The government is preparing to order a stop to the leasing of land along the country’s borders with Thailand, Vietnam and Laos, according to a message posted to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Facebook page Friday.
Following a year of rising tensions with Vietnam over a number of contested regions along Cambodia’s eastern border, Mr. Hun Sen wrote that the practice must stop to avoid disputes with neighboring countries.
“The Royal Government of Cambodia will issue a circular banning people living along the border to rent land [farmland and rice paddy] to foreigners—to Vietnam nationals, as well as Thai and Laotian people—in order to avoid issues such as: Khmer land, but Vietnamese paddy; or Khmer land, but Thailand’s rice paddy; or Khmer land, Laos’ rice paddy, etc.” the post reads.
The prime minister said the government was planning to build new homes and station troops along the border to “protect Cambodia’s soil” and would send letters to the leaders of the three bordering nations asking for cooperation on the matter.
At the height of border tensions in July, Interior Minister Sar Kheng complained that local officials were negotiating borderlines with “friends” from Vietnam, and banned the practice.
A statement issued by the Council of Ministers after its weekly meeting on Friday orders the Interior Ministry to draft a circular banning Cambodians from renting out farmland near the border. It also instructs the Foreign Affairs Ministry to draft and issue the letter to the foreign leaders, and the Land Management Ministry to do a better job of managing state land for “citizens, civil servants and the three arms of the armed forces stationed along the border protecting Cambodia’s territory.”
Nhean Kdom, a commune councilor in Kandal province’s Sampov Puon commune, which borders Vietnam, said that land in the area had been rented out to Vietnamese farmers for generations, but not only by those living in rural areas.
“Some wealthy businesspeople living in Phnom Penh own 10 or 20 hectares of land and have rented their land to Vietnamese people, too,” he said.