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Kheng to talk with Viets over alleged land grab

Kheng to talk with Viets over alleged land grab

CO-INTERIOR Minister Sar Kheng will visit Vietnam to soothe growing border tensions,

following an invitation that was not extended to his Funcinpec counterpart, You Hockry.

Hockry confirmed this week that the Vietnamese "look like they have invited

[only] Sar Kheng," and that he would probably not accompany Kheng.

"One of us should be enough," he said, adding that he had not discussed

the matter with Kheng.

Hockry has been supportive of First Prime Minister and Funcinpec leader Prince Norodom

Ranariddh's complaints of land-grabbing by the Vietnamese, while Kheng's Cambodian

People's Party has been notably quiet on the matter.

The invitation for Kheng to visit Vietnam to discuss border disputes with Cambodia

was made during a Feb 1 meeting with Vietnamese ambassador in Phnom Penh, Tran Huy

Chuong.

It followed a fresh allegation by Ranariddh of Vietnamese provocation on the border

with Cambodia.

Ranariddh, speaking Jan 26, said that 15 Cambodian policemen had been ambushed on

Cambodian soil in Svay Rieng province by Vietnamese troops the day before. He gave

no other details.

Ranariddh stressed that Cambodia was commited to resolving the problem peacefully,

though some 200 Ministry of Interior police were reportedly sent to the area to monitor

the border.

Vietnam bluntly dismissed Ranariddh's comments, issuing a Jan 30 statement saying

that: "recently there was not any tension along the border between Vietnam and

Cambodia and the information that Vietnam had detained Cambodian police in Svay Rieng

province was completely unfounded."

Hockry, however, insisted the incident had occurred.

"The Vietnamese deny this, but it is fact. We don't lie..." he said, adding

that the incident had happened near Doung village of Svay Rieng.

Vietnam is known to have recently advanced its border checkpoint some 880m across

a contested 1000m de facto "no-man's land" near Doung, in one incident

Ranariddh has said constitutes an invasion of Cambodian soil.

Hockry said the Jan 25 confrontation occurred on that disputed land. No shots were

fired during the incident, he said.

There were four places in Svay Rieng where Vietnamese encroachments were alleged,

he said. Doung was the main "hot spot."

Kheng and Ambassador Tran were not available for comment, but Ministry officials

said Kheng would likely visit Vietnam in March.

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