Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen called on Laos on Friday to withdraw troops he said have been present in Cambodia since April, threatening military action against the neighboring country if its soldiers are not pulled out by Aug. 17, Cambodian media and other sources said.
Speaking at a ceremony in the capital Phnom Penh, Hun Sen said that he has ordered a temporary halt to road construction in northeastern Cambodia’s Stung Treng province challenged by Laos to give its soldiers a chance to leave.
Residents of Stung Treng should not be alarmed, though, if they see Cambodian troops mass in the area to take back the disputed land, Hun Sen said.
“I can’t let anyone take an inch of Cambodian land, and Cambodia won’t take anyone else’s land either,” the prime minister said.
“I urge Laos to withdraw its troops from Cambodia unconditionally,” he said.
The Lao government should complain to the International Court of Justice in The Hague if it truly believes the land to which it has sent troops belongs to Laos, Hun Sen said, adding, “We should go to court together in order to avoid bloodshed.”
Speaking to RFA’s Khmer Service, Cambodian political analyst Meas Nee said that war between Cambodia and Laos would harm both countries, and that Hun Sen’s warning may now lead to talks.
“Most world leaders would issue warnings like this,” he said. “And negotiations can sometimes result from this.”
Comments on Cambodian social media meanwhile called Hun Sen’s warning of military action a ploy to gain popularity ahead of national elections next year, positioning him as a “leader who dares to protect his country from invasion.”
A Lao official in the country’s Champasak province near Cambodia said he had received no notice of a Cambodian threat of war against his country.
“We have not been informed, we have not received any notice, and the Cambodian consulate here has not said anything,” the official told RFA’s Lao Service on condition of anonymity.
“Everything seems normal [here].”
Reported by Sonorng Kher for RFA’s Khmer Service and by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Sarada Taing and Bounchanh Mouangkham. Written in English by Richard Finney.