CNRP Leads Trip to Another Disputed Vietnamese Border Area

Opposition lawmaker Um Sam An on Saturday led about 200 nationalist activists to inspect a non-demarcated strip of land along Kandal province’s disputed border with Vietnam where the Vietnamese government is constructing a military outpost.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry   on Thursday sent a diplomatic note to the Vietnamese government reminding it of a notice it sent in April, which accused Vietnam of wrongfully building the post on land in Koh Thom   district designated as a non-usable “white zone” claimed by both governments.

Mr. Sam An, who has led a recent campaign by the CNRP to expose alleged Vietnamese violations of Cambodian territory, said authorities on Saturday at first prevented his team from entering the area at the heart of the dispute.

“The local authorities prevented us from trying to see the Yuon military base, but the people pushed through three barricades before reaching a fourth barricade,” Mr. Sam An said, using an often derogatory word for Vietnamese.

“We saw about 50 [Cambodian] border soldiers and police with shields and electric batons were deployed in each place, and the number increased to about 100 people blocking the road of the people when they tried to pass the fourth barricade to see the Yuon military base,” he said.

Yet he said a small group was eventually allowed to enter and found what he said was a territorial violation.

“Authorities allowed a few more than 10 of us to reach the Yuon military base, and we saw that this building was located inside Cambodian territory, at a distance of about 300 meters from the border,” Mr. Sam An said.

Kandal provincial governor Mao Phirun said authorities had done their job in managing the visit to the white zone.

“We did not allow all those people to reach the white zone because they wanted to make trouble with the Vietnamese side, so that’s why we only allowed some representatives to get in there,” Mr. Phirun said.

“We were worried it would be dangerous for them, because they would rant and rave in the banned area.”

Mr. Phirun also denied Mr. Sam An’s claim that the Vietnamese military base was being constructed in Cambodian territory, saying that it was clearly in the “white zone” that has been aside for future negotiations to demarcate.

He reiterated that Vietnam had been asked to halt the construction, but acknowledged the calls had been ignored.

“We requested that the Vietnamese temporarily stop construction and wait for the national-level talks between the two countries, but they have not listened,” he said.

Separately, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan on Sunday called local reporters to a Phnom Penh restaurant to defend the actions of the Kandal authorities, saying that it is necessary to avoid hostilities breaking out over the sensitive issue until demarcation is completed.

“I would like to thank our Khmer police for not allowing those Khmer people to get into the Yuon territory because Vietnam would arrest them and they would accuse them of crossing a border illegally,” Mr. Siphan said.

“We are not able to use military force to make war with Vietnam over the border issue, because our country has been defeated twice [in such endeavors] during the Lon Nol and Pol Pot regimes,” the spokesman added.

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