A border patrol company confiscated demining equipment from a group of unidentified men working in a prohibited border zone on Sunday on suspicions that the men were actually attempting to illegally claim land.
Yem Sambo, military commander of the border patrol unit, said he saw smoke coming from the forest while on patrol in Banteay Meanchey’s O’Chrou district.
Cambodian and Thai authorities have disagreed over who the land belongs to in the past, leading to a temporary moratorium on its use until the dispute is settled.
“At first, I thought that it was a forest fire, but when my team and I arrived, we found a group of people searching for landmines in the area,” Sambo said.
When Sambo’s unit confronted the group, a man identified as Meas Peun declared himself the deputy chief of Cambodia-Thai border relations.
He showed Sambo a document purportedly signed by a three-star general permitting him to clear landmines in the area.
“I told them that generally the government announces to us when demining at the controversial border area,” Sambo said, explaining that he subsequently confiscated the equipment and took photos, but did not make any arrests.
Sambo said many people come to the area to clear the land and claim it as their own, a plot he believes the unidentified men were engaged in.
Khoun Choeun, border unit 503 commander, could not be reached for comment.