Government, Thailand Begin Border Talks

Cambodia’s border dispute commission took a strong stance on border issues with Thailand’s Deputy Foreign Minister Suk­hum­b­hand Paribatra as talks opened Monday.

In a written summary of the current border situation, Cam­bodian officials detailed several recent disputes between Thai and Cambodian authorities, blaming most of the trouble on inconsistent maps and confusion by local officials manning checkpoints along the 1,228-km border.

“[Cambodia] demands that the Thais not destroy the border environment, but that the border stays the same until the border commission solves the problem,” the summary said.

RCAF officials in Cambodian provinces bordering Thailand say Thai soldiers have repeatedly crossed the border—sometimes by several kilometers—and set up checkpoints on Cambodian soil.

While officials in Phnom Penh have acknowledged reports of incursions, they have generally downplayed them. Thai officials deny troop movements across the border.

Both sides say the real problem is the ill-defined frontier, which until recently was controlled in many places by the Khmer Rouge.

Sukhumbhand said the three-day meeting is aimed at producing a memorandum of understanding on border issues.

“The first step is to have a common position regarding the framework for proceeding with the task of surveying and demarcating,” he said.

Land mines and unexploded ordnance left over from the Cambodian civil war are expected to slow the process, Cam­bodian chief negotiator Var Kim Hong said.

While border marking has already begun with Vietnam, Var Kim Hong said he expects work to begin along the Thai border by the end of this year.

Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Chum Sounry called Monday’s meeting successful, saying, “[Foreign Affairs Min­ister] Hor Nam Hong appreciated the joint commission’s working hard to solve the border issues and hopes the two partners will reach an agreement shortly.”

(Additional reporting by The Associated Press)


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