Police Thwart Cross-Border Foray by Group of Thai Farmers

Officials in Banteay Meanchey province said a group of Thai farmers once again tried to plow a piece of land hundreds of meters inside Cambodian territory on Sunday but were turned back by border police.

Prak Sarath, deputy commander of border police Unit 911, said the farmers had driven 10 tractors about 300 meters into O’Chrou district and turned over approximately 10 hectares of fallow land to plant rice before his unit arrived and sent them back to Thailand without confrontation.

“There were 10 tractors with Thai farmers plowing on Cambodian territory, but we stopped them and sent the tractors back,” Mr. Sarath said.

O’Beichoan commune chief Suong Moeun said Thais first started farming the plot of land in the early 1980s, just after Khmer Rouge rebels in the area were integrated into the Cambodian army. But he said a survey of the area around border post 43 in 2011 by the Thai-Cambodian Joint Border Committee determined the area was definitely part of Cambodia.

Of Monday’s incursion, Mr. Moeun said, “the Thai farmers violated Cambodian land because the joint committee clearly claimed it as Cambodian territory.”

He said the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding in 2007 that allowed Thai farmers to use about 200 hectares in the district but called it off in 2011 after a dispute in the area between Thai and Cambodian soldiers.

He said the Thai farmers were then allowed to return in 2012 for one year, but kept coming back sporadically after the deal ran its official course.

Var Kimhong, who chairs the joint border committee, said the international boundary in that area had been settled in the early 1900s while Cambodia was still a French protectorate.

But he said the local border post was uprooted during the civil war that followed the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979 and that Thailand and Cambodia agreed to study exactly where to put a new permanent post only in the past few years.

Mr. Kimhong said the recent coup d’etat in Thailand had put those efforts on indefinite hold, however.

Thailand’s ambassador to Cambodia, Pakdi Touchayoot, could not be reached for comment.

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