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Locals reach deal with Thais over border

Locals reach deal with Thais over border

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local.jpg

LAST month Thai soldiers marched up to a border check point in Ta Tum close to Anlong

Veng, demanding that the Cambodians move their border two kilometers back. The demand

was only the latest in a series of border incidents on the Dangrek Mountain that

began in February this year.

Government soldiers in Anlong Veng contemplate the Thai language anti-malaria poster presented to them by Thai soldiers in a spirit of friendship following recent border disputes

However, from the years of civil war, the former Khmer Rouge commanders in Anlong

Veng have a long-standing relationship with their Thai counterparts, so the dispute

was eventually solved peacefully.

On July 7 local Thai and Cambodian officials met outside the old Ta Mok school in

Anlong Veng to plant a number of trees as a symbol of mutual friendship. And now,

Thai and Cambodian border guards jointly patrol the border - although only on the

Cambodian side.

Earlier this year Cambodian border patrols began encountering Thai soldiers when

they went on inspection rounds along the border that runs on top of the Dangrek escarpment.

Usually they were outnumbered by the Thais and withdrew from the area when ordered

to do so.

A border guard recently told the Post that on one occasion the Thais came all the

way up to a border checkpoint and moved the Cambodian flagpole a small distance back

into Cambodia.

Military officials in Anlong Veng and Siem Reap also acknowledged that there had

been problems along the Thai border. Former KR commander Yim Pim is now commander

of Division 23, one of four divisions stationed in Anlong Veng district. Division

23 constantly has about 150 men posted at three border outposts on the Dangrek ranges.

"There were some problems beginning in February and March, caused by the Thai

side. But it was not that serious. There was no fighting. It was only a war of words,"

says Pim.

Pim gives another example of recent border problems with the Thais. Thai troops painted

a number of trees - Pim says on Cambodian territory - in an attempt to mark a border

line.

"We told them that we still don't know exactly where the border is, so we should

not paint the trees yet. In the end, the Thais agreed," Pim says.

In June, then, the demand came through to move the border two kilometers back.

"I think they just wanted to test us," says Nhem Sokheng who is district

commander for all four divisions in Anlong Veng.

Sokheng informed his superiors at Military Region 4 headquarters in Siem Reap. The

dispute was passed on to the joint Thai-Cambodian border commission.

Meanwhile, former KR commanders contacted their counterparts and old allies from

the civil war on the Thai side of the border.

"We tried to resolve the matter by meeting each other. Of course it helped that

we had a good relationship from before Anlong Veng was integrated. Now both sides

have agreed to wait until the border commission make a decision," says Yim Phanna,

former KR commander in Anlong Veng and now regional commander in Siem Reap.

According to Phanna, Thailand and Cambodia has agreed to send a joint delegation

to Anlong Veng in October to investigate the border area.

Up on the Dangrek escarpment itself, border patrols content that the problem has

been solved. At the border outpost in Choam, ten kilometers from Ta Tum, one patrol

commander, who preferred to remain anonymous, says the situation is now completely

normal.

On the wall behind the table where he and his soldiers play cards in the wet, chilly

air, hangs a big sign of the rekindled Thai-Cambodian friendship across the border:

A large plastic banner warning against the dangers of malaria and what to do if you

get sick - all written in Thai.

"It's a gift from the Thais," explains the commander. "Now we cooperate

with them".

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