The Foreign Affairs Ministry has sent a diplomatic note to the Vietnamese embassy over the setting up of tents by Vietnamese soldiers in a disputed border stretch in Kandal province’s Koh Thom and Loeuk Dek districts.
In April, Kandal provincial border police officers inspected the stretch near border gates which had recently been closed to prohibit crossings amid the virus pandemic.
They found that Vietnamese soldiers had erected tents at nine locations along the disputed border stretch in Koh Thom district’s Dambok Chev station, which is situated next to Vietnam’s An Giang province.
Following talks at the provincial level, the Vietnamese soldiers said they would remove the tents but only three were taken down and 28 remain.
Var Kimhong, chairman of the Border Affairs Committee, said yesterday said the government sent the diplomatic note to the Vietnamese government on May 13.
“We have already sent the diplomatic note asking them to remove all tents,” he said. “If you want to know more information please ask the provincial authorities.”
Mr Kimhong said the Vietnamese soldiers set up tents in areas where both sides have not reached agreement on demarcation and that is the reason why the Vietnamese government was asked to remove them.
He said it is possible that the Vietnamese had an agenda by putting up the tents but the soldiers claimed they were there to make sure there is no illegal border crossings in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Vietnam locked down its borders with the Kingdom and imposed an entry ban on foreign travellers, except for diplomats. The country adopted the measures to protect itself from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lieutenant General Leang Phearom, director of the Border Protection Police Department in the Interior Ministry, said yesterday the diplomatic note pointed out the Vietnamese set up 31 tents in Kandal province’s Koh Thom and Loeuk Dek districts.
“We try to seek a peaceful resolutions with neighbouring countries, and not use force, to avoid creating tensions,” he said. “Our government’s stand is to keep calm in a situation and carry out negotiation.”
Kong Sophorn, Kandal provincial governor, said yesterday the Vietnamese had dismantled three tents last week.
“They demolished three tents set up about five metres from where our border police usually patrol,” he said. “The rest have been set up further away.”
“They are not yet entirely demolished tents because COVID-19 situation isn’t eased yet and they say they want to prevent border crossings,” he said.
Sok Touch, President of Royal Academy of Cambodia, declined to comment yesterday saying he has not yet gone to check the situation at the border site.
However, he expressed concern the Vietnamese may be trying to seize Cambodian territory.
“Yes, we are concerned [about territorial violation], so the military and border protection police have to patrol those areas daily,” Mr Touch said, adding that based on an agreement both countries must not erect new structures less than 100 metres from the grey area zone.
In October, Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc signed documents to ratify 84 percent of border demarcation work completed between the two nations.
The Kingdom shares a 1,270-kilometre border with Vietnam and the two nations have been demarcating it since 2006. The agreement with Vietnam came one month after Mr Hun Sen and Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith ratified 86 percent of the border between their two countries.
Koy Kuong, a Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman, could not be reached for comment yesterday.