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Vietnam says ‘border-some’ tents are on its territory

Ben Sokhean / Khmer Times Share:
Kandal provincial police chief Brigadier General Chhoeun Sochet leads officers to inspect the undemarcated border area where Vietnamese tents were set up. Police

The Vietnamese government has said that the tents set up by its soldiers in undemarcated border areas in Kandal province are located “completely within” Vietnamese territory, a claim which was rejected yesterday by Cambodia Border Affairs Committee.

The exchange of diplomatic notes between the two nations were made after Kandal provincial border police officers in April inspected the stretch near border gates and found that Vietnamese soldiers had erected tents along the disputed border with Vietnam’s An Giang province.

On May 13, Cambodia had sent a diplomatic note over the issue and requested Vietnam to remove the 31 tents in Kandal province’s Koh Thom and Loeuk Dek districts.

According to a response from Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent to Cambodia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry on May 28, which was posted by Vietnamese ambassador Vu Quang Minh yesterday, noted that “the An Giang province of Vietnam” has set up tents along the border to “prevent and control cross-border travels” during the pandemic.

“When this pandemic comes to an end, these tents will be removed and the management of the border will be carried out in accordance with relevant agreements of the two countries as it always is before the COVID- 19 pandemic.” Vietnam said.

It said the border segments between border pillars No. 241 to 245 and between border pillars No. 247 to 253 as mentioned in Cambodia’s diplomatic note are two border segments where the demarcation and border pillar planting have not been completed.

“The temporary tents (with the total of 30 in fact, due to a duplication in the listing in Cambodia’s Note) erected in the two above-mentioned areas are located completely within Vietnamese territory when compared with the factual management line measured and agreed by the Special Working Group of the Joint Commission on Land Border Demarcation.” the Vietnamese said.

It noted that measurement was undertaken in July 2014 for the area from border pillar No.241 to 245 and in June 2015 for the area from border pillar No.247 to 253.

“Therefore, Vietnamese side reaffirms that the act of erecting tents by An Giang Province is by no means contrary to provisions of the Point 8 of the Joint Communiqué of 17 January 1995 and at the same time, shall not have any effect on the demarcation and border pillar planting in these areas.” it added.

Var Kim Hong, chairman of the Cambodia Border Affairs Committee, said yesterday that the areas which were occupied by each side are not officially recognised.

“Those areas remain under negotiation, we have not reached a deal to set up border poles, So, no one can claim within its territory,” he said. “If they do so, it violates the Kingdom’s sovereignty.”

Mr Kim Hong said Cambodia never recognised Vietnam’s claims to the areas.

“They are narrow-minded,” he said, “I also helped draft the diplomatic note to send to Vietnam. They are violating two points, which are the Joint Communique of January 17, 1995, and the 2005 Supplementary Treaty.”

When asked whether the border affairs committee would inspect the areas, Mr Kim Hong said: “We already know the areas clearly.”

However, he said he believes the installation of the tents by the Vietnamese is a “temporary” measure to prevent border crossings during the COVID-19 period.

“Actually, we can install our tents in front of the Vietnamese tents, but we won’t do that because we respect the laws,” he added.

Regarding the issue, Eat Sophea, a Foreign Affairs Ministry secretary of state, met Mr Vu to discuss the matter on Monday. It was reported that she had “summoned” Mr Vu for questioning but the Vietnamese embassy issued a letter to media yesterday saying that Ms Sophea had a meeting with the ambassador to discuss a wide range of topics.

The embassy said that at the meeting between Ambassador Vu and Ms Sophea, the two sides discussed a “wide range of topics of cooperation between the two countries, including joint efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, measures to resume scheduled cooperation activities, and the recent Note exchange between the two Foreign Ministries on the temporary tents erected on the border area of An Giang-Kandal provinces, which has been resolved in a peaceful and amicable manner, with the mutual understanding that these are urgent measures to control the spread of the virus …”

The Foreign Affairs Ministry yesterday issued a statement in English on the meeting with Mr Vu, saying: “[We] requested the Vietnamese side to expedite the removal of all those tents and to maintain the status quo of these areas until the Joint Commission on Demarcation and Adornment for Land Boundary (JBC) of the two countries has completely settled the boundary line in these areas.”

Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Kin Phea, director-general of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said yesterday refuted Vietnam’s claims, saying the areas where Vietnamese soldiers set up tents are unsolved border territories and do not belong to Vietnam.

“Both sides can’t do anything to alter the status quo until the joint border commission reaches an agreement and demarcates the border posts,” he said. “The Vietnamese aggressive behaviour is not acceptable in our modern times.”

“This conflict will result in Vietnam becoming embarrassed before the international community. Cambodia always upholds the principle of peaceful and harmonious coexistence with all countries and highly values bilateral relations and mutually beneficial cooperation with its neighbours,” Mr Phea added.

The Kingdom shares a 1,270-kilometre border with Vietnam and the two nations have been demarcating it since 2006.

In October, Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc signed documents to ratify 84 per cent of border demarcation work completed between the two nations.

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