About 100 plainclothes men, some wielding sticks, tried to block a group of opposition activists and youth supporters in Svay Rieng province yesterday from reaching a disputed section of the Cambodia-Vietnam border.
Clashes broke out at about 10am between the group of Cambodia National Rescue Party activists, led by Svay Rieng lawmaker-elect Real Camerin, and the crowd armed with sticks, who were identified as supporters of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.
“We are not allowing [them] to go: We are living in happiness,” one of the men blocking the CNRP said, offering no further explanation.
The alleged CPP supporters also attempted to block the CNRP’s route with large pieces of wood.
But after a few minutes, the violence subsided, with no serious injuries, and the CNRP activists moved the ad hoc barricade and made their way to the border in Romduol district.
Camerin said he wanted to investigate allegations that Cambodian farmers had been blocked by Vietnamese soldiers from using the land that they had farmed for years.
“I would like to condemn [Prime Minister] Hun Sen’s government for using force to block [CNRP supporters] from visiting the border post,” Camerin said.
“People have lost their land: This is the real evidence. I would like Hun Sen to consider this,” he added.
While he was inspecting the border earlier this month, Camerin was told by a Vietnamese soldier that the area was off-limits.
“At the [undemarcated] ‘white area’, the yuon can use and do anything,” Camerin said in a video of the encounter, using a word for Vietnamese often considered offensive. “As a lawmaker-elect, I must know where Khmer land is, and I must have rights to stand on Khmer land.”
In the video, a soldier tells Camerin that it is unclear which country owns the land.
“Wait for both governments to resolve this,” the soldier says.
A number of the farmers at the centre of the dispute joined Camerin at the border.
One of them, Nhean Lorn, said he represented 12 families in Romduol district’s Thna Thnong commune who claim to have lost more than 30 hectares of land to Vietnam.
“The Vietnamese authorities prohibit me from farming on my own land,” he said.
“I lost 3 hectares of land. They told us that they will leave this area as a white area, but they planted posts on our land,” he added.
Another farmer, Rath Nean, said that his livelihood had been destroyed by the land dispute. “My family has lost about 100 palm trees on 2 hectares of land. We used to make palm juice,” he said.
Svay Rieng Provincial Governor Cheang Am and Romduol District governor So Vichean could not be reached for comment yesterday.
But Romduol district police chief Meas Chork dismissed claims that the CNRP activists were blocked from reaching the border.
“There was no one blocking [the CNRP].… In fact, police followed to defend them in case something happened,” he said.
Earlier this month, senior border affairs official Va Kimhong told the Post that the border committee would visit the area and clearly mark it this month.