Laos and Cambodian soldiers remain “face to face” with each other in a disputed border region in Stung Treng province, a provincial military commander said yesterday, an assessment that appeared at odds with a recent statement by the Laos prime minister downplaying the standoff relayed by Prime Minister Hun Sen.
The area, in northern Siem Pang district, has been a source of friction between the two countries since February, when Lao troops crossed into Cambodia to halt military engineers building a border road they maintained was in undemarcated territory.
Work resumed on the road in March, though tensions in the area remained high, border policemen told The Post during a visit to the site in April. One patrolman recounted two incidents of standoffs between armed units.
Reached yesterday, Stung Treng Provincial Military Commander Svay Nhan said military engineers had ceased work about 10 days ago because of the arrival of rainy season, but forces from both sides remained in close proximity.
“Our border forces are still there . . . and there are Lao forces face-to-face [with our troops] about 30 metres away. Therefore we can say they are in confrontation with each other,” he said, estimating the number of Lao soldiers to be between 70 and 100.
Despite the friction on the border, including complaints by both sides prompted by new construction in undemarcated areas, national-level authorities have remained relatively silent on the matter.
According to a Facebook post by Hun Sen last week, his Lao counterpart Thongloun Sisoulith raised the issue of border conflict during a meeting between the pair on May 10, but only to dismiss it as a “rumour”.
“In the past there were rumours that there was conflict between Cambodia and Laos at the border. These are just rumours,” said Sisoulith, according to the post, which boasted of the countries’ good relations.