Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Laos-Cambodia border closed over tensions

Laos-Cambodia border closed over tensions

A moto drives across the Laos-Cambodia border in Stung Treng province. Lao authorities temporarily shut the border crossing due to recent tensions between the two countries.
A moto drives across the Laos-Cambodia border in Stung Treng province. Lao authorities temporarily shut the border crossing due to recent tensions between the two countries. Hong Menea

Laos-Cambodia border closed over tensions

In the latest flare up in tensions between the two countries, Lao authorities temporarily shut a border crossing with Cambodia and dispatched more troops to an undemarcated area on the northern border after Cambodian authorities began renovating an old French border outpost.

According to local officials, Laos shut the Voen Kham border crossing in Stung Treng province’s O’Svay commune on Sunday and briefly again yesterday until authorities from Thala Barivat district scrambled to find a resolution.

O’Svay commune police chief Ham Sovorn said Laos closed the checkpoint after border police tried to upgrade a colonial-era border outpost located in an un-demarcated “white zone” next to the Mekong River in the commune’s Deum Lvea area. Armed Lao troops then moved into the white zone and demanded Cambodian authorities halt the construction, which they did.

Sovorn said relations with their counterparts across the border had been tense since the beginning of March, as the Lao military continued construction of an outpost in a similar white zone bordering Samaki commune. Work on that Lao outpost provoked a diplomatic protest by provincial authorities last April but Sovorn said work had progressed nonetheless.

“We do not allow them to build their border post in Dong Kralor Chas [the area of the planned Lao outpost], but they still want to build it without informing us, and already made a well,” he said. “But when we built our post along the river, they stopped us and sent three trucks full of forces . . . They were all equipped with guns and they have prepared for any irregular situation . . . They are ready to attack us.”

Reached yesterday, Thala Barivat district police chief Sem Sitha said Laos had stationed more troops near O’Svay commune. He said the border had been opened and closed a few times since the stand-off began.

“But when leaders had talked with them, they have reopened it,” he added. Thala Barivat District Governor Thorng Srean said the border was now open and the situation was calm, but declined to give further details calling it a “national affair”.

A border policeman, who requested anonymity, said border police planned to renovate the colonial checkpoint as a response to Laos’s attempts to build a military outpost.

“The demarcation [in that area] has not been agreed on by both governments but the Laotians try to build [their base] . . . Therefore we want to renovate the old post in the Deum Lvea location, but they brought their forces in and shut the border,” he said.

The incident follows another flare-up in February in Stung Treng’s Siem Pang district, where some 400 Lao troops entered a white zone to stop Cambodian military engineers from building a road on what they maintained was the Kingdom’s territory.

Provincial authorities were unreachable yesterday. Defence Ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat, meanwhile, said he was “busy” before hanging up.

MOST VIEWED

  • PM responds to Rainsy ticket claims

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday expressed frustration over claims by Sam Rainsy that he had altered Rainsy’s ticket with Thai Airways to prevent him boarding his November 7 flight to Thailand, from where he had claimed he would enter Cambodia. Hun Sen made the

  • Phnom Penh International Airport wins award as passenger traffic soars

    The Phnom Penh International Airport has been awarded Best Asia Pacific Regional Airport 2019 for its sustained high growth in passenger traffic in recent years. The award was presented by the Capa Centre for Aviation (Capa) – a world-leading and trusted organisation that provides market intelligence to

  • PM urges ‘democracies’ to learn from horrors Cambodia faced

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday chided countries that he said declared themselves a democracy while supporting a military coup that eventually gave birth to the Khmer Rouge regime. Speaking during the 2nd Asia-Pacific Summit at the Peace Palace, Hun Sen said without naming those

  • Princess Buppha Devi passes away aged 77

    Princess Norodom Buppha Devi, who was famous for her skills and key roles behind the Kingdom’s Royal Ballet, passed away on Monday from unspecified illness at a hospital in the Thai capital Bangkok, according to the official Facebook page of King Norodom Sihamoni. “May

  • PM: Request for release of plotters not due to pressure

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday said his request to have the supporters of former opposition leader Sam Rainsy and his “coup plot” released on bail was not made under international pressure. Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of 34 roads in Preah Sihanouk

  • Ministry deplores RFA report on EBA

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation on Friday deplored as fake news a Radio Free Asia (RFA) report that it had received a copy of the European Commission’s assessment on the human rights situation in Cambodia as part of the Everything But