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Villages to be built at the border after PM orders better defences

Villages to be built at the border after PM orders better defences

Government hopes to populate isolated areas next to Thailand following a series of border incursions by Thai troops at two key temples

NEW villages are being established along the border with Thailand in Oddar Meanchey province as Cambodia builds up its defences against future incursions by Thailand, officials say.

The order to more heavily populate the frontier came last week from Prime Minister Hun Sen, who also has decreed that soldiers would be given land in the region to encourage them to settle there permanently.

Provincial Deputy Governor San Vanna said that the policy to promote settlement along the Thai border was a direct response to the encroachment by Thai troops at Preah Vihear and Ta Moan Thom temples.

"People constitute a strong fence to defend Cambodia's borders," San Vanna said.

Most of the 224 kilometres of border area in Oddar Meanchey is mountainous and heavily forested, with few roads or people.

"More new villages and people's presence along border will help protect [our land]," San Vanna said.

"We rushed to form these new villages after receiving instructions," he said. "I do not know how many villages have been formed to date as there has been no official registration yet."

Defending the nation

Long Sovann, deputy governor of Preah Vihear province, said that he has not received any instructions to populate the 100-kilometre stretch along the border, which currently only has two villages.

"More villages along Preah Vihear's border would help to defend the nation," he said.

Battambang province Governor Prach Chan said that while he has also not received any instructions, Battambang's three districts along the border are already densely populated.

But he expressed support for the government's plan to populate the border areas.

"This is strategy to defend our nation as well as develop the area," Prach Chan said.

The government also has plans to build two roads linking the border areas.

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