Everything ‘OK’ on Border, Government Says as Laos Army Base Proceeds

The Stung Treng provincial government will once again allow trucks to transport building materials across the border into Laos, where a military base is under construction by Laotian authorities against the wishes of Phnom Penh and despite the area not being properly demarcated, officials said on Monday.

After Stung Treng officials were rebuffed in their efforts to meet with their Laotian counterparts earlier this month, Cambodian troops were put on standby and the only road leading to the construction site—Cambodia’s National Road 7—was closed to vehicles carrying rock, sand and steel bound for the base.

However, Men Kung, a spokesman for the provincial government, said on Monday that construction had resumed at the site—located inside a disputed area provisionally administered by Vientiane—over the weekend, and that trucks would be allowed to flow freely across the border while the dispute was handled by the highest levels of government.

Mr. Kung said Interior Minister Sar Kheng sent a report about the situation to Var Kimhong, chairman of Cambodia’s border affairs committee, on April 11.

“We no longer need to prevent the construction because we have sent the report to the senior officials,” he said. “Right now, we are waiting on the advice or command from the border committee.”

He said troops in the area, however, remained on standby, after Laotian authorities reportedly threatened violence when Stung Treng officials visited the construction site earlier this month.

The latest efforts to demarcate the 540 km shared border between Cambodia and Laos began in 2000 and are still incomplete.

Neither Mr. Kimhong nor his deputy, Koy Pisey, could be reached for comment on Monday.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan, however, said he took time out of a family holiday to visit the border on Saturday.

“I talked with Laos border guards and told them to wait and not build anything and wait for the border committee to make a decision on what to do,” he said. “Everything is OK.”

(Additional reporting by Peter Ford)

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