Vietnamese authorities deny carrying out construction on undemarcated “white zone” areas along the border, but will review Cambodia’s complaints, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official said during a meeting in Phnom Penh on Monday between border officials from both countries.
Since last year, Cambodia has sent a number of sternly worded diplomatic notes to Vietnam demanding that they cease building roads and outposts in the white zones, which cannot be used until the boundaries are set.
In response to the diplomatic notes, Vietnamese officials denied any wrongdoing, said Long Visalo, the Cambodian ministry’s secretary of state, during a break in a meeting of the two countries’ Joint Border Committee, which has been working to demarcate the border since 1995.
“Normally, Vietnam says that they did it on their land,” Mr. Visalo told reporters outside the meeting at the Council of Ministers building. “Finally, they said they would take this to discuss it with ministries that were involved.”
If the building on disputed land continues, Mr. Visalo said he would ask Hanoi to demolish the structures. The construction has occurred in border provinces including Ratanakkiri, Mondolkiri and Svay Rieng.
Var Kimhong, the minister in charge of border affairs, also said during the break that both sides were now seeking more copies of the original colonial-era maps of the shared border to help with demarcation.
A number of opposition CNRP lawmakers last year claimed that the two sides have been ignoring the original French maps, which are the only ones legally mandated by Cambodia’s Constitution, and said they were instead using new Vietnamese-drawn maps.
Mr. Kimhong urged people not to be too quick to accuse Vietnam of “invading” Cambodia while demarcation of the border was incomplete.
“Invading is the use of force. This is secret building,” he said of Vietnam’s alleged encroachments.