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Cambodia rebuffs claim that it laid mines along border

Cambodia rebuffs claim that it laid mines along border

Cambodian officials again deny that new land mines have been planted on the border, killing one Thai soldier and maiming two others

DESPITE accusations by Thai delegates at last month's Geneva conference on mines and cluster munitions that the Cambodian military planted new mines near Preah Vihear temple, Cambodian representatives maintain that not a shred of evidence has been produced to support the allegations.

"Thai delegates asked the president of the conference to write [in the protocol] that Cambodia has planted fresh mines along the border that wounded two Thai soldiers, but [they] did not produce any evidence," said Sam Sotha, secretary general of the Cambodian Mine Action Authority, during a roundtable discussion on land mines and the Preah Vihear region on Thursday.

Three-party talks

The Thai representatives "asked the conference to agree to three-party talks that included Thailand, Cambodia and a representative of the conference to continue discussing the issue", Sam Sotha said.  

But the Cambodian delegates also rebuffed the proposal to bring in a third party to help find a solution, according to Heng Ratana, deputy director general of Cambodian Mine Action Centre.

At least one Thai soldier was killed and two others were seriously wounded in land mine incidents during the ongoing standoff at the border.

Common knowledge

"Everyone in the world knows that Cambodia has millions of land mines in its soil," Sam Sotha said. "Those Thai soldiers came into a part of Cambodia where there are a lot of land mines."

Heng Ratana said more than 100 soldiers trespassed more than a kilometre into Cambodian territory when the incidents happened. He said the Thai delegates had claimed that "the mines looked new and sounded loud", but he said this was normal because mines do not degrade rapidly.  

Border demarcation and demining of the contested area was originally planned to start  in mid-December but was delayed due to the political turmoil in Bangkok. A new date has not been set.

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