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PMs ‘committed’ to settling border row

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Prime Minister Hun Sen walks through a guard of honour accompanied by his Lao counterpart Thongloun Sisoulith on his arrival in Vientiane on Wednesday. hun sen’s facebook page

PMs ‘committed’ to settling border row

Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Lao counterpart Thongloun Sisoulith have called on the French government to supply maps and other related documents to settle a border dispute, as they expressed their commitment to ending the spat.

The two leaders were speaking at a press conference in the Lao capital, Vientiane, where Hun Sen is leading a high-level government delegation on a two-day official visit on Wednesday and Thursday to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

Aside from the request to Paris, the two sides have agreed to three principles to help ease tensions in the O’Tangav area on the border in Stung Treng province, Hun Sen said.

Hun Sen said: “Regarding the border issue, it is as Prime Minister Thongloun has said. The O’Tangav area is considered as an unresolved area linked to three conditions.

“First, no armed forces will be present. Second, no one can do any business or trading activities, and third, all patrols must be done together. The two prime ministers have agreed to entrust our foreign ministers to carry out the drafting procedure to send the [request for maps] to the French.”

The prime minister said submitted a letter to French President Emmanuel Macron requesting maps to the scale of 1/50,000, rather than 1/100,000.

Both Cambodia and Laos were part of French Indochine until gaining independence in 1954. French maps have been used to help settle a border dispute with Vietnam.

Other documents were requested from France to help resolve the border issue involving the remaining undemarcated 16 per cent of the 540km Cambodia-Laos border.

“We call on the French president and the French government to send the documents to aid the resolution of relations between the two countries regarding the border issue. Prime Minister Thongloun and I have agreed that we should end the border issue as soon as possible,” Hun Sen said.

The Cambodia and Lao governments also signed an educational agreement on the mutual provision of scholarships from 2019-2024.

A further memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed on the purchase of electricity from Lao for Stung Treng’s electricity station, while another on cultural and arts cooperation for 2019-2021was inked allowing Cambodia to borrow Lao elephants for performances at Phnom Penh Safari.

“The people who live along the border should be granted happiness. There has been a signing ceremony [regarding] the purchase of Lao electricity to supply to Cambodia, and it could be an important part of the cooperation in the electricity trade sector from Laos to supply to Cambodia."

“As well as electricity, we have also agreed to link a bridge across the [Sekong river, which forms part of the border between the two countries] to connect Preah Vihear and Champasak provinces, which will give both peoples the opportunity to connect with each other,” Hun Sen said.

The Cambodia -Laos border issue has been raging since August last year, when Laos sent troops into the disputed area in Stung Treng province, demanding a halt to a road being constructed by Cambodian military engineers, leading to a tense standoff.

According to border officials, Cambodia and Laos share a 540km border and need to install 145 demarcation posts. So far both sides have installed 121 posts, with 24 in Preah Vihear and Stung Treng provinces still outstanding.

Meanwhile, Sry Thamrong, a minister attached to the prime minister, said Cambodia and Vietnam are to sign six documents, focusing on land, water and air transport cooperation, education, border posts and the facilitation of trade, when the prime minister’s delegation lands in Vietnam for an official visit from Friday to Saturday.

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