Cambodia, Laos begin troop withdrawal from disputed area

Lt Gen Srey Doek of Cambodia (right) walks with Maj Gen Soukai Phommasone from Laos during their meeting to end the border dispute between the two countries. (Photo by Fresh News via Khmer Times). Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

PHNOM PENH, Sep 3, 2019, Bangkok Post. Cambodia and Laos have begun to withdraw troops from disputed territory in Preah Vihear province after senior military officials from both sides conducted negotiations, reported the Bangkok Post.

Lt Gen Srey Doek and Maj Gen Duang Chan of Cambodia recently negotiated with Maj Gen Soukai Phommasone, Laos’ Champassak provincial military commander.

Sou Serey, deputy provincial governor, on Saturday said both sides are now withdrawing troops peacefully, but there is misinformation spreading online.

“Troops from both sides are withdrawing,” the Khmer Times on Monday quoted Serey as saying. “There was a misunderstanding. There is no confrontation.”

“The situation is becoming normal. We are like brothers – our people cross the Lao border and Lao people also come to us,” Serey said. “We have annual meetings between both provinces to help us understand each other.”

Anousine Khattiyalath, deputy head of the Lao Foreign Ministry’s National Boundary Committee, was quoted by the Vientiane Times last week as saying: “[We] would like to officially state that the area in question is stable, and our two countries are not engaged in any kind of stand-off. There is no tension, and there are no major problems.”

“There have been no armed clashes and there have been no other incidents,” Anousine added. “In regard to the resolution of problems at the border between Laos and Cambodia, both parties are holding to a peaceful approach, by means of negotiation, to ensure that the border area between both countries can be a peaceful, friendly, and cooperative border.”

The Mom Bei area in the province’s Chhep district is disputed by Laos. In August, Lao troops encroached the disputed territory.

The withdrawal of troops came after Prime Minister Hun Sen and Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith spoke by phone to ease the border tension.

Maj Gen Mao Phalla, spokesman for the Royal Cambodian Army, could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

Kin Phea, director-general of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, on Sunday said both nations are not aiming for an armed confrontation.

“Peaceful negotiation is necessary and is very important to solve the border issue,”Phea said. “We have no necessity to conduct war. Withdrawal of troops is the best thing for both neighbouring countries.”

“We are like brothers and we are long-term good neighbours,” he added.

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