Thai, Cambodian Officials Discuss Border Demolitions

Senior Cambodian officials have urged their Thai counterparts to prevent Thai soldiers from crossing the border and dismantling the homes of villagers in Oddar Meanchey province, officials said Sunday.

At their annual meeting in Bang­kok last week, Thai and Cambodian Defense Ministry officials discussed claims that Thai soldiers had demolished 10 Cam­bodian homes near the Choam Sra Ngam international checkpoint in Anlong Veng district Feb 21 and 22, said Var Kim Hong, chairman of the National Border Committee.

“The meeting was very tense,” Var Kim Hong said. “We requested that the Thai side should not enter and remove people’s houses.”

Var Kim Hong said Defense Minister Tea Banh attended the meeting, though Tea Banh said he was too busy to speak to a reporter. Var Kim Hong declined to say whether the 10 homes were located on Cambodian territory or on the disputed white zone between the two countries.

Songchai Chaipatiyut, first secretary at the Thai Embassy, said he has received reports of the Cam­bodian homes being destroyed and that his embassy is verifying the details.

Peuy Saroeun, deputy governor of Anlong Veng, said the homes had been located in the white zone.

“We have tried to prevent people from building their homes there, but they still do it,” Peuy Saroeun said. “Both sides claim the white zone.”

Koul Panha, director of the Com­mittee for Free and Fair Elections, said the Cambodian government may be trying to gain public support by showing it will not compromise with the Thai authorities ahead of April’s commune elections and the 2008 national elections.

Prior to elections, “voters want to see the commitment of the government to a strong position on the border issue,” Koul Panha said.





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