EDITORIAL: Khmer Times distorted border demarcation issue

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - This media item reports to the public, especially Cambodian people and international community with erroneous information leading to misunderstanding on the position of each side, affecting particularly policy and efforts of the Government of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic to solve this problem.

On March 6, 2019, the Khmer Times released an article “Border demarcation with Laos remains precarious”, with the content distorting the reality on the topic, claiming that the border demarcation work along the border with Laos has been bogged down due to the Lao side. This media item reports to the public, especially Cambodian people and international community with erroneous information leading to misunderstanding on the position of each side, affecting particularly policy and efforts of the Government of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic to solve this problem.

The Lao PDR and the Kingdom of Cambodia are good neighbouring countries, helped and supported each other since the ancient times. Both countries share 535 km of the border line and since the joint survey and border demarcation work started in 2000, 465 km or 86 percent of the total length has been done, 14 percent remain to achieve. This area starts from the boundary reference marker No. 078 –following the course of Xekong River upstream and turning right towards the boundary reference marker No. 099. So far, no agreement has been yet reached in this regard and therefore both countries officially declared this area as unsettled border area in many Joint Border Commission meetings and this was reaffirmed by the Prime Ministers of the two countriesin several occasions. Furthermore, pending the final solution, both Prime Ministers agreed last year in Hanoi that no troops are allowed to be stationed, no military or civilian activity shall be undertaken and there will be a joint patrol in this unsettled border area.

Instead of constructive reporting on the reality, in contrary, the Khmer Times circulates information that the lack of resolution was solely due to the Lao side. In fact, the main reason for 14 percent unsettled border area is because of the differences of point of view as Laos as well as Cambodia respectively refers to different documents and maps as base for its own position.

According to information from a Lao official, only official documents and maps relevant to the boundary determination, complied with principles adopted are in use by Laos, not the ones unsatisfied criteria, especially map produced in 1902.

Nevertheless, two countries haven’t stopped to pay efforts and attention to find common solution. In this connection, it is worthy to mention that, in September 2017, the Prime Ministers of the two countriesagreed to send a joint letter to the French President asking for French assistance in providing official documents and maps relating the border delimitation in colonial times and cartographic experts for the purpose of transposition of the maps. After receiving positive answers by French President, both sides are now in the process of negotiations of the Terms of Reference on the assistance.

While both sides recognised this area as unsettled border area, it’s inconsistent and unappropriated for any side to unilaterally invoke the question of land concession.

In August 2017, the region has been a site of military tension. Phnom Penh sent military forces to this border area while Lao side, only a couple of Lao soldiers was presented at Houay A Lai’s nearby (name of water stream) for observing road construction carried out by Cambodian forces, and this, despite both sides had agreed on preventing all activities in this dispute area.

In spite of confronting with a number of difficulties, Laos still convinces that pacific settlement through negotiations is the best means to solve the dispute, especially with the neighbouring country as Cambodia, but persistence of different positionscouldinevitably lead to the settlement before the International Court of Justice.

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