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Thai soldiers cut down residents’ cassava on disputed ‘white zone’

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Authorities inspected the residents’ cassava where allegedly cut down by Thai soldiers on the Cambodia-Thai border. Supplied

Thai soldiers cut down residents’ cassava on disputed ‘white zone’

Officers from Military Region 5 and Border Unit 503 in Banteay Meanchey province will meet with their Thai counterparts on Tuesday to resolve the matter of some 30 Thai soldiers who allegedly cut down residents’ cassava on the Cambodia-Thai border.

It remained unclear on Monday afternoon whether the Cambodian cassava farmers had been growing their crops on the Thai or Cambodian side of the border, or if the land was in a disputed “white zone”.

Border Unit 708 commander Long Samnang told The Post on Sunday that last Thursday, some 30 armed Thai soldiers entered the area with machetes and cut down nearly 3ha of cassava belonging to Cambodian residents along the border in Thma Puok district’s Kouk Romiet commune.

“The area is a white zone and the Thai authorities told us not to grow cassava there, but Cambodian residents have been doing so anyway.

“On July 6, the regional military personnel are set to meet for talks and we’ll coordinate with the Thai side to solve the problem,” he said.

Brigadier General Ek Sam Oun, the deputy Infantry Unit commander and the commander of Military Region 5, confirmed on Monday that the Thai soldiers had cut down the cassava along the border but could not confirm if the site was in Thailand or Cambodia or what area of land was involved.

“Our Military Region 5 and Border Unit 503 are going to meet face to face to discuss the matter with the Thai battalion tomorrow [Tuesday].

“Our first thought is that the land belongs to Cambodia. But wait until tomorrow, we’ll discuss it and then we’ll know results,” he said.

However, a local media outlet quoted deputy Military Region 5 commander Major General Chhun Mao on Saturday evening as saying that on Thursday afternoon a group of armed, black-clad frontier guards and soldiers used machetes to cut down Cambodian residents’ cassava between Poles 36 and 37 along the border in Thma Puok district’s Kouk Romiet commune.

“Once we knew that the Thai soldiers had entered the area secretly to cut down the residents’ cassava, military forces protecting our territorial integrity along the border immediately intervened and stopped them because the cassava was being cultivated on Cambodian territory,” he said.

Mao said the military’s Global Positioning System (GPS) showed that the Thai soldiers had destroyed the cassava on Cambodian territory.

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