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UN Secretary-General Encourages Bilateral Talks Over Border

Villagers Clash With Vietnamese Border Security
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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been following developments on the Cambodia-Vietnam border and “welcomes the agreement of both countries to establish a Joint Working Group to examine and clarify recent incidents,” his spokeswoman, Eri Kaneko, told VOA Khmer.

The statement follows Sunday’s clash between Vietnamese border security and a group led by opposition in an area near the border in Svay Rieng province.

Opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party members say they want to see the border issue taken to the International Court of Justice, but ruling Cambodian People’s Party officials say they are negotiating border demarcation bilaterally.

The border issue is an ongoing political pressure point, one often pushed by the opposition to take advantage of lingering resentment among many Cambodians of Vietnam’s decade-long occupation of Cambodia, following its ouster of the Khmer Rouge.

Villagers in disputed border regions accuse Vietnam of encroachment, including with road-building, the digging of ponds and the construction of a border outpost.

Both sides will hold a joint border committee meeting July 6 through July 9.

Peter Maguire, a legal professor and Cambodia observer, said he has little expectation the UN will intercede in the border matter. “There is no easy solution,” he said. “Mutual distrust between Cambodia and Vietnam is now well established.”

Sok Touch, dean of Khemarak University, said that distrust has been fueled by Cambodia’s support for China’s position over the contentious South China Sea. In the past, there has not been the construction of military outposts along the border, he said. “Vietnam is pressuring Cambodia.”

Ou Virak head of the think tank Future Forum, said such regional pressures are exacerbated by the CPP’s new efforts to listen a younger constituency, which can easily be inflamed over border issues. The CPP has started acting on illegal immigration, for example. “In my view, Vietnam is not happy with recent incidents,” he said.

Real Camerin, a Rescue Party lawmaker among those injured in Sunday’s clash, said Vietnam continues “aggressive encroachment.” He denied that Cambodians were to blame for the recent tensions, and he defended Cambodia’s desire to secure its borders.

Vietnam has ignored diplomatic missives calling asking it to cease activities along the border, he said. “But when a problem happens, Vietnam blames nationalism.”