A government delegation yesterday told Tbong Khmum provincial and local officials it would resolve a border dispute with Vietnam in Memot district “very soon”, as villagers blocked from their farms in the contested area by Vietnamese authorities say they fear looming food shortages.
The comments were made during a visit to the province by members of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cambodia’s Border Committee to discuss the ongoing demarcation process.
Addressing some 100 police, officials and journalists at Tbong Khmum Provincial Hall, Foreign Ministry Secretary of State Long Visalo, also on the Cambodia-Vietnam Joint Border Committee, called on people to “calm down and trust” the government as it worked to delineate the shared border.
Attacking the Cambodia National Rescue Party for politicising the sensitive border issue, Visalo said the Kingdom had secured 100 hectares in Memot – between border posts 94 and 95. During an opening presentation, Border Committee member Lay Sieng Ly said the land had been secured through an "exchange," though he offered no particulars of the deal in question.
“[The CNRP] are attacking us very cruelly,” Visalo said.
“We have been clear about the map.… Our people have maintained 100 hectares of land because the government put the interests of the nation as the priority, and the benefit of the people.”
The CNRP has recently ratcheted up pressure on the border by highlighting several alleged encroachments, including the plight of about 70 families in Memot district’s Choam commune.
The villagers have been blocked from accessing their farms in a contested 16-hectare patch of territory by the Vietnamese authorities, who have also allegedly sprayed their crops with herbicide in an effort to push them out.
Speaking yesterday, Sieng Ly, head of the technical demarcation team in Tbong Khmum, said the contested area was “complicated” but would be demarcated “very soon”.
He said about seven markers were set to be planted in the area.
However, villagers from the area yesterday expressed doubts of a positive solution.
Deputy commune chief Ou Oeun said 70 families relied on the disputed land for farming.
Although the situation was “calm” he said villagers were worried about running out of food.
“Villagers cannot collect their crops; the Vietnamese soldiers keep watching,” he said.
“A few days ago, a Vietnamese patrol pulled up a durian plantation.”
Ea Yean, 47, a farmer whose rice crop was sprayed by the Vietnamese, said she had little faith the situation would turn out well.
“There is still a lot of tension. About five Vietnamese with guns and electric batons, they patrol every day, and they claim the land belongs to them.
I still cannot do anything, I still cannot have access to my farm, I still wait for the resolution from the government, but I have no confidence that it will be solved in our favour,” she said.