Laos Troops Have Encroached on Cambodian Soil, Army Says

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Cambodian soldiers take part in a military training exercise in May 2019 (Hun Manet’s Facebook page)
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Laotian troops have been encroaching on Cambodian territory in the border province of Preah Vihear for more than a week, with Laos claiming the territory as its own, military officials said on Friday.

However, the situation was stable as Cambodian Army commander Hun Manet led negotiations to resolve the dispute, they said.

Laotian soldiers entered and occupied Cambodian land near the Tonle Rapov river in the Mom Bei, or three angles, area of Chheb district since August 14, Cambodian Army spokesman Mao Phalla said.

But Cambodia is disputing Laos’s claims, Phalla said, stressing that the situation was a “negotiation” and not a “confrontation.”

“So far, we have been stabilizing [the situation]. So far, we are demanding the withdrawal of [Laotian] troops and the withdrawal of the claim that Cambodians have invaded their territory,” he told VOD.

“By this time, [Hun Manet] has returned from the negotiations and leaders have met together already. We try to avoid a clash on both sides, but we are waiting to see the actual situation,” he added.

Phalla said the area in question had soldiers stationed there, but was uninhabited by civilians.

However, a Facebook post on Friday from Information Minister Khieu Kanharith — which was later removed — said neighboring Choam Ksan district had been notified on Thursday to be prepared.

Citing the Preah Vihear provincial information department, the post said that Srey Deok, commander of the army’s 3rd Intervention Division, met with local authorities in Choam Ksan and told them to “be ready to evacuate civilians from four villages in two communes” if ordered.

The post said Laos and Cambodia had both increased their troop numbers.

The content of Kanharith’s Facebook post was cited by Khmer-language news websites but some articles were deleted by Friday afternoon.

Deok on Friday confirmed that Manet was leading negotiations on the border and said the situation was stable. However, he denied there were any preparations to evacuate civilians.

Cambodia and Laos share a more than 500-kilometer border with occasional territorial disputes arising.

In September 2018, Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Laotian counterpart Thongloun Sisoulith agreed to designate O’Tangav, a disputed area in Stung Treng province’s Siem Pang district, as a “no man’s land” and increase joint troop patrols following a 2017 standoff, the Phnom Penh Post reported.

In February, the two nations agreed to fast-track plans to request maps and related documents from France, which granted them independence in the 1950s, in an effort to settle the countries’ border disputes.

Manet, Hun Sen’s eldest son who is tipped as his possible successor, was promoted to army commander, the second-most powerful position in the military, last year.

(Translated and edited from the original article on VOD Khmer)

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