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Police block activists at disputed Ratanakkiri border site

Authorities block a group of student activists from visiting a disputed border area in Ratanakkiri province yesterday. Photo supplied
Authorities block a group of student activists from visiting a disputed border area in Ratanakkiri province yesterday. Photo supplied

Police block activists at disputed Ratanakkiri border site

Police barred a group of student activists from inspecting a disputed border site in Ratanakkiri yesterday, citing political concerns ahead of today’s Cambodia-Vietnam Border Committee meeting.

Delegations from both nations are scheduled to meet at the Council of Ministers in Phnom Penh to discuss the draft of a letter to the French government requesting copies of border maps, according to Senior Minister for Border Affairs Var Kimhong.

Last September, French President Francois Hollande arranged for 1/100,000-scale maps of Cambodia to be loaned to the Kingdom from the National Geographic Institute in Paris. The letter under discussion today will request 1/50,000-scale maps also be provided, Kimhong said.

CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrath said his party has given a lot of attention to the demarcation of the border with Vietnam and that he welcomed the request for technical assistance from France.

Deputy chief of the Cambodian Border Affairs Committee Koy Pisey said a draft of the letter was sent to the Vietnamese prime minister months ago and that it was recently returned ahead of today’s meeting.

“When both countries agree with one another, both prime ministers will sign before sending it,” Pisey said. “We will also discuss other border issues.”

Senior Minister Kimhong said among the other issues on the agenda would be nine agricultural ponds dug by Vietnamese villagers last summer and a concrete police hut discovered earlier this month on a disputed piece of borderland in Ratanakkiri province.

It was this disputed area that 35 students and officials from the Youth Resource Development Program (YRDP) NGO had attempted to visit yesterday in order to study livelihoods of local residents, according to YRDP program officer Chhit Mony.

However, Mony said, at 11:30am, the group encountered more than 20 police near a border outpost in O’Yadav district’s Lom village who asked them to proceed no further, citing fears their presence would trigger a clash with Vietnamese residents ahead of today’s meeting.

Lom border police chief Mi Koy could not be reached for comment yesterday, but Ratanakkiri Provincial Hall spokesman Nhem Sam Oeun confirmed the authorities were wary of provoking a clash ahead of the meeting.

“We helped to maintain the students’ security as well as preventing a confrontation. We don’t want to have a clash because there are many things to discuss,” he said.

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