Cambodia’s acting leader of the opposition has said that if the party is voted into power in 2018 he would institute a transmigration policy that would offer incentives to Cambodians who move to live near the border with Vietnam.
He made the comments at a meeting of Cambodia National Rescue Party youth activists on Sunday at the party’s headquarters.
Immigration and border security would be priorities for a CNRP administration, he added, because of what he described as “invasions” of Cambodian territory by illegal immigrants and foreign interests.
“For example, the people who live along the border nowadays, even if we cry and scream or beg them not to lease their land to Vietnamese or Thai people, it is still ineffective,” he said.
He said that the CNRP’s plans would not go as far as erecting a border wall as U.S. president-elect Donald Trump campaigned for, because it would be too expensive.
But, he said, “We have to develop the border so that many of our citizens will live along the border, and the border has to be well-developed.”
“Firstly, there has to be a ‘border belt’. Secondly, we have to prepare markets, monasteries, jobs, factories or agriculture for them,” he added.
The border issue is a sensitive subject for the government, which must balance its historically close ties to Hanoi against rising nationalist sentiment at home over fears territory is being ceded through land grabs and long-term leases.
Two CNRP officials, Sam Rainsy Party Senator Hong Sok Hour and Um Sam An, a lawmaker, have been convicted on charges related to their campaigns against alleged Vietnamese encroachment.
Sok Eysan, ruling Cambodian People’s Party spokesman, said “the political strategy of the CPP is to strive to demarcate the border,” as well as develop the border regions.
Over the past five years Cambodia has issued a series of diplomatic protests directed at Vietnam over construction along the border.
Koy Pisey, an official on the Cambodian Border Committee, said talks with Hanoi were ongoing.
Heng Srean, a political researcher, said he thought the plans were too optimistic given the sorry state of resources and development across the country.
However, he added that such a policy if successful could help to stem the annual outflow of young migrant workers to neighboring countries.