Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cambodia negotiates reopening of informal Vietnam border crossings

Cambodia negotiates reopening of informal Vietnam border crossings

Officials at a year-end police meeting at the National Police Commissariat today in Phnom Penh. National Police
Officials at a year-end police meeting at the National Police Commissariat today in Phnom Penh. National Police

Cambodia negotiates reopening of informal Vietnam border crossings

Ratankkiri provincial authorities are trying to resolve a border dispute with Vietnam, urging the Vietnamese to reopen four recently blocked border crossings, according to National Police spokesman Kirth Chantharith.

The conflict originated when Cambodia rejected Vietnam’s proposal to build four new, formal border checkpoints, only accepting one. In response, Vietnam blocked off four heavily travelled, informal crossings.

Speaking to reporters following a year-end meeting of police officials, Chantharith downplayed the severity of the dispute. “We are having a special negotiation. The Ratanakkiri provincial governor is solving the problem without any huge challenge,” he said.

But Governor Nguon Keoun and his deputy, Yem Sam Oeun, said the closures have been an inconvenience to Cambodian border units, and a resolution is not imminent.

“Vietnam asked to open four more checkpoints and we thought that three of them were not important because they access the forest . . . not the paved road,” said Sam Oeun.

“On 12 December, Vietnam dug and cut up the road, but later on, they filled it up and then they built the fence to separate it,” he added.

Sam Oeun said the one agreed-upon border checkpoint has not been opened either, because it requires approval at the “national level”.

He condemned Vietnam’s response, saying it is an inconvenience to the border troops who often crossed into Vietnam to buy goods.

Sam Oeun also said the move unfairly impacts ethnic minority communities that cross the border daily to visit relatives.

“Our province and Kon Tum province have ethnic people. In fact, they are siblings and relatives, and they cross back and forth as normal,” he explained.

He said both sides would meet to discuss the issue, but a date has not yet been set.

San Chey, country director of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, said Vietnam may want more efficient paths for smuggling illegal timber.

“Vietnam controls many economic [land] concessions in the northeast and most of the economic concessions were accused of involvement with smuggling timber,” he said

Regional analyst Paul Chambers, with Naresuan University in Thailand, said the move was a signal that Vietnam was willing to flex its strength.

“It could signal a more aggressive stance by Vietnam amidst its perception of too strong a tilt by Cambodia toward China,” he said.

Additional reporting by Andrew Nachemson

Updated: 7:04am, Tuesday 9 January 2017

MOST VIEWED

  • Stock photo agencies cash in on Khmer Rouge tragedy
    Stock-photo companies selling images from S-21 raises ethics concerns

    A woman with short-cropped hair stares directly into the camera, her head cocked slightly to the side. On her lap is a sleeping infant just barely in the frame. The woman was the wife of a Khmer Rouge officer who fell out of favour, and

  • Defence Ministry denies weapons in smuggling case came from Cambodia

    After a Thai national was arrested last week for allegedly smuggling guns from Cambodia to Thailand, Cambodia's Defence Ministry has claimed the weapons seized during the arrest are not used in Cambodia, despite the fact that both types of rifle seized are commonly found in

  • Prime Minister: Take back islands from inactive developers

    The government will “take back” land on roughly 30 islands from private companies that have not made progress on planned developments, Prime Minister Hun Sen said in a speech on Monday that also targeted land-grabbing villagers and idle provincial governors. Speaking at the inauguration of the

  • Land on capital’s riverfront is opened up for investment

    The government has signed off on a proposal to designate more than 9 hectares of land along Phnom Penh’s riverfront as state-private land, opening it up for private investment or long-term leasing. The 9.25-hectare stretch of riverfront from the capital’s Night Market to the