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Border Expert Sean Pengse Dies Aged 82

Cambodia scholar Sean Pengse, left, is pictured with VOA Khmer reporter Men Kimseng, right, at his home, Paris, France, September 2016. (Pin Sisovann/VOA Khmer)

Sean Pengse frequently criticized Cambodia's policy on border demarcation with Vietnam, saying the government did not comply with the Paris Peace Agreement

A respected scholar and former minister who became an expert on Cambodia’s border affairs has died. He was 82.

Sean Pengse founded the Cambodian Border Committee (CBC) in 1999 to monitor the demarcation of Cambodia’s borders and led the organization until his death on Tuesday.

Dy Kareth, CBC vice-president, said his death was a “huge loss to all members” of the organization.

Pengse was the minister of industry, mines, and handicrafts under the U.S.-backed Khmer Republic and head of a delegation that negotiated on border issues with Vietnam until 1974. He moved to France before the Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975.

“He was the most important mapping expert,” said Kareth. “He prepared land and sea maps mostly by himself with some participation from some specialists from France. There was involvement from senior government officials, but he was the one leading the process.”

Pengse frequently criticized the government’s policy on border demarcation with Vietnam, saying Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government did not comply with the Paris Peace Agreement that ended the way, which required all agreements with Vietnam made during its occupation of the country after 1979 to be voided.

“He told us to continue our work and not to recognize those treaties,” said Kareth. “As long as I live, I will continue his work. I won’t give up and all of our friends are as committed as I am.”

Pengse was born on January 1, 1936, in Speu commune, Chamkar Leu district, Kampong Cham province. He had two brothers and two sisters. He married his wife, Van Dareth, in 1966 and had four children -- one daughter and three sons.

He completed an engineering degree at the École des Mines d'Alès in France in 1965 and wrote numerous essays on industrial development and border issues.

His body will be cremated on January 29 at Wat Porthivong in a suburb of Paris.