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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Border meet held ahead of large protest

Border meet held ahead of large protest

Cambodian and Vietnamese officials yesterday met at the Council of Ministers to discuss rising border tensions, as villagers in Tbong Khmum province again reported Vietnamese authorities had destroyed crops in the disputed area.

Officials declined to reveal details of yesterday’s Joint Border Committee meeting, called to discuss recent tensions and ongoing border demarcation.

Concluding tomorrow, the talks, involving 25 officials from both sides, are led by Cambodia’s senior minister in charge of border affairs, Va Kim Hong, and his Vietnamese counterpart, Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister Ho Xuam Son.

The talks were prompted by alleged Vietnamese encroachment in Kandal and Ratanakkiri provinces and a violent clash between an opposition-led group and Vietnamese authorities in Svay Rieng on June 28.

The latest case of border tensions, meanwhile, was yesterday reported in Tbong Khmum province’s Memot district.

It is the same area where villagers say their crops were sprayed with poison by Vietnamese authorities in April, a complaint that has been forwarded to a global chemical weapons watchdog.

Speaking yesterday, Phy Sreyna, a farmer in Choam commune, said three Vietnamese soldiers armed with rifles and batons uprooted her crops on Saturday morning.

Sreyna said she complained and, after district officials inspected the site, local authorities encouraged her to re-plant.

Vietnamese officials, also at the inspection, put Sreyna in touch with their boss, who agreed her land was in Cambodia, but warned her that half of her pond was in Vietnam.

Ou Oeun, acting Choam commune chief, said the Vietnamese had recently started destroying crops, laying claim to the commune’s pond.

“People have planted on this land for generations. It is not Vietnam’s land,” Oeun said.

In this backdrop of rising tensions, opposition lawmakers Um Sam An and Real Camerin yesterday continued preparations to lead 1,000 people to another disputed zone in Svay Rieng’s Kampong Ro district.

Leaving on July 19, the group plans to visit border posts 202 and 203, where clashes between an opposition-led group and Vietnamese authorities left more than a dozen injured on June 28.

Camerin said ruling party lawmakers and Va Kim Hong would be invited on the expedition, and that there were “a lot of people” asking to go.

He rejected the assertion that they were causing trouble for political gain, saying Kim Hong should “know the reality” of Vietnamese encroachment.

Svay Rieng authorities, who were notified yesterday, lent their tentative support to the plan, saying they would defend the activists’ march if permitted by the Interior Ministry.

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