Renewed Cambodia-Laos border tensions a cause for concern

The two neighbours have previously deployed soldiers to the border areas over territorial clashes.

Laotian soldiers have reportedly started construction on a post in the disputed area along the Cambodia-Laos border last Thursday, a day after the two countries agreed to a deal to withdraw troops from the shared border until after the Khmer New Year.

According to the Stung Treng provincial military commander, the Laotian troops were gone by the same day in the afternoon. He claimed that the deployment of soldiers was due to a communication lapse on the other end of the border.

A territorial clash has been ongoing for several months between the two Southeast Asian countries.

The geopolitical tension was first brought to the spotlight when 400 Laotian soldiers reportedly went into Cambodia’s Siem Pang District on 8 February to stop military engineers from constructing a 275 km road along the shared border from Stung Treng District to Siem Pang district.

The Laotian soldiers have said that the 257 km road is an encroachment onto their country’s territory. The dispute intensified two weeks ago when soldiers from Laos attempted to stop its neighbour from building a small wooden border post in a disputed area near the border.

There were previous agreements by the two countries to prevent any construction in that area until a settlement would be reached by a joint border committee to demarcate the border boundaries.

However, approximately 40 Laotian soldiers entered the area. The following day, representatives from both countries mutually agreed to address the border issue after Khmer New Year, a three day public holiday that is based on the traditional solar New Year.

“At about 10 am, more than 30 Laotian soldiers came transporting bricks, wood and other stuff at the border in [the] same place where they prevented Cambodians,” provincial spokesman Men Kung was quoted in an online article on The Cambodia Daily.

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

Border disputes between Cambodia and Laos is not a new phenomenon. In 2016, the construction of a Laotian military base created a backlash from the Cambodian government, who then sent soldiers to the area in response to Laotian officials threatening aggression if they were stopped from constructing the post.

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