On September 1st, 2017, after a closed-door meeting between Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisolith, both Cambodian and Lao governments agree to speed up the negotiation about the border conflicts between two countries. The foreign ministers of both countries will meet in Phnom Penh in the following days to discuss the substantial resolution to this dispute.
At the joint press conference after the meeting, according to Radio Free Asia, Hun Sen said that “The visit of His Excellency Thongloun today can be considered as a crucial sign that the two countries will soon reach a border resolution. Without personal relations between me and His Excellency Thongloun and those of our both families, perhaps this issue would be hard to resolve. His Excellency Thongloun and I have known each other for more than thirty years. That is why it allows us to talk on all issues at ease.” Thongloun Sisolith also showed promising at the conference, “I believe that the resolution of the border issues between the two countries is based on friendship and fairness with no one losing and no one gaining.” To solve the border dispute, Hun Sen claimed that “The two prime ministers, His Excellency Thongloun and I, will write a letter to the president of France requesting help in transferring the French map…and ask France to provide any other relevant documents on the Cambodia and Laos border.”
The border dispute between Cambodia and Laos has been lasting since this April, and the dispute seemed to be closing to actual hostilities last month. However, the result of the meeting between the two Prime Ministers looks like a real sudden change. Both countries may want to avoid the real loss and China may help them negotiate because the conflict seriously influences the “Silk Road” Plan. Nonetheless, the outcome so far is inspiring, and the latent human rights violations behind the border dispute can be avoided in the foreseeable future.
Both Cambodia (1867-1953) and Laos (1893-1953) were colonized by France, and they gained independence in 1953. These two countries share a 335-mile unguarded border. The border crossing is an easy way for foreign tourists to travel across both countries. Cambodia and Laos are also both members of Association of Southeast Asian Nations and are seen as Chinese allies by the international community. The border dispute during the last couple of months reveals the risk of an unclear borderline since independence from France and its potential threat to the stability and development of Southeast Asia.
The outcome of the meeting between Hun Sen and Thongloun Sisolith seems promising and concrete resolution may follow in the next few days. However, in order to avoid border dispute, unstable regional factors and latent human rights violation in the future, both countries need to settle the borderline eventually, which may still take more time.