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Amid $1.9M gift, CMAC boss tempers US aid comments

US President Barack Obama greets Laotian deminers during a visit last month in which he announced $90 million in funding for mine clearance. AFP
US President Barack Obama greets Laotian deminers during a visit last month in which he announced $90 million in funding for mine clearance. AFP

Amid $1.9M gift, CMAC boss tempers US aid comments

Seemingly backing away from previous criticism, Heng Ratana, director-general of the Cambodia Mine Action Centre (CMAC), expressed gratitude to the US on Friday for pledging another $1.9 million to the organisation, while still implying that Cambodia is not treated as well as its neighbouring countries.

Ratana posted a Facebook status saying he signed an agreement on Friday with US authorities who pledged $1.9 million over 12 months to “clear over 12 square kilometers of contamination areas in at least 7 provinces”.

Last month, Ratana had taken to Facebook to decry US President Barack Obama’s pledge of $90 million in demining aid to Laos as “unfair”.

Over the weekend, however, Ratana took a more conciliatory tone, thanking the US for its past and present contributions.

“It is important to recall that the United States has provided approx US$40 million to CMAC since 1995,” Ratana wrote. “We highly appreciate the Government and people of the United States,” he added.

Ratana ended his post, however, by once again implying Cambodia was being treated unfairly by the United States. “We firmly hope the moral obligation to Cambodia will be provided in the same way it is to its neighbours,” he wrote, adding “moral obligations must not be discriminatory”.

David Josar, deputy spokesman at the US Embassy, offered differing figures from Ratana, saying the United States has, in fact, donated more than $100 million to various Cambodian organisations in demining aid in the past 20 years.

“The US State Department currently provides $5.5 million in annual support for humanitarian mine action activities in Cambodia,” Josar said.

In comparison, in 2011, the NGO Legacies of War estimated the US had only donated $51 million to Laos. Laos also has the dubious honour of being the most heavily bombed country per capita in history.

Meanwhile, also on Friday, a Battambang villager lost a leg in Samlot district after stepping on a landmine.“He went to his rice farm in order to cut the bush around the farm to prevent wild pigs from entering the farm and stepped on a landmine,” said Kim Ly, Ta Tork commune chief.

She added that in August, another villager in her commune also lost a leg from the same kind of land mine.

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