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

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Very true.
A note: GPS, however, is not the most accurate means of determining a location. Depending on the GPS device used accuracy can be within 3 m or 100 m. Cell phones use a very basic software, so accuracy may not be too great. Aerial photography from satellites in combination with the graticule (latitude/longitude) is mostly used for cartographic purposes. Nevertheless, the dispute seems utterly amateurish.

Agreed – depending on the device used, there are wide error margins – but even to start SHOWING what the two sides use may be a first stept towards clarification. I continue to be disappointed that it is arguments and counter-arguments, but I cannot find what the content is of what both sides use. My frustration is really towards both sides.

I would appreciate to get any guidance to find the maps used – the maps of both sides, precise or not precise enough, but maps with geographical coordinates on them, and marks where the border posts were or are.

Thanks for communicating.

Interesting conversations. I would contact Mr. Sean Pengse for the current map of Cambodia. As for the lower Mekong Delta, ask the Khmer Krom Federation, and they will be glad to provide you with a map of their homeland. Hey, which map are you guys referring to?

Are there links to maps with the border as proposed by each side?

That is my point: I would be most happy if anybody would lead me to such maps.


Are there any laws which regulate where a citizen may go or may not go? If there are none, it depends to see what happens if somebody wants to go. And then report to the public. – But those who contest each other – why do they not publish their maps? A question to BOTH sides.

Try this website

Vietnam War era U. S. military maps. I believe these maps base the border delineation on the French maps, which to my knowledge apply to the border treaties, except for the Thai-Cambodian conflict.

This is the relevant portion of the US military JOG (Air) 1:250,000 map from the site referenced http://www.nexus.net/~911gfx/vietnam/maps/nd48-06/nd48_06d.html but it doesn’t provide much clarity. There are more detailed, 1:50K maps of this area.

Keep in mind that the temple, unlike most Angkor temples, is axial (long) and not rectangular, running North to South.

I am happy to see a lively exchange, including references to different existing maps. What is still missing is information about the geographical coordinates of the border posts under discussion (maybe different with both parties), and the maps (used by both parties) with their border lines and again geographical coordinates. I still fail to understand why – both sides! – do not publish their data, if they are confident they have firm evidence.

I believe this Khmerization blog published both maps used at one time.

New set of data submitted by Mr. Sam Rainsy on 24 March 2010



I- My previous work on the border issue (October 2009 – February 2010)

My first purpose was to show that the so-called temporary border post # 185 made up of six wooden poles which I uprooted on October 25, 2009 in Koh Kban Kandal village, in Samraong commune, Chantrea district, Svay Rieng province, was located in fact within Cambodia’s territory, at a significant distance from the real and legal border between Cambodia and Vietnam, because the poles were planted in the middle of a Cambodian farmer’s rice field.

But in the process of doing the limited work as stated above, a team of several Cambodian and French experts assisting me has examined the border situation for the entire Samraong commune involving four different locations of newly erected “border” markers (# 184, 185, 186 and 187). We found that the locations were all inside Cambodia. Then we realized that the type of border encroachment we discovered in Samraong commune could have as well taken place in other communes, other districts and other provinces given the same political and administrative context that has prevailed in Cambodia since 1979.

In January and February this year, we presented evidence of border encroachment in two reports available at http://tinyurl.com/yeaoxyf and at http://tinyurl.com/ykbq57f.

In the first set of documents, we showed that the newly-planted so-called temporary border posts # 184, 185, 186 and 187 in Samraong commune were all inside Cambodia whether we based our observations and analyses on the official 1952 French SGI 1/100,000 map deposited at the UN in 1964, the 1966 US Army 1/50,000 map or more recent Google Earth satellite imagery. We estimated that the four so-called temporary border posts had been wrongfully planted inside Cambodia at a distance between 300 meters and 500 meters from the legal international border as delineated on both the French map and the US map.

In the second set of documents, we identified three real and legal border points in the vicinity of Samraong commune but in a zone now controlled by Vietnam. The geographical coordinates of those border points are specified in the 1985 Border Treaty between Cambodia and Vietnam (available at the Council of Ministers’ website



As a matter of fact, we could confirm that those official border points are effectively located on — or extremely near — the border line as delineated on existing maps. However, we noticed that, on the two recognized maps as well as on satellite imagery, those three official border points are located much to the East of the newly-planted “temporary border posts” # 184 through 187, meaning that the latter clearly encroach on Cambodia’s territory, in stark violation of the 1985 Border Treaty.

Therefore, the so-called temporary border post I pulled out last year (# 185) and those nearby (# 184, 186 and 187) were not real border posts: They had been illegally planted well inside Cambodian territory, on Khmer farmers’ rice fields.

The result of our previous work as described above is now confirmed by the new report attached herewith, which is more elaborated, more exhaustive and most authoritative.

II- The new report (March 23, 2010)

To read the full report please click at http://tinyurl.com/y8s2ntw

This 14-page report in French titled “Géoréférencement des Cartes Trang Bang et Duc Hue” or Georeferencing of Trang Bang and Duc Hue Maps, was written by Mr Régis Caloz, a physicist and map expert specialized in Geographic Information System (GIS), who was a professor at the renowned Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, in Switzerland. I was introduced to Mr Caloz by the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).

Here are the main points of the report:

1. All the maps and official documents that we have used so far are real, genuine and authentic (pages 2 to 4).

2. The analytical methods and tools we used previously were, on the whole, accurate. But more sophisticated, more refined and more precise methods and tools are used in the new report (pages 4 to 10).

A theoretical mistake we made previously related to a datum conversion has been fixed but with no change whatsoever in the final result (page 10): “The GPS locations under WGS 84, directly converted into UTM 48 without change in the ellipsoid and introduced onto the (digitalized) Duc Hue map in UTM 48 under Everest (India) 60, coincide with the points obtained by following the procedure used for the first assumption which logically includes a datum conversion.”

[“Les points GPS sous WGS 84, convertis directement en UTM 48 sans modification de l’ellipsoïde et introduits sur la carte Duc Hue en UTM 48 sous Everest (Indes) 60, se superposent aux points obtenus en suivant la procédure de la première hypothèse comportant logiquement la conversion de datum.”]

3. All the results we found previously are confirmed by the new report, which only brings more certainty and more precision to our previous conclusions, in particular (pages 10 to 14):

a) The so-called temporary border posts # 184, 185, 186 and 187 are located at a distance of respectively 368 m, 319 m, 493 m and 483 m from the real and legal border, with a margin of error of plus or minus 100 m. In the worst case, those fake and illegal border posts are located at 268 m, 219 m, 393 m and 383 m from the real and legal border, meaning well inside Cambodia’s territory (page 12).

b) Even the controversial 1985 Border Treaty is being violated, with Vietnam continuously moving the de facto (imposed) border into Cambodia’s territory. The continuous encroachment has followed a two-step process (pages 13 and 14):

– First, the administrative frontier was displaced from the original legal border line — where we can spot the three border points 1985-143, 1985-144 (very near to Canal 1 on Google satellite imagery, page 14) and 1985-145 — to a more recent canal (Canal 2 on Google satellite imagery) dug in 1979 in Cambodia’s territory, between 100 m and 300 m to the west of the original legal border line. Canal 2 currently represents the de facto border line.

– Second, there is presently an attempt to move again the border line from the 1979 canal (Canal 2) to the new “temporary border posts” 184, 185, 186 and 187 planted between 100 m and 300 m further to the West in 2008-2009, infringing on rice fields belonging to Cambodian farmers I have been trying to defend.

c) The current government in Phnom Penh has shown its negligence and/or incompetence when it comes to dealing with the defense of Cambodia’s territorial integrity as enshrined in the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements and in the Kingdom’s Constitution.

Sam Rainsy
Member of Parliament

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