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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Questions surround Thai land mine claim

Questions surround Thai land mine claim

A MILITARY court in Phnom Penh is set to announce a verdict today in the case of a Thai national accused of planting land mines along the Thai-Cambodian border.

Suphap Vong Pakna confessed during testimony last week that he planted at least five explosive devices in a disputed area in Oddar Meanchey province. The man said he was paid by Thai soldiers to lay the mines before he was arrested last February. His lawyer said Thursday that he plans to argue for a lenient sentence.

“I hope that the court would consider the minimum jail term for my client because he was cheated by the Thai soldiers, he lacks education, and he has a mental health problem,” lawyer Sam Sokong said.

The lawyer said his client is charged with attempted murder, endangering national security and entering the country illegally – which he said could result in a prison term of between 15 and 30 years in the event of a conviction.

The case has led to renewed focus on a still-unresolved 2008 incident in which two Thai soldiers were severely injured when they stepped on land mines near the border. The Thai government said the mines had been freshly planted and pointed the finger at Cambodia.

Leng Sochea, deputy secretary general of the Cambodia Mine Action Authority, said Thailand must address the incident, noting that a diplomatic note sent to Thailand in response to the allegations had gone unanswered.

“We need an explanation from the Thai government. Otherwise we will lose face because of their allegation,” Leng Sochea said.

“We want the Thai government to look at the history of land mines and the confession of the Thai man.”

The Post was unable to reach Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn for comment Thurday, but he has previously declined to comment on the case.

Meanwhile, figures released Thursday suggest a continued drop in the number of land mine or explosive remnant of war (ERW) casualties registered in the Kingdom last year. In 2009, 243 people were injured or killed by explosives, compared with 271 in 2008, according to statistics from the Cambodia Mine/ERW Victim Information System.

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