RCAF Wants Fortification of Thai Border

RCAF officials have suggested a more heavily-fortified border may be the only way to deter incursions onto Cambodian soil by Thai authorities.

Following a meeting Monday of Defense Ministry officials, RCAF Deputy Commander of Infantry Mean Sarin—who pre­sided over the meeting—said anti-aircraft weapons and land mines should be sent to help secure the border.

“This is a strategy of armed force to protect our land and sovereignty as other countries have done,” Mean Sarin said earlier this week. “We need to prevent Thai soldiers from encroaching on our land. [Deploying weap­ons] would help remind the Thais not to do anything beyond their land.”

Army officers, particularly with RCAF Division 2 in Preah Vihear province, maintain the Thais are repeatedly crossing the border into Cambodia—a claim that has been denied by Thai diplomats.

The latest incident occurred last month. RCAF officials claim­ed initially as many as 300 Thai soldiers penetrated about 0.5 km into Cambodia in the Choam Te area of Preah Vihear pro­v­ince. The Thais denied the allegations, and a Division 2 finance officer said Sunday that a cow and buffalo deal soured, kicking off the debacle.

Though tense for about a week—with Thai and Cam­bod­ian soldiers allegedly facing each other from only 50 meters apart in some places—the situation has eased. Civilian captives taken by both sides were also released.

While RCAF officials are pro­posing a deployment of force on the Thai border, Var Kim Hong, the head of Cam­bodia’s border commission, said the problem is an ill-defined demarcation, not military aggression.

Var Kim Hong also blamed years of civil war for Cambodia’s problems with its neighbors. Resistance fighters historically sought refuge in Thailand, further blurring the border and opening the door for easy Thai occupation of some areas.

“If Cambodian leaders did not ask neighboring countries to be their refuge for their fighting, the Thais would have no chance to stand on our soil,” Var Kim Hong charged, apparently referring to resistance commanders over the past 20 years representing Fun­cinpec, the Khmer People’s Nat­ional Liberation Front and the Khmer Rouge.

A delegation is expected to visit disputed border areas soon, according to Var Kim Hong, before border discussions with the Thais can begin. He warned against Cambodian officials seeking a hasty solution to questions of land ownership, saying much of the disputed land is former Khmer Rouge territory where the border has been ill-defined for 20 years.


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