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

  • Construction begins on $1.5B Kampot seaport

    The International Multi-Purpose Logistics and Port Centre, principally invested by Kampot Logistics and Port Co Ltd and projected to cost $1.5 billion, has officially broken ground in Bokor town, Kampot province. The multi-purpose logistics and port centre, located in Prek Tnaot commune, will be built on

  • Cambodia eyes key role in electronics, auto hubs in SEA

    Two roadmaps, part of the LDC’s economic diversification plan, were designed to see it through its migration process, but experts say the journey might be arduous, particularly in the presence of two established hubs in the region By 2028, Cambodia hopes to have exited the

  • Hun Neng, lawmaker and PM’s brother, passes away aged 72

    Hun Neng, chairman of the 4th Commission of the National Assembly, has passed away from heart disease at the age of 72 on the afternoon of May 5, according to the Ministry of Information. Hun Neng is the older brother of Prime Minister Hun Sen, and was

  • Massive stingrays may live in Mekong’s deep pools

    US scientists have suggested that unexplored deep pools in the Mekong River in an area of Stung Treng could potentially be home to significant populations of giant freshwater stingrays, one of the world’s largest freshwater fish species. This comes as a fisherman hooked a 180

  • PM meets with US business giants

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has met with a number of major US companies who have expressed interest in investing in Cambodia, in a meeting convened by the US-ASEAN Business Council (US-ABC). A delegation of companies – including Amazon, Meta, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Ford, Visa and Pernod

  • CCC team off on US business trip

    The Kingdom’s leading economists and private sector representatives have called on the US to renew its tax preferential status for Cambodian exports, as a Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) delegation departed for a weeklong business visit to the US, where they will meet with