Despite numerous requests to stop building a military post in a contested area along the Cambodia-Vietnam border, Hanoi has refused to oblige, leading Cambodia’s border chief to say on Sunday that Phnom Penh was helpless to stop the construction.
The government sent a diplomatic note to Vietnam in August asking it to halt the construction of a border guard office in a “white zone” in Ratanakkiri province’s O’yadaw district, which is supposed to be off-limits to both countries.
That message, along with a number of ensuing notes, have gone ignored, said Var Kimhong, the minister in charge of border affairs.
“I have told Vietnam many times during previous meetings and we recently sent a diplomatic note to protest against the construction,” he said. “We asked them to stop, but they did not listen to us.”
“Please tell me, if they don’t stop, what can we do?” the minister added. “Do you want Cambodia to start a war with Vietnam to stop the construction?”
Chhay Thy, a coordinator for rights group Adhoc who has been monitoring border incursions in the province, said that the building, which consisted of only a foundation and a few concrete columns in mid-August, was now about 80 percent complete.
“I have received information from local people and a border military officer,” he said. “They told me that Vietnam has continued building the guard station and on Friday they saw Vietnam cover the roof. But we have not seen provincial authorities come to stop the building.”
O’yadaw district governor Ma Vichet said he had informed provincial officials about the problem.
“I have already made a report and sent it to provincial authorities informing them that Vietnam continued building the guard station,” he said, referring further questions to deputy provincial governor Nhem Sam Oeun.
Mr. Sam Oeun could not be reached. Moeung Sineath, a provincial hall spokesman, said that he was not aware of the continued building, but would look into the situation today.