Near Border, Ancestral Graves Face Destruction

Efforts to stop Vietnam from building a road through an ancestral graveyard near the international border in Svay Rieng province could prove fruitless because, according to a district governor, the graves are on the wrong side of the border.

Opposition CNRP lawmaker Real Camerin visited the area in Kom­pong Ro district’s Tnort commune on Wednesday, when locals explained that Cambodians had been burying their deceased along the path of the under-construction road for centuries. 

Mr. Camerin wants construction halted, at least until the borderline can be clarified, but district governor Pech Sovan is convinced that Cambodians in the area have been mistakenly burying the dead on Vietnamese soil since French colonial times.

“Our villagers celebrate Buddhist ceremonies in that area every year because they consider that the hill belongs to Cambodia,” Mr. Sovan said Thursday. “But they have misunderstood: that land belongs to Vietnam.”

While pointing out that the dispute was a matter for the respective central governments, Mr. Sovan said he had “asked the Vietnamese side to stop clearing land and constructing the road and wait for the leaders of the two countries to solve the problem,” adding that he had reported the issue to the ministries of interior and foreign affairs.

During his visit to Thlok Thmey village on Wednesday, Mr. Camerin said, locals told him that Vietnamese officials had planted border posts 202 and 203 in 2012 without the presence of Cambodian authorities. The border posts are dated 2009.

Mr. Camerin said that local authorities had told him that the Cambodian government had not yet approved the construction of the road, but that the Vietnamese had gone ahead anyway.

“I saw many Vietnamese people on a worksite building the road and a dozen soldiers protecting those people,” he said Thursday.

On Friday, Mr. Camerin said that Vietnam had still not honored the local governor’s request to halt building until the matter could be clarified.

“Today, villagers have reported to me that the construction has not stopped,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Kuch Naren)

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