Archive for March 8th, 2010

Why Do They Not Simply Compare the Maps Publicly? A Question to Both Sides – Sunday, 7.3.2010

Posted on 8 March 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 654 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 654

Apologies for the delay – there was no Internet connection available the day before. – Norbert Klein

After France had established its colonial presence in a region which was then known as “Indochina” – Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam – the governments of France and of Siam – since 1932 called Thailand – started to exchange opinions about how to clearly defining a borderline between the territories under French and under Thai control, where no borderline had been defined before. For a certain region, without much population and remote from all political centers, they agreed that the border should follow the watershed. But as the French military had more modern equipment for land measuring and mapping, it was agreed that the French would do the surveying and then report to the government of Siam. The French side produced their draft maps and reports in 1904 and 1907, but in one region – in the area of the Preah Vihear temple ruins – their borderline did not follow the watershed line, which ultimately lead to the present conflicts. Looking back at the technical and logistical facilities of that time, it is not so surprising that different interpretations emerged which could not easily be clarified on the spot.

But nowadays, it is surprising that there are doubts where a certain spot on the ground is, represented on a map. There may be, of course, disagreement to which country that spot belongs, but not where it is in terms of its geographical coordinates.

It is really surprising to observe that a conflict exist nowadays at the border between Cambodia and Vietnam, and that it leads to continuing escalation. This comment is not debating the legality or illegality of removing a border post. Only the conflictive interpretations of the location of this border post are raised here.

Many high end mobile telephones sold in Cambodia have a GPS facility – a Global Positioning System – which, in a couple of seconds, can display the geographical coordinates – the longitude and latitude data – where the user of this phone stands. But recent reports made conflicting claims related to the removed border post: whether it was on the borderline between Cambodia and Vietnam, or whether it was inside of Cambodian territory, and which maps are correct or not.

The Mirror had carried reports about these conflicting claims:

  • [Sam Rainsy Party] Parliamentarians Asked the Government to Explain the Position for the Setting of Four Temporary Border Markers [at the Cambodian-Vietnamese border – Mr. Sam Rainsy had published data, based on satellite based GPS verification, showing that the border markers are set inside of Cambodian territory — but the geographical coordinates were not in the press]
  • A Government Official Announced to Sue Mr. Sam Rainsy; [the head of the Cambodian Border Committee] Mr. Var Kimhong: Maps Accusing the Government [over the setting of border markers with Vietnam, used by Mr. Sam Rainsy] Are Fake
  • Samdech Dekchor Hun Sun Called Mr. Sam Rainsy a Traitor [for creating trouble at the Eastern border with Vietnam, while Cambodia is having border issues at the Western border with Thailand]
  • Sam Rainsy Responded to Hun Sen, Saying the Cambodian Leader Himself Fakes Maps and Does Not Even Know Where the Country’s Border Is
  • Observers said that both Mr. Sam Rainsy and Prime Minister Hun Sen had shown an intention to review maps
  • [The opposition party president] Sam Rainsy: My Map and the Government’s Map Must Be Compared to See Which One Is Recognized Internationally

Yes: both maps have to be compared, and the geographical coordinates of the original location of the removed border posts has to be taken by any GPS capable mobile phone and entered into the different maps.

Though we tried to observe the Khmer press carefully, we have not seen any newspaper which published both maps side by side, with the location of the border posts entered. If there had been such a publication, we missed it and would appreciate to be notified.

To collect the different data should be easy, and it would immediately clarify the situation and the conflicting positions objectively. It is extremely surprising that such comparison of data has not been made public, but instead accusations and counter accusations were made, even involving the courts.

One can only hope that both maps and the geographical coordinates, which any owner of a GPS capable phone can take by visiting the site, will be published and the the courts – and the public – can quickly see the related data.

Please recommend The Mirror also to your colleagues and friends.

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