Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday reportedly asked visiting Lao President Bounnhang Vorachith to help ease border tensions by allowing his soldiers to participate in sporting events with Cambodian troops.
Border tensions had escalated in recent years following the Lao-troop encroachment of Preah Vihear province’s Chhep district in 2019 and the Mom Bei area in Stung Treng province in 2017. Cambodia had responded by deploying its soldiers, but both incidents resulted in peaceful withdrawals. The two sides then agreed to continue border demarcation work and avoid confrontation.
In September last year, Mr Hun Sen and Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith met at the capital’s Peace Palace, where they discussed ongoing border disputes and both nations agreed to have a Joint Boundary Commission draft and a treaty to ratify the 86 percent of the border that had been demarcated as soon as possible.
Talks between both countries over the remaining 14 percent of border demarcation are deadlocked because of a territorial dispute.
Eang Sophalleth, Mr Hun Sen’s assistant, yesterday said Mr Vorachith is in the Kingdom until today to find ways to ease tensions and maintain peace along the border.
“Samdech [Mr Hun Sen] requested the Lao President urge soldiers posted along the border to play sports together [with Cambodian troops] because doing so would encourage them to be friends and reduce tensions,” Mr Sophalleth said. “Samdech said local authorities along the border should play an important role in boosting friendship with Laos by creating sporting events with Lao local authorities.”
Mr Sophalleth said Mr Vorachith responded positively.
“His Excellency Vorachith agreed to [Mr Hun Sen’s] suggestion,” Mr Sophalleth said. “Cambodia and Laos are good neighbours who have always helped each other.”
“[Mr Vorachith] said the Lao people were happy that at last both countries signed a strategic partnership agreement to strengthen relations,” he added.
Mr Sophalleth was referring to an agreement signed in September last year to boost cooperation and reduce border tensions.
Before meeting Mr Hun Sen yesterday Mr Vorachith visited King Norodom Sihamoni at the Royal Palace and laid a wreath at the Independence Monument.
He also paid tribute to the late King-Father Norodom Sihanouk before meeting Senate president Say Chhum and National Assembly president Heng Samrin.
According to a National Assembly statement, Mr Vorachith spoke to Mr Samrin about maintaining peace along the border and ways to curb transboundary crimes.
“Both countries agreed to protect the peace and stability along the border and develop friendship and cooperation,” the statement said.
Sok Touch, president of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, yesterday said border disputes with Laos is complicated and need aid from France to help solve it.
“France colonised this region and drew this map so they will be able to help with this border dispute,” Mr Touch said.