takeo province, Borei Cholsar district – SRP lawmakers yesterday made it past three road blocks in their attempt to travel to a border demarcation post on the Cambodia-Vietnam border in Takeo province, but fell short of reaching their destination when they were finally stopped by soldiers, police and local villagers.
The opposition lawmakers had planned to visit border demarcation post 270, located in Borei Cholsar district’s Chey Chork commune to determine if it falls inside Cambodian territory.
On the way to the site, vehicles carrying roughly 100 SRP lawmakers and activists were stopped by a makeshift blockade—a tractor parked on a narrow bridge—in Prey Yuthka commune at around 10 am.
All 100 SRP delegates and activists exited their vehicles and traveled about 2 km on motorcycles before being stopped for a second time by another bridge blockade consisting of a tractor and two cars.
The group then continued by foot for about 20 meters before coming across a third blockade at a bridge inside Chey Chork commune.
Keeping guard on the bridge with a group of local farmers and police officers, a man later identified as Ham, the Chey Chork commune chief, demanded that the lawmakers show their authorization letters to travel in the area.
“Show me your permission letter,” the commune chief said.
After about 20 minutes of discussion and what appeared to be a light scuffle, the lawmakers decided to descend into the water of the muddy canal running beneath the bridge blocked by the commune chief, farmers and police.
Wading knee deep the lawmakers crossed the canal. Already visibly fatigued they continued walking by foot for about 3 km through rice fields.
Just outside Anchanh village about 2 km from the site of demarcation post 270, another group of some 60 local villagers and about 10 soldiers stopped the lawmakers from progressing any farther by creating a human chain across the road.
For roughly 30 minutes the SRP lawmakers tried to persuade the authorities and villagers to let the pass through the village, but to no avail.
“We just want the government to solve the border issue. We are afraid that if they [SRP lawmakers] make trouble at the demarcation post then we will be affected,” said Thuon Punh, a 30-year villager, who was part of the scores of villages manning the fourth blockade to keep the members of Parliament out.
“If the Vietnamese stop providing water to us, we won’t be able to take care of our rice fields,” Mr Punh said.
SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said yesterday the decision by the authorities to block lawmakers from reaching the border was proof that mystery surrounds the location of the demarcation pole.
“Demarcation pole 270 is mysterious,” he said. “If the government did not do anything wrong, they would not have stopped us.”
On Tuesday, National Assembly President Heng Samrin wrote a note to the SRP, saying the Assembly “does not allow [the visit] and is not responsible” for any problems that may occur if the SRP lawmakers continue with their planned trip.
Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said yesterday afternoon that the SRP lawmakers should have complied with Mr Samrin’s letter.
“SRP lawmakers must respect the National Assembly president,” he said.