Land surveys of disputed areas between Thailand and Cambodia could begin within the year, according to officials from both countries who Wednesday signed an agreement to begin better defining the nearly 1,300-km Thai-Cambodian border.
“We hope to avoid many misunderstandings that occur at the border,” said Thai deputy foreign affairs minister, Sukhumbhand Paribatra, who led a three-day meeting on border issues with Var Kim Hong, chairman of Cambodia’s Border Dispute Commission. Problems along the border have increased in recent months, with Cambodian military officials blaming the Thais for crossing into Cambodia. Most recently, they say Thai soldiers painted trees on Cambodian land to claim it as Thai territory.
“[The Thais] always have violated our land. We told them not to many times but they always continued their advance,” said General Pen Voy, commander of RCAF Division 15.
Sukhumbhand told reporters he was not aware of this incident, but said, “This is the kind of issue we hope to clear up.”
Both the Thai and Cambodian governments have acknowledged border difficulties but blame outdated maps and confusion by local officials as the main reasons for disputes. Much of the border land was occupied by the Khmer Rouge and only recently became accessible with the end of Cambodia’s civil war. In some cases, both countries claim the same property.
Wednesday’s signing of a demarcation memorandum of understanding opens the way for Thai and Cambodian teams to begin hammering out the technical details of the survey pending approval from both governments.
Officials also discussed opening direct lines of communication between Sukhumbhand and Var Kim Hong, allowing them to deal immediately with disputes. “This is the right way to address these problems,” Sukhumbhand said.
A joint border demarcation commission expects to meet again in Thailand to refine plans to survey and mark the border, though no date has been set.
(Additional reporting by Thet Sambath)