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A defining moment draws near



Var Kimhong: The border with Laos will be fully demarcated by the end of June.


ambodia expects to finish demarcating its border with Laos in June and its boundary with Vietnam on schedule by 2012, but there is no timeframe for concluding negotiations with Thailand, a senior government official said.

Var Kimhong, the chairman of the Government Border Committee, told reporters on May 17 the Cambodia-Laos border committee had inspected 86 percent of the markers along the 540-kilometer border and only a few issues remained to be finalized.

A 14-member Laotian delegation will be in Phnom Penh from June 3 to 5 for talks on the border, said a senior official at the Laotian embassy, Kengchai Sixanonh.

“The Cambodia-Laos joint border committee has been working very smoothly and I think the relationship will get better in the future,” Kengchai said.

Kimhong meanwhile said work on demarcating the border with Vietnam had been accelerated under an additional treaty signed with Hanoi in 2005.

He said the treaty increased from one to five the number of groups working on delineating the 1,270km border, which will have more than 350 granite markers.

However, Kimhong said differences with Bangkok over the 805km border with Thailand remained a problem, and he referred to a reported incursion by armed Thai paramilitary rangers on May 16 during which some houses were damaged at Choam Sa Ngam, in Anlong Veng district of Oddar Meanchey province.

Kimhong said he was “surprised” by the incursion because negotiations had been taking place with Bangkok on opening a border crossing at Choam Sa Ngam linking Oddar Meanchey with Thailand’s Si Sa Ket province.

The governor of Anlong Veng district, Yin Phanna, said on May 19 the situation had “cooled down” after talks earlier that day between Cambodian officials, including members of the provincial border commission, and Thai army officers.

“Negotiations were the only way to solve the issue,” Phanna said, adding that no Cambodian troops were deployed in the area where the incursion took place.

Despite occasional incidents along the border with Thailand, Kimhong said Cambodia regarded the bilateral relationship as one of “eternal friendship.”

“We are like brothers or friends who live near each other ... we don’t need to deploy any troops,” Kimhong said.

The Cambodia-Thailand Joint Border Commission began its demarcation work in 2006 – three years after the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding to resolve border issues – and has focused its efforts on finding the 73 markers installed by a French-Siamese commission.

“The search for border markers has no schedule or timeframe for completing the task; what is most important is that an agreement can be reached,” Kimhong said.

Asked about the main obstacles to demarcating the Cambodia-Thai border, Kimhong said the legacies of colonialism and years of conflict meant that it was not a “normal” border.



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