The director-general of the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC), Heng Ratana, on Tuesday warned against pointing the blame for past political decisions that led to the devastation of Cambodia, saying, “the truth should be accepted together to heal the wounds”.
CMAC is tasked with the disposal of explosive remnants of war that still litter the Kingdom.
Ratana’s words came after statements were issued by the embassies of the US and China regarding the Lon Nol coup d’etat of 1970, and the bombing campaigns and laying of landmines that Cambodia faced in the 70s and 80s.
The US Embassy in Cambodia last Thursday claimed on its official Facebook page that there was no evidence the US government was involved in the 1970 coup that precipitated much of the unrest that ravaged the country in the years following.
The coup on March 18, 1970, saw prime minister Prince Norodom Sihanouk overthrown, with Lon Nol taking his place.
The Chinese embassy responded on Friday by issuing a statement singling out the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), not the US government itself, as being behind the coup.
“Please act responsibly and morally as humans to avoid repeating the history Cambodia has experienced."
“Do not think that this nation [Cambodia] is stupid and does not know about the war, the coup and the killing! [All involved] should accept the truth together to heal the wounds, prevent [further] pain and maintain peace for a good future. Repeating the mistakes of the past must also be avoided,” Ratana wrote on Facebook.
He said that Cambodia was bombed by the US during the administration of President Lyndon B Johnson from 1965, with around half a million tonnes of ordnance dropped.
Bombing campaigns were intensified during the following Nixon administration, with around two million tonnes dropped in the five years between 1969-73.
A total of more than 2.8 million tonnes were dropped on Cambodia from October 4, 1965, to August 15, 1973, including 28 million small cluster bombs and chemical munitions.
He said that between four and five million landmines, produced in East and West Europe, China, Russia,the US and Vietnam, were laid in Cambodia.US Embassy spokesman Arend Zwartjes declined to comment.
Kin Phea, the director-general of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said that the US had caused destruction in Cambodia from 1970-75, and then supported – along with China – the Khmer Rouge after its genocidal regime collapsed in 1979.
Permanent Security Council members China, the US, France and the UK helped the Khmer Rouge keep Cambodia’s seat at the UN until 1991.
He said the US and China must stop causing the Cambodian people pain. Both countries, he said, should take positive steps to compensate for mistakes that had caused Cambodians suffering.
“We should not accuse each other like this and should solve this problem peacefully . . . it means not opening painful wounds by making Cambodian people relive these memories,” he said.