Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Border row amid state visit by Laos

Border row amid state visit by Laos

Laos President Bounnhang Vorachith (centre) arrives at a G-20 Summit last September. Afp
Laos President Bounnhang Vorachith (centre) arrives at a G-20 Summit last September. AFP

Border row amid state visit by Laos

Lao President Bounnhang Vorachith is expected to arrive in Phnom Penh today for a state visit to the Kingdom. Meanwhile 600 kilometres away, Cambodian and Lao troops remain in a stand-off after a territorial dispute over a Cambodian-built road near the countries’ border.

Billed as a meeting to “enhance friendship”, the two-day trip by Vorachith was announced by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs last week, and will include a meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Ministry spokesman Chum Sounry and government official Eang Sophalleth, who is close to the premier, said they weren’t yet aware of the leaders’ agenda for the talks at the Peace Palace.

However, with some 400 Lao soldiers deployed on their country’s side of the Sekong River, according to a recent National Police report, and Cambodian troops also massing in the area, analysts yesterday said the leaders would likely discuss the current stand-off to defuse local tensions on the frontier.

“I don’t see a danger of this escalating once it’s been discussed at a high level,” said Carl Thayer, an emeritus professor at Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra. “Laos isn’t going to be pressing and vice-versa with Cambodia.”

The dispute began on February 8, when Cambodian officials say Lao soldiers crossed into Siem Pang district to demand military engineers cease work on a road they claim strayed into border territory not yet demarcated.

Calling such disputes “normal”, Minister for Border Affairs Var Kimhong yesterday said the planned 257-kilometre road between Stung Treng town and Siem Pang was inside Cambodia, but work had been postponed as the area was not yet demarcated.

“When they build, we stop them; when we build, they stop us, but we discuss with each other, reach an understanding,” he said, adding more than 80 percent of the countries’ border had been defined.

Indeed, the incident echoes a dispute last April when Cambodia objected to Laos building a military base on the border in Thala Barivat district.

Paul Chambers, professor of international relations at Thailand’s Chiang Mai University, said the “frontier frictions” could have an adverse impact on bilateral relations if uncertainty over the border was not cleared up.

“This recent incident could be simply tit-for-tat, as Laos may be demonstrating its border prowess in response to Cambodia’s earlier objection,” he said.

Reached yesterday, Defence Ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat said he was confident of a diplomatic solution.

“We have ordered our armed forces there to solve the problem peacefully,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Call for boycott of Angkor unacceptable

    Dear Editor, I wish to express my strong disagreement on the article published by Traveller for their website with the title Best places to go in 2020: 12 destinations you should avoid. Below is my opinion of the article. It is obviously free for the Traveller to

  • Ministry issues warning over coronavirus outbreak

    The Ministry of Health on Wednesday asked the public to be on “high alert” as a new virus wreaks havoc across Asia. However, no cases have been reported in the Kingdom thus far. The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has raised the alarm for its similarity to

  • Probe underway after wreckage of drone with Chinese characters found

    Air Force Command spokesman Prak Sokha said on Sunday that investigations are underway regarding the wreckage of a drone that was recovered in Koh Kong province’s Koh Sdech commune in Kiri Sakor district. The wreckage has been taken to the capital for further examination,

  • Gov’t slams UN rapporteurs over Sokha trial statement

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Cambodia to the UN Office in Geneva deplored the statement of three UN special rapporteurs who claimed that Kem Sokha’s trial was “tainted” due to irregularities. The reaction

  • No power shortages next dry season, says energy minister

    Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem has assured the public that Cambodia will not suffer power shortages during the next dry season. Speaking on local TV on Tuesday, Sem projected a rise in power demand during 2020’s dry season – which starts in November and

  • Gov’t takes steps to lower logistics, transport costs

    With the threat of losing trade privileges in the EU drawing closer, the government is taking measures to reduce logistics and transportation costs to safeguard the Kingdom’s competitiveness. The EU is due to decide whether or not to withdraw the Kingdom’s trade privileges