambodia might have been shown the wrong (old Vietnamese, French and American) map during negotiating for the 1985 Treaty.  

It is true that the old French SGI 1:100,000 map sheets put the boundary line parallel to and west of the Ben Yi river on the Cambodian side. The early 1966-1967 US-made 1:50,000 scale map sheets (L-7011) incorrectly followed the French map: (For map-making Cambodia & the types of maps Cambodia had pre-1970 coup, see Col. Ngin Karet, Khmer Geographic Service, (1966) in the 4th UN Regional Cartographic Conf. for Asia and the Far East, Manila, 1964, Vol.2 UN.NY(E/CONF.36/L.67); Activities in Khmer Geographical Service (Cambodia), in the 5th UN Regional Cartographic Conf. for Asia and the Far East, 1967, Vol. 2 UN.NY (E/CONF.52/L.123); Col. Edward Anderson, “Mapping in Southeast Asia”, The Military Engineers, Jul-Aug, 1971, p 232)  

However the boundary line shown on these maps was wrong, according to Article 2 of (French) Decree of 26 July 1946 and the chart attached to this Decree, which put the boundary in the river.   

In 1960s, His Majesty Norodom Sihanouk protested and sought correction of these maps. According to the CIA, the US government accepted the correction and so did South Vietnam: (see Intelligence Memorandum. Cambodia’s Boundary Problems. CIA/BGI GM 66-2, 27 February 1968, p.10. From then on “U.S. official maps have been changed to reflect the 1942 Decree”: (see Department of State, INR Research Memorandum RES -19, Cambodia-Vietnam Boundary, 13 September 1966, p.8) Thus there was no longer a dispute. 

Additionally, the Koh Koki island, which is about 5000 meters in length and about 500 meters in width, was still an issue. However, Cambodian (corrected) map put the island inside Cambodia and in 1967 North Vietnam and NFLSV recognized it. However, under the 1985 Treaty, Koh Koki was ceded to Vietnam as well. Now Vietnam has it again. 

In sum and without discussing other parts of the border, the result of the new negotiations from 1995 to 2000, Cambodia did not gain any land. Instead, it lost Koh Koki to Vietnam. The fact that the Cabinet’s Meeting Minute has been publicized (even in English) could have been a well thought plan of a legal pre-empt of any attempt to change what has been agreed even if it was wrong. This may have been the reason His Majesty Norodom Sihanouk was irritated when he was told by a high government official that Cambodia gained some land from Vietnam. His Majesty had a good reason to be irritated.  


Học-giả Cambodge Sarin Chhak phác họa lại bản đồ ranh giới Cambodge và Việt Nam, theo đó tỉnh Darlac (Đắc Lắc), toàn khu hữu ngạn sông Bé đến Thủ Dầu Một, toàn bộ tỉnh Tây Ninh và Long An (khu Mỏ Vẹt) và vùng đất phía Tây thị xã Hà Tiên (xã Sa Kỳ) thuộc Cambodge.