Border authorities in Banteay Meanchey province said yesterday they had destroyed more than two hectares of a Thai cassava crop they claim was illegally planted on Cambodian soil.
Chhouk Ang, commander of Banteay Meanchey border police unit 911, said yesterday that members of his unit discovered the cassava plantation during a routine patrol in Svay Chek district’s Slakram commune on Thursday.
“After discovering the illegally planted cassava farm on our soil, I contacted the Thai border police to report that their farmers were farming on our land illegally,” Mr Ang said. He added that the Thai farmers were also forced by Thai police to sign a contract saying they would not farm on Cambodian land again, but that the Thai police had declined to assist Cambodian authorities clear the land of the cassava crops.
“This is why our border police cooperated with RCAF border soldiers to uproot and destroy the crops” on Friday, he said. He claimed it was the third time in the past month that Thais had been caught either farming or placing unofficial border markers in the area.
Provincial police chief Hun Hean said that a memorandum of understanding signed by the two countries in 2000 made it clear that farmers were only allowed to cultivate their existing farmland on their respective sides of the “white zone,” a non-demarcated area between the two countries.
“Our stance is to maintain a good environment for the villagers of both countries to farm on the existing farmland they used prior to the signing of the MOU,” Mr Hean said.
“But the recent reported invasions into Cambodia’s land for the planting of cassava by Thai farmers were not even planted in the white zone…. It was definitely on Cambodia’s land.”
Officials at the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs declined to comment on the issue yesterday.
Banteay Meanchey police officials reportedly uprooted five border markers placed by unknown Thai nationals in the “white zone” last month.
(Additional reporting by Mark Worley)