Deminers have marked 47 hectares of land in two villages in Preah Vihear province as dangerous areas due to shelling from Thai forces during February clashes along the border.
Heng Ratana, director general of the Cambodian Mine Action Centre, said yesterday his staff had marked parts of Chey Sen and Thomarcheat villages in Preah Vihear’s Choam Ksan district, but lacked the resources to clear the land immediately.
CMAC has destroyed 20 unexploded shells as well as 12 cluster munitions found at the sites, he said. Though both armies used heavy artillery in the fighting, Thailand used cluster bombs – large shells that split open before impact and spread dozens of small bomblets across a wide area.
The Thai military does not consider the weapons used to be cluster bombs, though they appear to have all the tell-tale characteristics.
The controversial weapons have been internationally condemned because they often lie dormant for years, leaving a lasting threat to civilians. Neither Cambodia nor Thailand has signed a treaty banning cluster bombs. CMAC had found no evidence that cluster munitions were used in the fighting that broke out last month, Minh Sron, Oddar Meanchey provincial chief for CMAC, said yesterday.
He did not know how long it would take to clear sites in Oddar Meanchey, but added that there have been no reports of civilians injured by UXOs yet.
Meanwhile, there has also been an “ongoing effort” to clear Cambodian shells on the Thai side, Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY THOMAS MILLER