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French assistance sticking point at Vietnam border meeting

Officials from Cambodia and Vietnam meet in Phnom Penh yesterday to discuss issues pertaining to the nations’ shared border.
Officials from Cambodia and Vietnam meet in Phnom Penh yesterday to discuss issues pertaining to the nations’ shared border. Heng Chivoan

French assistance sticking point at Vietnam border meeting

A six-hour, closed-door meeting of the Cambodia-Vietnam Border Committee ended inconclusively last night, with the two countries unable to agree on how much assistance they should request from the French government in settling ongoing border demarcation issues.

The head of Cambodia’s committee, senior minister Var Kimhong, said yesterday that his Vietnamese counterparts submitted a seven-point list of areas they felt French assistance was warranted, only two of which the Cambodian delegation have agreed to thus far.

“Frankly, we don’t agree. The two points are a lot already,” Kimhong said, adding that the remaining five could be solved without outside intervention.

He declined to elaborate on the content of the list before a final agreement has been reached. However, he did say that the focus of the meeting was on the drafting of a letter requesting 1/100,000 and 1/50,000-scale maps of the border from France.

Long Visalo, Foreign Affairs Ministry secretary of state who also attended the meeting, said that specific border issues in Ratanakkiri – including the digging of nine agricultural wells and the construction of a concrete police post in a disputed border area – were also discussed.

“I protested that if they dare to continue building, I will make them dismantle it,” Visalo said, adding that the Vietnamese contingent promised to convey his complaints to their superiors and get back to the Cambodian delegation at a later date.

Le Hoai Trung, Vietnam’s deputy minister of foreign affairs and chief of the country’s border committee, did not respond to reporters’ questions as he left the meeting.

The signing of a memorandum on the day’s events was postponed to this morning due to disagreements between the parties, according to Koy Pisey, deputy chief of the Cambodian Border Affairs Committee.

But one thing both sides could agree on was the necessity of allocating significant funds toward the installation of 1,000 border demarcation posts, according to Kimhong.

“It costs millions of dollars and will have to make use of the national budget,” Kimhong said, explaining that planting the posts on dry land will cost $3,000 to $5,000, while maritime posts will cost up to $100,000 apiece, with the cost being split between the two countries.

Meanwhile, attempts by Cambodian Youth Party representatives to deliver a letter of protest to the Vietnamese Embassy were ignored, according to party president Pich Sros, who said the group will protest to “shut down Vietnamese markets” if they don’t get a reply.

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