New Lao Border Construction Leads to Provincial Protests

Laos’ military has begun building a base just meters from an undemarcated stretch of its border with Cambodia, sparking protest from Stung Treng provincial authorities, officials said on Sunday.

Ek Sivandorn, deputy provincial police chief in charge of border affairs, said the neighboring military had begun digging a trench for a new military post near Thala Barivat district on Thursday.

The site is 30 meters from a section of border that has yet to be officially demarcated, Mr. Sivandorn said, although the site is provisionally located within Laos’ Champasak province.

“We are protesting because we agreed at an annual meeting [between the two provinces] that we could keep existing buildings, but we would ban new constructions,” he said.

“Both parties—Khmer and Lao—must respect the agreement. But Laos seems to be defying it,” he said.

The deputy police chief said his officers had attempted to prevent the building by stopping trucks that were transporting sand and stones to Laos via Cambodian roads, but that some vehicles had gotten through.

Mr. Sivandorn conceded that existing agreements would be difficult to police unless a bilateral border treaty came into force.

“Until we have a [border] agreement we cannot ban them, because [the activities] seem to be in their territory,” he said.

Men Kung, spokesman for the provincial government, said it had prepared an official diplomatic letter over the weekend protesting the construction.

“If they still continue [building], then we’ll ask for a meeting,” Mr. Kung said.

The decision to build not only violated the agreement made between the two provinces but also a memorandum of understanding signed by both countries’ foreign ministers, he said.

“We will ask Laos to consider halting construction out of respect for territorial principles and the boundary between the two countries.”

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