Activist Group to Travel to Disputed Border Plot

A group of about 150 members of the Federation of Cambodian Intellectuals and Students is planning to travel to a disputed plot of land in Tbong Khmum province in response to a letter from Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong last week claiming the area belonged to Vietnam.

Mao Pises, the head of the federation, said the activists would meet with villagers from Tbong Khmum province’s Memot district on Sunday and visit the disputed 16.6-hectare tract of land where locals claim Vietnamese soldiers destroyed their crops in April.

“The purpose of the field trip is to find out the truth by meeting with local villagers. We will especially ask local people to take us to the contested farmland where Vietnamese people and authorities sprayed the poisonous substance,” Mr. Pises said.

“Secondly, we want to disseminate knowledge to students about history and the border issue,” he said, adding that the purpose of the trip was to ascertain the truth and “not to hurt anyone.”

The federation last week called for Mr. Namhong to resign after he said in a letter to National Assembly President Heng Samrin that the government had determined that the Cambodian villagers were growing crops in Vietnamese territory.

Local farmer Ky Tet, 47, said he would introduce the group of activists to village elders who would provide information on the history of the contested land.

“I basically want this incident, where Vietnamese destroyed our crops, to be shown to the international community and [for] senior leaders to understand that this farmland was used by our ancestors, so it’s not true that the land belongs to Vietnam,” Mr. Tet said.

Provincial police chief Mao Pov said the group would be free to travel inside Cambodia but that he could not protect them if they strayed across the border.

“If they conduct activities affecting a country’s laws, they shall be responsible by themselves,” he said.

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