Canadian military Technical Advisors remain officially restricted from entering
CMAC minefields twelve days after their commanding officer banned them from
doing so due to safety concerns.
"Canadian military technical advisors
haven't gone back to the field, so technically the restriction is still in
place," Canadian Ambassador Normand Mailhot confirmed on Feb 28.
restriction on Canadian military Technical Advisors' normal in-the-field
inspections of demining activities came to a halt on Feb 14 when CMAC's Canadian
contingent commander Lieutenant Colonel Michel Verreault banned such activities
due to "safety concerns."
Verreault's decision was prompted by a trio of
incidents in February in which the lives of Canadian technical advisors and
Khmer deminers were put at risk due to CMAC Site Managers in Demining Units Two
and Three outside Battambang falsely designating mined land as
According to Mailhot, a decision on if and when the restriction
will be lifted is pending on the evaluation of visiting Canadian Brigadier
General Chris Ford in collaboration with Verreault.
Ford's visit has
been described by Canadian authorities as "routine" and unrelated to the latest
Although Canadian military Technical Advisors were expected
to deliver an initial report regarding how serious and widespread the problem of
falsification of demined land in Battambang was, Mailhot said that
investigations were continuing.
"Lieutenant Colonel Verreault and
Brigadier General Ford will go to Battambang on March 1 to see the [disputed]
minefields for themselves," Mailhot told the Post. "When they return there will
be another examination of the matter."
Mailhot indicated a decision on
whether Canadian Technical Advisors will be allowed to enter minefields might be
made by early next week.
The status of a separate CMAC investigation of
the Battambang incidents announced by CMAC Director General Khem Sophoan on Feb
20 remains uncertain.
Post requests to meet with Sophoan went
unanswered, and Mailhot said he had not been informed about the progress of the
Verreault's decision has severely strained
traditionally warm relations between CMAC management and its Canadian
contingent, who have provided the backbone of CMAC's training operations since
the agency's founding in 1992.
Sophoan has admitted that he felt betrayed
by Verreault's decision to unilaterally restrict Canadian military Technical
Advisors' activities and had sent letters of protest about Verreault's move to
both Prime Minister Hun Sen and Sok An.
Verreault himself remains
unrepentant about his decision.
"I'm not trying to destroy CMAC, I'm just
trying to fulfill my duty as a Canadian military officer," Verreault told the
Post on Feb 28. "I'm concerned with safety in general, but in particular the
safety of Canadian technical advisors under my command."