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Vietnam, Cambodia Border Brawl Sparks Recriminations

A border brawl between scores of Cambodians and Vietnamese is drawing allegations of misconduct from both sides and significant social media attention in both countries.

At least 10 people were injured Sunday when a group of Cambodians, led by opposition lawmaker Real Camerin, tried to visit a disputed land marker in Svay Rieng province bordering Vietnam.

Vietnamese Cambodian monk Thach Ny, who was at the scene, told VOA hundreds of people were blocked by Vietnamese border guards and civilians.

"Their border guards carried weapons and their people held wooden sticks. They crossed into Cambodian territory and hit us," he said.

However, Phan Van On, chairman of Hoa Binh Tay commune, which is near Svay Rieng, rejected that allegation, saying his force was provoked and was attacked first.

“We deployed border guards to prevent the Cambodians," he said. "They pushed this force into Vietnamese territory, and used metal flag pole to beat us."

Photos and videos posted on Vietnamese and Cambodian social media showed the crowds from two sides faced off in a tense atmosphere, with occasional fights between small groups from each side.

Phan Van On said this is the first confrontation in years on the long border that Phnom Penh shares with Vietnam.

Um Sam An, a lawmaker with the Cambodian National Rescue Party who was with the border group, told VOA that bilateral negotiations have not solved the border problems.

“We’ve asked the government to file a complaint to the International Court of Justice,” he said.

on Tuesday, Le Hai Binh, spokesman of the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry, urged Cambodian officials to solve the issue and facilitate a demarcation process, so as not to let the incident repeat in the future.

Tension has mounted after Cambodia accused Vietnam of illegally digging eight ponds inside Cambodian territory and constructing a military outpost in a disputed area.

In his statement, spokesman Le Hai Binh did not respond to those allegations.

Cambodian officials, including national police spokesman Keat Chantharith, have declined to comment on the clash.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Vietnamese and Khmer services.