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Cambodia, Laos discuss relations

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Cambodian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn meets his Lao counterpart Saleumxay Kommasith in Vientiane last week. Photo supplied

Cambodia, Laos discuss relations

Developing relations between Cambodia and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) and matters of common interest were discussed during a meeting between the two countries’ foreign ministers in Vientiane last week.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn led a delegation to Vientiane, where he and his Lao counterpart, Saleumxay Kommasith, co-chaired the 13th meeting of the Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) between Cambodia and the Lao PDR on Thursday and Friday.

They also held a meeting to “discuss various aspects of bilateral cooperation with the aim to expand the scope and depth of bilateral cooperation in all potential areas”.

Efforts to prevent transnational crimes by both countries’ armed forces were among matters discussed in the meeting.

In a statement obtained by The Post on Saturday, the two ministers agreed that the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) and the Lao People’s Army should continue exchanging experiences and visits at all levels in order to combat human trafficking, illegal trading and migration.

In the meeting, both sides agreed to speed up the finalisation of Vientiane’s Terms of Reference (ToR) in order to proceed with the delivery of a joint letter requesting the French government to supply maps and other related documents to settle a border dispute between the two countries.

The statement also said that both countries had agreed to enhance cooperation in education, information, agriculture, tourism, culture, health, post and telecommunication, as well as judicial and consular services.

The meeting, it continued, underlined the preliminary arrangement of cross-border bus links from Laos’ second most populous city Pakse to Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.

“Both sides also agreed to strengthen civil aviation cooperation in the area of safety, security, air route development and training exchange, and to see the possibility to increase more direct flights between the two countries,” the statement read.

Furthermore, delegations of the two countries expressed a commitment to continue cooperation in sub-regional and regional mechanisms toward sustainable and comprehensive economic integration and connectivity.

Kin Phea, the director-general of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, said relations between Cambodia and the Lao PDR can be compared to that of close siblings or good neighbours.

This, he said, is because “the two have similar traditions, religion and living standards, despite there being a minor misunderstanding at the border”.

He said: “I strongly support the commitments that both countries take to address border disputes. Cambodia and the Lao PDR authorities must focus on improving law enforcement and good cooperation to combat issues prevalent on our frontier,” he said.

Early in December last year, Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Lao counterpart Thongloun Sisoulith agreed that their foreign affairs ministers submit a letter to French President Emmanuel Macron requesting maps to the scale of 1/50,000, rather than 1/100,000.

Both Cambodia and Laos were part of French Indochina until gaining independence in 1953. French maps have been used to help settle a border dispute with Vietnam.

Territorial disputes with Laos became a hot issue after Lao troops allegedly trespassed into the O’Alay and O’Tangav areas in Stung Treng province’s Siem Pang district, causing a standoff between the two countries.

In September last year, both Hun Sen and Thongloun agreed to designate the O’Tangav area as a no man’s land and increase joint patrols of Cambodian and Lao troops there, following an August 2017 standoff.

The two countries share a 540km land border, but large tracts have not been officially demarcated, leading to squabbles.

As of now, only 121 border posts out of the required 145 have been set in place. The remaining undemarcated sites are located in Preah Vihear and Stung Treng provinces.

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