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Vietnamese invitation to inspect border tents

Ben Sokhean / Khmer Times Share:
In this file photo, Var Kim Hong shows a map outlining the border areas between Cambodia and Vietnam. KT/Siv Channa

Authorities in Vietnam’s An Giang province have invited their Kandal provincial counterparts to conduct a joint inspection at the un-demarcated border areas where Vietnamese soldiers have set up tents.

However, Cambodian officials have not officially responded to the invitation.

Vietnam’s Ambassador to Cambodia Vu Quang Minh recently posted on his Facebook page that the authorities in An Giang province had invited their Kandal counterparts to “conduct a joint inspection on the ground” at the area where the tents have been set up.

He said the authorities are waiting for a response from Kandal provincial authorities.

Contacted yesterday, Ambassador Vu said the invitation was contained in a letter sent by the An Giang Border Guard to its counterparts which provided the coordinates of where the tents have been set up. The letter claims the tents are placed from 30 to 500 metres inside the Vietnamese side of the line of control at the border.

“If you [Kandal side] are still not sure about the coordinates/locations of the tents as we have indicated above, please join us in a bilateral team to inspect the tents’ location as soon as possible. Please inform us three days before the intended time of joint inspection”, a copy of the letter, provided by Mr Vu, said.

Kandal provincial governor Kong Sorphan, when contacted, said he was not aware of the invitation from An Giang province and he needed to check.

Phay Siphan, Minister Delegate attached to Prime Minister and head of Royal Government Spokesperson Unit, said yesterday that the two nations resolve border issues through diplomatic channels.

“The government tasks the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Joint Border Commission [to solve the issues] and we have already exchanges diplomatic notes [on the border tents issue] between the two nations,” he said.

Mr Siphan said joint inspections at the un-demarcated border areas does not come under the purview of those officials at the sub-national level but must be done by the JBC.

“We do not want to see confrontation, we want to solve this through the diplomatic channels,” he said, and referred further questions to the Cambodia Border Affairs Committee.

Var Kim Hong, chairman of Cambodia Border Affairs Committee, said yesterday that the invitation was at the sub national level.

“They invited the Kandal provincial authorities, not us,” he said. “Pleases asked the provincial authorities about the issue.”

Asked if the Border Affairs Committee plans to visit the area, Mr Kim Hong said it is not necessary as Cambodian authorities have already done so.

He said it is the duty of the Kandal provincial authorities to monitor the removal of the tents in the province.

Ambassador Vu yesterday also wished to correct an unofficial translation of a diplomatic note sent on May 28 by Vietnam’s Foreign Affairs Ministry to response to one which was sent by Cambodia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry over the border tents.

The translation of Vietnam’s diplomatic note quoted Vietnam as saying the temporary tents 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.

Mr Vu said the translation should be “Vietnamese side” instead of “Vietnamese territory”.

Vietnam has said the tents were set up to prevent illegal crossings after its border with Cambodia was shut to prevent the spreads of COVID-19.

It said when the pandemic threat abates, the tents will be removed and the management of the border will be carried out in accordance with relevant agreements between the two countries.

However, last week Mr Kim Hong said that the areas which were occupied by each side are not officially recognised. He said the Kingdom has never recognised Vietnam’s claims to the areas.

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

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

Cambodia has requested Vietnam to remove the 31 tents in Kandal province’s Koh Thom and Loeuk Dek districts.

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

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