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Seeking to ease border tensions

Cambodian Interior Minister Sar Kheng and his Thai counterpart Yongyuth Wichaidit signed an agreement on Friday to promote trade and stability along the tense border separating the two countries where more than a dozen Cambodians have been shot and killed in 2012 while trying to cross in search of work or as part of the illicit logging trade.

The signing ceremony took place a day after about 20 senior government leaders from different sides of the border met for the fourth time, and only a few weeks after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen called on military and border officials to launch a “campaign” to prevent Cambodians from crossing the border to illegally log.

A shooting on April 21 raised the number of Cambodians killed by Thai troops since January of this year to 14, compared with just 13 such deaths in all of 2011, according to numbers from human rights group Adhoc.

“Our focus of cooperation is on border security, border crossing and trade for the better living of people on both sides along the border,” Kheng told reporters afterward. “I hope that the meeting will bring progress in bilateral relations.”

Both sides also expressed their firm commitment to the effective management of border crossings and agreed to promote cooperation for the prevention and suppression of all illegal activities along the border, including terrorism, drug trafficking, human trafficking, acts of piracy, smuggling of antiques and illegal weapons and money laundering,

Cambodia and Thailand also agreed to facilitate the exchange of goods and agricultural production between the countries through possibly establishing markets in pockets along both sides of the border.

The two ministers agreed the next meeting will be held in Thailand in 2013.

To contact the reporter on this story: Vong Sokheng at sokheng.vong@phnompenhpost.com

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