Cambodia, Laos Agree to Withdraw Troops From Border-Dispute Zone

By Sun Narin, VOA Khmer

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, second from right, talks with his government offers as he arrives from Laos, at the airport in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. Hun Sen, who threatened Friday to use force over a border crisis with neighboring Laos, has announced less than 24 hours later that he has peacefully resolved it. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday came to an agreement with his Laos counterpart Thongloun Sisoulith to withdraw troops from the border region in northern Stung Treng province where tensions have escalated in recent weeks.

On Friday Hun Sen issued an ultimatum to Laos to withdraw troops who were accused of encroaching on Stung Treng province’s Siem Pang district.

In February, the Cambodian military’s construction of a road near the border sparked the dispute.

“Now I ordered the relevant authorities to withdraw all the forces out of there and the latest will be tomorrow morning,” Sisoulith told reporters after the meeting.

He added that the two leaders had a “candid and friendly” discussion.

Hun Sen, who had ordered troops deployed to the area as a countermeasure, welcomed the decision and responded by drawing the soldiers back.

“I just ordered the military that mobilized yesterday to go back,” he said, referring to the compromise as a “huge victory” for both sides.

On Friday, Hun Sen said he was “out of patience” with Laos, saying that Laos had failed to respond to a letter he sent on August 2 requesting the withdrawal of troops from Siem Pang.

At least 30 soldiers were thought to have trespassed on Cambodian territory since April and were allegedly there to stop Cambodian military engineers from building the road.

Chheang Vannarith, chairman of the Cambodian Institute for Strategic Studies, said the resolution of the dispute was “a positive sign in reducing misunderstandings and unnecessary tensions.”

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