Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday blasted Lao Foreign Minister Saleumxay Kommasith for not forwarding a formal letter he penned to the country’s Prime Minister on August 2 about Lao soldiers on Cambodian soil.
The Lao troops first arrived on Cambodian soil in February and Mr Hun Sen asked in May that they return to their own land.
By August 2, the troops, which had begun building fortifications in the disputed areas of O’Tangav and O’Alay in Stung Treng province’s Siem Pang district, had not retreated.
Angered, Mr Hun Sen issued a formal letter on August 2 to Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith as a final warning to remove the troops who had crossed into Cambodia via the Sekong River.
Speaking at a graduation ceremony yesterday, Mr Hun Sen said his letter never reached Mr Sisoulith because the Lao Foreign Minister failed to forward it to his Prime Minister.
Mr Hun Sen said: “Why was the letter of a country’s head of government not submitted immediately to the Prime Minister?
“I told him that if this was my foreign affairs minister, I would remove him,” Mr Hun Sen said, referring to a meeting he held with his Lao counterpart on Saturday, when the two leaders reached an agreement for the troops to be removed by Sunday.
Before Saturday’s meeting, Mr Hun Sen mobilised Royal Cambodian Armed Forces to the disputed area, escalating tensions between the two countries and warning that soldiers would defend their territory if the Lao forces were not gone in six days.
Many military trucks carrying troops as well as truck-mounted rocket launchers left from their bases to go to the area.
Mr Hun Sen yesterday noted that his counterpart told him he did not see the August 2 letter until Friday. “He did not know that those armed forces still stayed in Cambodia.”
In a joint press conference after Saturday’s meeting, Mr Sisoulith announced that he would withdraw all his troops while expressing regret that he did not receive the August 2 letter.
Mr Hun Sen added yesterday that the area was probably in dispute due to the use of two differently scaled maps.
“Cambodia and Laos are friends, so we should not fight each other,” Mr Hun Sen added.
Currently, 121 of 145 border posts have been installed along the 533-kilometre border, meaning that 83 percent of demarcation has been completed.