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Seeking out ‘border-some’ tents

Ben Sokhean / Khmer Times Share:
Prime Minister Hun Sen and Vietnam’s President Nguyen Phu Trong meet at the Peace Palace last year. KT/Khem Sovannara

Interior Ministry secretary of state Sak Setha has said the ministry is checking and verifying the positions of “some tents” set up by Vietnamese soldiers along the border before sending a report to the Cambodia Border Affairs Committee to inspect them and negotiate for their removal.

In a recent interview, Setha said Vietnam since March has deployed soldiers along the Cambodia-Vietnam border under the guise of preventing the spread of COVID-19 and have raised the Vietnamese flag and banners in the Vietnamese language in the areas.

“Currently, the Ministry of Interior is reviewing and verifying the coordinates of the tents to provide to the Border Affairs Committee for solving the issue which is its task,” he said.

The tent issues surfaced after Kandal provincial border police officers in April inspected the stretch near the border gates and found that Vietnamese soldiers had erected 31 tents along the disputed border with Vietnam’s An Giang province.

Interior Minister Sar Kheng in June sent a letter to Var Kimhong, chairman of the Cambodia Border Affairs Committee, asking the committee to inspect reports that Vietnam has installed the tents along the border between the two nations.

However, Kimhong has told the ministry to send the committee the coordinates where the tents were located. He said the committee could not find the tents without the coordinates.

General Hou Sokun, National Police deputy commissioner and head of the Border Police Department,  said recently Cambodian authorities found 256 tents set up by the Vietnamese along with the border areas between the two nations since the COVID-19 outbreak.

Setha said the Vietnamese had erected 42 tents at an “undemarcated area” along the border between Mekong and Bassac rivers and that up to early this month, Vietnam had only removed eight of them.

He said the ministry requested the Vietnamese side to strictly abide by the 1983 agreement on regulating border management, the Joint Communique of 1995, the 2005 Supplementary Treaty and related agreements between the two governments.

“[They] need to maintain the status quo of the undemarcated areas and avoid any unilateral action that could affect this important task 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,” Sekha said.

He said the Ministry also instructed the provincial administration and relevant authorities along the Cambodia-Vietnam border to continue to monitor the activities of the Vietnamese side.

“In case the Vietnamese side acts improperly, it shall be immediately prevented and the incident will be reported to the relevant ministries and institutions to be resolved in accordance with legal procedures,” Setha said. “The provincial administration must use as many existing mechanisms within the legal framework authorised by the governments of the two countries to resolve inactive issues in a spirit of friendship and good-neighbourliness.”

Thailand allows Cambodian vendors to remove belongings left behind in Rong Kluea market before the border closure.

Following the sightings of the Vietnamese tents in Kandal province the Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent a diplomatic note to Vietnam, seeking their removal.

In response, Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in May said the tents were set up along the border to “prevent and control cross-border travel” during the pandemic. It said when the pandemic comes to an end, the tents would be removed.

However, it said the temporary tents are located completely within the Vietnamese side which is in accordance with the factual management line measured and agreed by the Special Working Group of the Joint Commission on Land Border Demarcation”.

Additionally, Cambodia and Vietnam are preparing for an upcoming meeting of the Cambodia-Vietnam Joint Committee as well as meeting on cooperation and development between the border provinces of the two nations, during which border cooperation is expected to be raised.

According to sources from both sides, the 18th Joint Commission meeting and the 11th Conference on Cooperation and Development of Cambodia-Vietnam Border Provinces are expected to take place “as soon as convenient.”

Vietnamese Ambassador to Cambodia Vu Quang Minh said yesterday the two sides “are still discussing a convenient time”. However, he hopes the meeting could be held in the last quarter of this year.

The agenda of the upcoming meeting was not revealed yet but Ambassador Vu said the meeting will be like other meetings last year. “But I think this is not an issue,” he said, referring to the border tents.

Last year the 17th Meeting of the Cambodia-Vietnam Joint Commission on Economic, Cultural, Scientific and Technological Cooperation was conducted on August 20 and 21 in Phnom Penh while the 10th meeting on cooperation and development in provinces along the border was held in Hanoi in January.

Phay Siphan, head of Royal Government Spokesperson Unit said yesterday he did not yet know the agenda of the upcoming meeting or whether the border tent issues would be discussed in it.

He referred the question to Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong, who could not be reached for comment yesterday.

During a phone conversation between Prime Minister Hun Sen and Vietnamese President Nguyen Phu Trong last week, the two leaders discussed and exchanged views on collaboration in fighting against COVID-19, bilateral relations and cooperation as well as regional and global issues of common concern.

According to a Foreign Affairs Ministry statement issued after the meeting, the two leaders reaffirmed commitment to cooperate closely in enhancing good neighbourliness, traditional friendship and comprehensive cooperation between the two nations.

Both sides are also committed to continuing to implement effectively all joint statements and bilateral agreements on cooperation between the two countries, convene the joint commission meeting and the Conference on Cooperation and Development of Cambodia-Vietnam Border Provinces.

 

 

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