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Cambodia, Laos to seek French help on border

Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks to the press following a meeting on Friday with his Laotian counterpart, Thongloun Sisoulith, on border demarcation at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh.
Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks to the press following a meeting on Friday with his Laotian counterpart, Thongloun Sisoulith, on border demarcation at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh. Facebook

Cambodia, Laos to seek French help on border

Cambodia’s foreign affairs minister and his Laotian counterpart will hold a two-day meeting in Phnom Penh this week to draft a letter to France requesting detailed maps to resolve a border dispute that flared up last month.

Prime Minister Hun Sen and Laotian Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith announced their decision to write to France last Friday following a two-hour meeting at Phnom Penh’s Peace Palace.

The two premiers said they would ask French President Emmanuel Macron for more detailed maps, historical documents and other experts to help resolve the dispute.

Both countries were colonised by France before gaining independence in the 1950s, leaving many border areas unmarked. “We need to inspect which land belonged to Cambodia and which belonged to Laos,” Hun Sen said at the press conference. “We need to make it clear and we will demarcate it one by one.”

Var Kimhong, the minister in charge of border affairs, said yesterday that Cambodia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Prak Sokhonn and Laos’s Foreign Affairs Minister Saleumxay Kommasith will meet on Tuesday and Wednesday to draft the letter.

Kimhong declined to provide further details.

Tensions over the border between Cambodia and Laos have been simmering for more than a year. The dispute flared last month after about 30 Laotian soldiers crossed the Sekong River and stationed themselves a few kilometres from the Trapaing Kriel International Checkpoint in Stung Treng province.

The force withdrew after Hun Sen ordered more troops to the area and flew to Vientiane to meet with Sisoulith.

At Friday’s press conference, Sisoulith said the solution would be based “on friendship and equality”, and that neither country “will get an advantage over the other”.

“We will solve the remaining 13 percent or 14 percent of the border issue successfully and leave it as a legacy for our future generations,” he said.

Last year, Cambodia and Vietnam also announced plans to ask the French government for help preparing maps to resolve tensions over their long-disputed shared border. It is unclear how near the two sides are to completing the demarcation.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Chum Sounry and French Embassy spokeswoman Mathilde Teruya did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.

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