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Cambodia, Laos to draft treaty as border work continues

Ben Sokhean / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Prime Ministers Hun Sen and Thongloun Sisoulith hold a press conference. KT/Khem Sovannara

Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday reached an agreement with his Lao counterpart to have a treaty drafted officially recognising the 86 percent of the border which has thus far been demarcated.

Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith and Mr Hun Sen met yesterday at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, where the two discussed ongoing border disputes which have recently led to the mobilisation of troops to disputed areas.

Mr Hun Sen told reporters after the meeting that both nations agreed to have the Joint Boundary Commission draft, as soon as possible, a treaty to ratify the 86 percent of the border that has been demarcated to date.

“We agreed to draft the new Cambodia-Lao border treaty, which recognises the border that we have already demarcated,” Mr Hun Sen said after his meeting.“This is very important because the border between us was unclear. We have agreed for the Joint Boundary Commission to draft the treaty.”

According to a joint statement issued after the meeting, the commission has been tasked with ensuring that markers for the 86 percent of the border already demarcated are up to standard, and with producing a map showing the boundary lines accepted by both nations to be included in the treaty.

“We agreed to replace boundary markers because the current ones are too small,” Mr Hun Sen said. “The [marker] poles look like the ones on people’s lands – they are not appropriate to be used as boundary markers between two states.”

“We agreed to hand these duties over to each nation’s border committee. They are to lay out the markers on maps before getting approval from both prime ministers,” he added. “We each agreed to pay for half of the costs needed to replace any markers.”

Mr Hun Sen, who hailed the meeting as a “historic event”, said both nations also agreed to conduct studies on the remaining 14 percent of the border left to be demarcated.

“For the 14 percent leftover, we agreed to hand the work over to respective Foreign Affairs Ministries,” he said. “We are optimistic that we will solve the problem in a timely fashion and with the spirit of friendship and cooperation between good neighbours.”

Prime Minister Hun Sen embraces his Lao counterpart Thongloun Sisoulith at the Peace Palace yesterday. KT/Khem Sovannara

Speaking through a translator, Mr Sisoulith echoed Mr Hun Sen, calling the meeting a “victory” for both countries.

“Today, I support Samdech Techo’s remarks. I think this is a reflection of our good transitional relationship,” he said. “We will continue to further strengthen this relationship.”

“I agreed with Samdech Techo Hun Sen about the discussion we had on solving border issues,” he added. “We will upgrade the boundary markers in the areas within the 86 percent we have demarcated. We will build bigger boundary markers.”

“I request Cambodia reviews the markings on the map before both prime ministers approve them,” Mr Sisoulith said. “This is very important because we have spent many years to solve border issues. The most important thing is that we agreed to jointly expand our relations in order to become comprehensive strategic partners.”

Last month, Lao troops pulled out of the disputed Mom Bei area in Preah Vihear province after they encroached on it for about two weeks. It was the second time Lao troops crossed over the Kingdom in less than five years.

In 2017, hundreds of Lao troops crossed over and occupied the Ou’ Alai and Ou’Ta Ngav areas in Stung Treng province’s Siem Pang district during a dispute over the construction of a road near the border.

It prompted Prime Minister Hun Sen to order the deployment of thousands of troops along the border and issued an ultimatum to Laos to pull out within six days.

In addition, Cambodian and Lao officials yesterday signed a total of five agreements to address power shortages in the Kingdom and expand labour cooperation, according to the joint statement.

“Both sides agreed to further promote cooperation on energy, particular through increasing bilateral trade in electricity generated either by coal, hydropower or renewable power sources between the two countries in the coming years based on the capacity of the two sides,” it said. “Both sides concurred to encourage relevant authorities of both sides to ensure that the construction of the high-voltage power transmission lines between Cambodia and Lao PDR are completed as agreed and according to plan.”

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