Dumped Dirt Fuels a Dispute at Thai Border Dispute

Cambodia and Thailand continue to squabble over dirt allegedly dumped into the river that divides the two countries near the Golden Crown casino in Ban­teay Meanchey’s Poipet commune.

Sar Chamrong, chief of  O’Chrou district, said Thai officials have asked Cambodia to remove dirt from the river near the Golden Crown.

Each side accuses the other of dumping fill into the river to expand its territory. Land in Poipet has become valuable since the opening of several casinos in the border town.

The issue has become so contentious that a Royal Cambodian Armed Forces negotiating team was sent to Poipet last week to help resolve it, said an RCAF general who does not want to be named.

Sar Chamrong says Cambodia hasn’t dumped dirt in the river near the Golden Crown. In fact, he said, the Thais have filled in an area that extends 10 meters into the river on the Thai side, across from the casino. The area is used as a parking lot for Thais who come to visit the casino.

“We demanded that they take it out, but they ignored us,” he said. “It is hard to work with the Thai authorities in Sakeo prov­ince [in Thailand].”

A Thai embassy official said Wednesday he was unfamiliar with the case, but that a land dispute committee created to solve disagreements is looking into it.

Chhum Kanal, chairman of the Cambodian counterpart committee, said Tuesday that the Thais had complained to him two weeks ago.

“I told the provincial authorities to work on this,” he said.

Nhiek Kim Chhun, Banteay Meanchey’s deputy governor, echoed Sar Chamrong’s contention that it is Thailand, not Cambodia, that has dumped dirt in the river. “We just built a road along the river, but no dirt fell into the water,” he said.

Chhum Kanal said that discussions with Thai officials have gone well. He said that if the Thais have put fill into the river, he will ask them to remove it.

“It is a matter of Cambodian sovereignty,” he said. “Both sides have to be balanced on this,” he said.

Nhiek Kim Chhun, Banteay Meanchey’s deputy governor, echoed Sar Chamrong’s contention that it is Thailand, not Cambodia, that has dumped dirt in the river. “We just built a road along the river, but no dirt fell into the water,” he said.

Chhum Kanal said that, in general, discussions with Thai officials have gone well. He said that if the Thais have put fill into the river, he will ask them to remove it.

“It is a matter of Cambodian sovereignty,” he said. “Both sides have to be balanced.”

Long Visalo, undersecretary of state for the Cambodian Foreign Ministry, said one reason for the tensions in Poipet is that Thailand has not yet acknowledged that Cambodia removed some dirt near another casino about 300 meters from the Golden Crown in response to a Thai complaint several months ago.

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