Tension Flares Up Again on Cambodia’s Border With Laos

Dozens of Laotian soldiers started building a post on a disputed tract of land along the border on Thursday, breaking a deal made just a day earlier between Laos and Cambodia to withdraw forces until after the Khmer New Year.

But the Laotian soldiers had backed off again by the afternoon, according to the Stung Treng provincial military commander, who attributed the brief return of hostility to a miscommunication on the other side of the border.

Cambodian and Laotian soldiers speak near the border in Stung Treng province in February, in a still image from video footage posted to the Fresh News website.

Tensions mounted over the weekend as Laotian forces tried to block Cambodia’s construction of a small wooden border post in an undemarcated area in which both countries had previously agreed to avoid building until a joint border committee resolved the boundaries. By Tuesday, about 40 Laotian soldiers were in the area.

Concerns about escalation receded on Wednesday when officials from both sides agreed to retreat until negotiations after the holiday.

But on Thursday morning, more than 30 Laotian soldiers returned to the area and began constructing a border post themselves, provincial spokesman Men Kung said.

“At about 10 a.m., more than 30 Laotian soldiers came transporting bricks, wood and other stuff at the border in [the] same place where they prevented Cambodians,” he said.

“We have no idea why they came back again. They probably have not compromised with each other yet,” he added.

The construction of a Laotian military outpost in the same position last year sparked anger from the Cambodian side. Laotian authorities warned of violence if they were stopped from building the post, resulting in Cambodian soldiers being deployed to the area.

The latest dispute—in a woodland about 7 km from Laos’ Trapaing Kriel International Checkpoint—was considered payback for last year’s tussle.

Svay Nhorn, the Stung Treng provincial military commander, on Thursday said the latest action could be attributed to a breakdown in communication with the Laotion soldiers’ bosses.

“Now we have already finished negotiating and they agreed to move back,” Brigadier General Nhorn said. “Please don’t worry, nothing will happen.”

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