Sunday, December 14, 2008

Vietnamese Farmers Said Knocking Down Svay Rieng-Tay Ninh

Vietnamese Farmers Said Knocking Down Svay Rieng-Tay Ninh Border Markers

08 Dec 08
Koh Santepheap
Translated from Khmer by Anonymous

After agreeing to plant the border posts between the two countries in Prasat commune, Chantrea district, Svay Rieng province, border defense officials have expressed their desire for a solution to the Vietnamese people's practice of growing rice inside Cambodian territory. Concerning this case, Phea Sam-at, chief of Prasat commune's Border Defense Police [BDP] station, said that the Vietnamese used to grow rice in the border village of Kandal, Prasat commune, Chantrea district. However, on 6 November the border commission headed by Khum Ponban, himself (Phea Sam-at), Oeun Sophal, deputy chief of Prasat commune's BDP station, Kev Chhean, chief of Prasat commune, and several border defense officials cooperated with the Vietnamese side headed by Thuong Minh Duc, chief of the Vietnamese border defense station, the head of Phuoc Chi commune, and several Phuoc Chi militia members in inspecting the borderline. After that, the two sides agreed on demarcating the border and planting border posts No. 178 and 179 adjacent to the Vietnamese border commune of Phuoc Chi in Tan Bien district, Tay Ninh province.

After the official planting of the border posts, the Vietnamese people who used to grow rice on Cambodian soil before tried to plow and till the land again. The Cambodian officials reminded them that both sides had announced that the people should respect the borderline marked by the border posts, and at that time the Vietnamese people who used to grow rice on that land did not raise any objection.

Phea Sam-at further said that when it was time for the dry-season rice cultivation, the Vietnamese side represented by the head of the border defense station who was in frequent contact with him requested that the Vietnamese farmers be allowed to farm the above-mentioned land like before (in relation to the border posts, this land is about 400 meters inside Cambodia), but he himself, as well as all other border defense officials, did not dare to permit the Vietnamese to grow rice there again, preferring to wait for an advice from the higher authorities. Later, on 20 November Oeun Sophal, deputy chief of Prasat commune's BDP station, informed Sin Veasna, deputy commander of Prasat commune's Border Defense Police Battalion [BDPB] 609, of the Vietnamese people's request for permission to resume growing rice near border posts No. 178 and 179. However, Sin Veasna declined to give them the permission, asking them to wait for a decision from higher up. He also informed the Vietnamese side that the higher authorities had yet to give them any permission to resume farming in Cambodian territory. But the Vietnamese then claimed that they had already contacted Men Kengli, commander of BDPB 609, who gave them green light to temporarily grow rice in that area. This permission was given when Thuong Minh Duc, head of the Vietnamese defense station, participated in a meeting in Prasat commune, Chantrea district, and asked Men Kengli to allow the Vietnamese people to temporarily grow rice there. For this reason, on 1 December several Vietnamese started plowing the land with great fanfare and in that process they knocked down some border posts and caused other to lean abnormally. The BDP then made a report on this incident.

Phea Sam-at further disclosed that when he went to inspect border posts No. 178 and 179 and a number of smaller 4x4 posts, these posts were seen lying on the ground while border post No 178 was found leaning askance. Witnessing that, Phea Sam-at went to see the chief of Phuoc Chi commune, Thuong Minh Duc, asking the Vietnamese side to summon the Vietnamese who plowed the rice field for a settlement. The Vietnamese side then summoned the owner of the tractor that ran over the border posts; but the tractor owner claimed that he was only hired to plow the land. He said he was told by the owner of the rice field to plow over the border markers; so, he just did what he was told to do. Although the border posts were bulldozed over, the suspect was not arrested and the Vietnamese still continue to plow the land without listening to our Cambodian police's order to stop. The order was ignored because the Vietnamese said that the Vietnamese government did not stop them from growing rice in that area, and the Cambodian side, namely Men Kengli also had already authorized them to continue cultivating that land, albeit temporarily, until there is an official announcement by the border committees of both sides.

Concerning this case, Colonel Men Kengli, chief of BDPB 609, told reporters that he did not have any power to allow the Vietnamese to grow rice on this land nor did he have any right to forbid them from doing so. This is the prerogative of the higher authorities or the border committees. He went on to say that the border committees have planted border posts to demarcate the borderline, but in the past there was difficulty in transporting materials for planting these border posts because of the road's muddy condition. This is why only small 4x4 posts were used on a temporary basis. As for the case in which the Vietnamese people came in to cultivate the land, he said he did not dare to stop them. He just allowed them to continue growing rice temporarily because this area was state-owned property.

According to Has Phallarith, head of the first group of the border post planting commission, the border posts that had already been planted constituted important landmarks for identifying the borderline. The Vietnamese must not be allowed to touch or damage them. The authorities on both sides must protect these markers, he said. As for the people who used to grow rice in any spot they must be allowed to temporarily continue to grow it there pending the planting of the main border posts and the official demarcation of the borderline. Then, we will ask the Vietnamese people to stop coming in and growing rice there, he said. Also concerning this issue, the border defense authorities have appealed to the higher authorities to resolve the problem in which border posts were knocked down in the place mentioned above so that there is a balance of force between the Cambodian and Vietnamese authorities.

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