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Border guards in standoff

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Thai and Cambodian border guards in a heated standoff regarding 6ha of cassava planted by Cambodian farmers. National police

Border guards in standoff

Cambodian and Thai border authorities faced off in a heated confrontation on Saturday afternoon, when the Thai side allegedly attempted to use a tractor to remove over 6ha of cassava planted by Cambodian farmers near the border.

The dispute, at the border between Banteay Meanchey province’s Svay Chek district and Sa Kaeo province’s Khok Sung district in Thailand, settled down after compromises were made by both sides, the National Police General Commissariat said on its website on Sunday.

It said 29 Thai police officials from Border Unit 126 tried to use a tractor to remove the cassava that had been planted by two Cambodian families.

The Thai police said Cambodian farmers are growing cassava in areas that have not been clearly determined, but 15 Cambodian police officials from Border Units 911 and 503 prevented the Thai authorities from clearing the farmland.

The National Police said the confrontation quietened down after negotiations, with the farmers agreeing to remove the cassava within one week.

The conflict first occurred after the Thai authorities asked the farmers to move the cassava plantation about 150m, so it was at least 550m from a dirt road built by the Thai army. The farmers only agreed to move 50m.

The confrontation occurred between border posts 42 and 43 in Lboeuk Svay village in Svay Chek commune and, on the Thai side, in Khok Sung commune’s Nong Ya Kaeo village.

One border policeman, who asked not to be identified, told The Post that two Cambodian families from Prey Chan village in O’Chrov district’s O’Beichoan commune had planted cassava over the borderline.

“Thai authorities have twice asked Cambodian authorities to order the Cambodian farmers to remove their cassava plantation that is planted in a ‘white area’. This is to prevent any forest clearing in the area that does not comply with the memorandum of understanding between the border committee of the two countries,” he said.

The farmers said cassava had been planted in the area for a long time and only this month had Thai border authorities asked them to move the plantation.

They said they had borrowed money from the bank to plant the cassava and could not afford to pay the bank back if they were forced to harvest early. They said the cassava plantation was on Cambodian territory.

Provincial governor Soun Bovor and deputy governor Ly Sary declined to comment, claiming not to have any details, while provincial police chief Ath Khem, could not be reached for comment.

Sum Chankea, the Banteay Meanchey provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, told The Post on Sunday that the situation had quietened after both sides negotiated. Thai police have raised the issue twice already, but this time, they brought in a tractor to remove the cassava.

“In truth, they planted it on the Cambodia territory, but it was strange that Cambodia has white areas, while Thai authorities said there were no white territories at the border which mean the land near the road belongs to Thai territory.

“[Cambodian officials said that] about 150 meters from the road was white territory, so the area near the border was not yet clearly determined. If Cambodians grow cassava in the area, Thai authorities ask us to remove, If Thai farmers grow in the area, Cambodian authorities do nothing,” he said.

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