Thai farmers protected by armed Thai soldiers crossed the border in Banteay Meanchey province and spent Thursday plowing fields for rice cultivation, a military commander and district official said.
Khun Choeun, commander of regiment 515 in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) company 51, said provincial authorities had ordered him to monitor the Thai farmers and soldiers, who he said were breaking a long-standing moratorium agreed to by provincial authorities on both sides of the border.
“The Thai soldiers came to give protection to the farmers because they are afraid there would be a clash with the Cambodian people,” Mr. Choeun said, adding that six soldiers were protecting eight farmers using three tractors.
“We have no duty to stop their tractors but our forces are monitoring the activity. I have reported back to the provincial authority and informed them of the situation,” he said.
Mr. Choeun said Thai farmers had previously cultivated hundreds of hectares of land in O’Chrov district under a memorandum of understanding between Banteay Meanchey officials and their counterparts in Thailand’s Sa Kaeo province, but that the deal had been halted in April.
At a recent meeting between the two sides, he said, Sa Kaeo authorities had indicated that the Thai farmers would resume cultivating Cambodian land in the area around border post 43.
“Provincial authorities asked our forces to watch the activity of the Thai side but they told us not to stop the tractors,” he said.
Tan Seanho, the governor of O’Chrov district, said that he told the Sa Kaeo authorities during a July 21 meeting that the Thai farmers were not permitted to cross into Cambodian territory until the two sides negotiated a new agreement.
“We told the Thai side that Cambodian authorities do not allow the Thai farmers to work the [Cambodian] land because the governments of the two countries are working on the case,” he said. “But they did not agree with our request.”