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Usable guns destroyed

I am writing in connection with the Brad Adams article "Demob-ilization's house

of mirrors" [Post, Nov 23]. I feel there are a number of points requiring clarification.

Gaining an insight into the true strength of the RCAF is indeed a problem. Yet this

is an issue that should have been dealt with by a thorough investigation into the

numbers of arms and personnel under the command of the RCAF by the donors, most notably

the World Bank, before the demobilisation process began.

The notion that disarmament is not part of Government policy is patently untrue.

The Royal Government realises very well that the extent of the task of effectively

disarming the nation stretches way beyond the issue of demobilisation and its own

meagre resources, hence its request for the assistance of the European Union in 1999.

Before the involvement of the European Union, the Royal Government had already collected

approximately 100,000 weapons and destroyed one third of these in public ceremonies.

Since the start of the EU ASAC programme, over 40,000 weapons have been collected

and destroyed on 'Flames of Peace' in seven ceremonies this year, including one in

Pailin. These weapons have been collected not only from the security forces but also

from the civilian population through the 'Weapons for Development' pilot projects

in Kratie and Pursat. The effect on local security in the provinces is manifest.

Just eighteen months ago the governor of Kratie was required to travel with an armed

convoy. Today he drives his own car.

Before being destroyed, every single weapon is checked by an international weapons

expert to assess its condition. Of the weapons that have been destroyed under EU

ASAC supervision, we estimate that between 60 and 80% of them were in an operational

state.

According to the article, observers had noted that many or most of the weapons that

have been destroyed have either been old or useless. Let me remind you that a weapon

can maim or kill regardless of its age and that any number of "useless"

weapons can easily be cannibalised to create one working weapon. When you consider

the huge number of weapons remaining in Cambodia, it is clear that all weapons remain

a threat.

Indeed, the policy of the Royal Government of Cambodia and EU ASAC is that all weapons

in excess of those required for legitimate national defence and internal security

must be destroyed whilst those remaining must be suitably registered and stored by

the relevant authorities. At present the Royal Government does not even have the

resources to remove stockpiled weapons from open wooden sheds hence 'Safe Storage

and Registration' being a pillar of EU ASAC policy. The first safe storage depot

was built in Kampong Cham Province this year with another scheduled for Battambang

Province in 2002.

Why then if disarmament does not exist as a policy has the Royal Government requested

and been granted further EU assistance into 2002 and beyond to collect and destroy

surplus weapons from both the security forces and the civilian population? Why then

are a further 4,000 weapons being publicly burnt on the December 3 in Takeo province?

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