Wednesday, 13 March 2002

KYRGYZ-UZBEK BORDER KEEPS CREATING PROBLEMS

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By Kunduz Tashtanalieva (3/13/2002 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Among the border problems that gained significance with the collapse of the USSR, the situation on the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border stands out by remaining tense until today. There are between 70 and 100 disputed areas that still have not been delimitated.  The main problem is that these territories are under strict control of the Uzbek side and that most of the Uzbek border guards seem not to fully understand how the border posts should be run.

Among the border problems that gained significance with the collapse of the USSR, the situation on the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border stands out by remaining tense until today. There are between 70 and 100 disputed areas that still have not been delimitated.  The main problem is that these territories are under strict control of the Uzbek side and that most of the Uzbek border guards seem not to fully understand how the border posts should be run.  They lack professional training and special knowledge.  Their main occupation seems to be to make as much profit as they can from the travelers who try to cross the frontier. Recent incidents on the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border show the attitude of Uzbek border guards to their job and their treatment of Kyrgyz civilians.

A tragic event happened on January 11th, 2002 when a resident of the Kyrgyz-Kyshtak village of Kadamjai district in the southern Batken Province, Kalmurza Erkinov, brought lunch for his son, who shepherded sheep near the border.  But on the way he was stopped by Uzbek guards and was asked to show his passport. He answered that he was on Kyrgyz territory and he was just going to check cattle as he usually did. Uzbek guards tried to demand money, but when their demand was rejected, the angry guards brought him to Uzbek territory and beat him.  Fortunately, women who saw this quickly brought some people from the village that could help to release Kalmurza. When they came and saw the situation, angry Kyrgyz people also started to treat guards in an unproper way. Then an Uzbek border guard opened fire on orders of his sergeant, resulting in the killing of 44-year-old Choiun Kimsanov and wounding of Erkinov.  

This incident is not an exception on the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border. As the correspondent of the “Agym” newspaper reports, 10 days before this incident, Uzbek guards stopped a truck with Kyrgyz license plates and shot down its wheels.  Its drivers were forced to pay five thousand Uzbek sums to pass their territory. Many cattle that cross the border have been confiscated Kyrgyz owners of the cattle have been forced to pay bribes.

All of these incident do not lead to deaths, in fact the events of January 11 were the first such case. Just after this tragic event, the Kyrgyz side requested the extradition of the Uzbek border guards, but there was no answer from Uzbekistan. Deputy Governor of Batken Province Abdymajit Abdrakmanov told an RFL/RL correspondent that a criminal case has been opened and that an investigation had been started. 

According to the Piramida TV station, officials were extremely reserved towards this problem at a press conference, and were asking the court to uphold the principle of tolerance and good-neighborly relations between the two countries.  It is strange that Kyrgyz officials rejected the demand to ask the Uzbek border guards to stand before a Kyrgyz court.  Also, Mr. Mambetov, a Kyrgyz representative to the border commission, said that Kyrgyzstan had no right to demand the extradition of the border guards to Kyrgyzstan given that ‘the crime happened in their territory so they cannot give us the guard and we don’t have the right to claim that.’

Mambetov also added that Kyrgyz people themselves had assaulted the border guards , thrown stones at them, and offended them and that in such conditions, the border guards were allowed to use their weapons. Does it means that guards have the right to violate laws but civilians cannot protect their human rights? Many Kyrgyz people wonder why Kyrgyz officials do not appear to pay more attention to their citizens and to take this problem more seriously. It is clear that many people don’t know how to protect their rights and are very poorly informed. They trust the government, although the leaders of Kyrgyzstan do not seem to be ready to care about their people.  RFL/RL nevertheless reported that that Kyrgyzstan demanded compensation in the amount of 1 million 245 thousand 200 som for the family of Kimsanov who had 5 children, and 6 thousand 803 som for the family of Erkinov. A major problem is that Kyrgyzstan does not have border posts in many areas, leaving it to Uzbekistan to determine and patrol the border. If Kyrgyzstan patrolled its own border, that would help its citizens.

Kunduz Tashtanalieva
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The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst is a biweekly publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, a Joint Transatlantic Research and Policy Center affiliated with the American Foreign Policy Council, Washington DC., and the Institute for Security and Development Policy, Stockholm. For 15 years, the Analyst has brought cutting edge analysis of the region geared toward a practitioner audience.

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