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Soldiers stationed on border will be given land, prime minister says

Soldiers stationed on border will be given land, prime minister says

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5-story-2.jpg

Govt announces new social land concession for troops in a bid to strengthen border security

HENG CHIVOAN

A Cambodian soldier in Preah Vihear. The government is to give military families land in a bid improve border security.

PRIME Minister Hun Sen has called for land concessions to be given to soldiers serving along the Cambodia-Thai border in a move that is hoped to populate the Kingdom's frontier and strengthen it against incursions, the Council of Ministers said.

"Hun Sen's plan is to develop roads throughout the northwest and to provide for soldiers and their families serving in the region," said Council of Ministers  spokesman Phay Siphan. "He was a solider, so he understands the needs of soldiers and their family members."

The new plan follows announcements last week that military engineers will build new roads near the Preah Vihear and Ta Moan Thom temple complexes in response to a six-week standoff with Thailand over disputed border territory near the two temples.

San Vanna, deputy governor of Oddar Meanchey province, said the government has instructed him to prepare land for soldiers and their families near bases where they are currently stationed.

"We received orders to prepare land for the military," San Vanna said Monday. "The land is ready and we're working out the details."

Touch Ra, a soldier in Military Region 4 and deputy chief of Chom International Checkpoint, welcomed the plan.

"The prime minister's policy will be good for our soldiers and will encourage them to defend the border and our nation against Thailand," Touch Ra said. "It's an important step toward improving border security and the safety of the whole Kingdom."

A new strategy

Ke Kim Yan, commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, visited soldiers last week at Preah Vihear and Ta Moan Thom temples, as well as  in Anlong Veng district to evaluate current plans for new roads along the border.

Opposition lawmaker Cheam Channy welcomed the land concession measure but warned that high-ranking officials could use the opportunity to seize the best real estate for themselves and leave rank-and-file troops with little.

"It's a good idea ... but commanders will take the best land for themselves, while our troops will be left with smaller plots," Cheam Channy said.

Chea Mon, commander of Military Region 4, said provincial authorities, and not the military, would administer the land concessions.

"I am in contact with provincial authorities regarding the concessions, but it is their responsibility to apportion land to military families," he said Monday. He added that he does not know how authorities will ultimately distribute the concessions.

A high-ranking official with the Ministry of the Interior, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to the press, said that he had received no instructions about the proposed concessions but that the government has plenty of land waiting to be distributed to landless people.

"We are working to provide land for landless people in Kratie and Kampong Cham provinces, as well as other provinces," the official said. "We want to make sure it's given to the right people, not just military families."

Other measures to better secure border areas are under consideration, according to government spokesman Khieu Kanharith, who responded to a story in the Bangkok Post on Monday about a possible "Berlin-style" wall along the border with Thailand.

In a press release, Khieu Kanharith said a wall had never been proposed but that concrete markers and barriers could be built to help stop smuggling and other cross-border criminal activity, but only in areas agreed to by both countries. 

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