Leaders of Cambodia, Laos Vow to Settle Border Dispute

Cambodia PM Hun Sen, Lao counterpart Thongloun Sisolith hold second meeting since border flare up.

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen (L) shakes hands with Laos Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith (R) during the opening of World Economic Forum on ASEAN in Phnom Penh, May 11, 2017.

The leaders of Cambodia and Laos on Friday agreed to speed up efforts to resolve a longstanding border dispute that last month led to a stand-of between troops of the two former French colonies in Southeast Asia.

According to the Facebook pages of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his government, Cambodia and Laos have agreed upon resolving the remaining border issues in a package in the near future.

Hun Sen and Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisolith agreed to key points, including that the two neighbors would resolve remaining border issues “without any winner or loser” but with the aim of cementing friendship, solidarity and good cooperation between two countries.

The two countries agreed to send an official letter to France, the former colonial ruler of Indochina, to request a map of higher resolution than currently available to the disputing parties and relevant documents, the Facebook post said.

The contested area between Cambodia’s Stung Treng province and Attapeu province in Laos is part of a small stretch of border still not clearly marked, and tensions flared earlier this year after Lao troops crossed the river to block Cambodian construction of a road through the area.

On Aug. 12, following the two leaders’ first meeting, in the Lao capital Vientiane, Laos agreed to withdraw the dozens of troops remaining after Hun Sen pledged to stop construction of the road.

After Friday’s round of talks in Phnom Penh, both leaders said they would hold a meeting between their foreign ministers in Phnom Penh, and allowing border officials of the two countries to settle disputes over the borders.

“The visit of His Excellency Thongloun today can be considered as a crucial sign that the two countries will soon reach a border resolution,” Hun Sen told a news conference held at the government’s Peace Palace in Phnom Penh following the talks.

“Without personal relations between me and His Excellency Thongloun and those of our both families, perhaps this issue would be hard to resolve. His Excellency Thongloun and I have known each other for more than thirty years. That is why it allows us to talk on all issues at ease,” said Hun Sen.

“In the next few days, foreign ministers of the two countries will meet in Phnom Penh to find solution and seek understanding [on border issues],” the Cambodia leader added.

Thongloun told reporters in the press conference that the two countries have agreed to do their best so as to maintain security and peace along the disputed border areas.

“I agree with the mechanism as raised by Prime Minister Hun Sen earlier for revolving the border dispute. Also, I agree that personal relations between the Prime Minister and I as well as those of our families contributed to the ease of resolving this issue,” he said.

“As for the next step, we will have to wait and see after the coming meeting of foreign ministers of the two countries … I trust that we both will be able to resolve the remaining border issues of 13-14 percent as an inheritance for our next generations,” Thongloun said.

Cambodia and Laos share a land border of 540 kilometers. Following the previous talks between Hun Sen and Thongloun Sisoulith in Vientiane, the two countries stated that 86 percent of the shared border had been examined and 121 out of a total of 145 border markers had so been put in place.

Reported by Sothearin Yeang for RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Sovannarith Keo. Written in English by Paul Eckert.