National Assembly President Heng Samrin has helped fund a second round of homes for villagers near his hometown on the eastern border in Tbong Khmum, which has previously been the source of controversy surrounding land swaps with Vietnam.
Samrin has backed the construction of 77 houses, and accompanying infrastructure, in Ponhea Krek district’s Thlok Trach village, photos of which were uploaded on the Cambodian People’s Party stalwart’s Facebook page yesterday.
In a message posted with the pictures, Samrin, who has previously erected houses in nearby Anlung Chrey, his native village, between 2011 and 2013, described his vision for the remote border settlement.
“This is a section of construction near the little-known borderline, which is to become a public gathering place where there are people, an irrigation system, a hospital, a school and an infrastructure system,” Samrin posted, adding he hoped development would see the Kingdom’s northeast draw tourists.
Tbong Khmum Provincial Governor Ly Leng yesterday said Samrin had built almost 200 houses for residents in the area in total, saying their Khmer style showcased the country’s national identity.
“This construction is to help farmers living along the border,” Leng said, adding that recipients felt “encouraged” by the support.
Leng said the latest batch would be handed over to residents in February while a new gravel road near the border would soon be sealed.
In 2012, the villages of Anlung Chrey and Thlok Trach were thrust to the centre of the long-running controversy over the integrity of the Kingdom’s eastern boundary, after an official announced that in order to keep them within Cambodia as part of the ongoing demarcation process, authorities would have to swap two still-unnamed villages with Vietnam.
Critical of that move, the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party was yesterday more supportive of Samrin’s efforts to develop the region.
“Any activity to help citizens, we support,” CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said, adding the party would join efforts to “defend territory” and stop foreign countries from “invading”.
Meanwhile, Sous Yara, spokesman and lawmaker for Preah Vihear, said that such building projects by party members in no way blurred the line between government services and private partisan initiatives.
“In Prey Vihear, if I like some village, I just contribute to some village and I . . . raise funds and public donations; it’s normal,” he said.