Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - CMAC lashes out at US comments



CMAC lashes out at US comments

CMAC officials earlier this month work to neutralise an unexploded tear gas bomb discovered in Svay Rieng province.
CMAC officials earlier this month work to neutralise an unexploded tear gas bomb discovered in Svay Rieng province. Photo supplied

CMAC lashes out at US comments

Government demining bodies have reacted to a United States Embassy statement on US-made chemical weapons uncovered in Svay Rieng, accusing the embassy of distorting facts and evading responsibility for its wartime legacy.

On Thursday, the embassy accused Cambodia of attempting to politicise the presence of American tear gas bombs in Koki commune, claiming Cambodian authorities knew about the bombs “for many years” and had received training from US experts on their safe removal.

The Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority responded the same day, repeating claims that the bombs were only discovered in January.

The next day, however, Heng Ratana, head of the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC), released a report with eyewitnesses saying the bombs first began to spread in 2010. Despite this, Ratana also blasted America’s “insulting” statement.

“The statement is intended to insult Khmers, who died and are suffering from the chemical weapons, particularly insulting the forces who risk their lives to directly remove the chemical weapons,” Ratana wrote.

Read more: The day ‘the sky became smoke white’

On Saturday, Ratana wrote the barrels are also rigged with “explosive and fuses”.

Weapons expert Richard Guthrie confirmed CS bombs typically featured a “burster charge to disperse the material effectively”. While he said the demining teams should be “cautious”, he added that “the charge would be relatively small”.

Ratana also called on the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to provide a “transparent” report.

In a telephone call yesterday, Ratana said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had already filed an official request to the OPCW.

The issue of the bombs has become a political talking point, with numerous government officials decrying the weapons at a time of heightened tensions between the Cambodian government and the US. The US, meanwhile, currently gives $2 million per year to CMAC, with annual funding of the demining sector amounting to around $6 million.

CMAC’s report drew from 10 local eyewitnesses who saw the bombs dropped in 1970 during the Vietnam War, before burying them the following year.

In 2010 and 2011, villagers reported seeing the bombs again when school students began clearing an area of the grounds to plant a garden.

“The smell made some students tear up and feel sick . . . from that time the information of the bombs began to spread,” the report read.

A previous version of this article stated that the US spends around $2 million per year on demining efforts in Cambodia. In fact the US gives $2 million per year to CMAC, and spends around $6 million in total. The Post apologises for the error.

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh placed in two-week lockdown

    The government has decided to place Phnom Penh in lockdown for two weeks, effective April 14 midnight through April 28, as Cambodia continues to grapple with the ongoing community outbreak of Covid-19, which has seen no sign of subsiding. According to a directive signed by Prime Minister

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Hun Sen: Stay where you are, or else

    Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that the two-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Kandal provincial town Takmao could be extended if people are not cooperative by staying home. “Now let me make this clear: stay in your home, village, and district and remain where

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Culture ministry: Take Tuol Sleng photos down, or else

    The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has told Irish photographer Matt Loughrey to take down the photos of Khmer Rouge victims at Tuol Sleng Genocidal Museum which he allegedly colourised and altered to show them smiling. The ministry said Loughrey's work is unacceptable, affecting

  • Cambodia gears up for muted New Year festival

    The recent curfew and restrictions imposed in the capital and other Covid-19 hotspots were intended to break the chain of transmission, Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine said as municipal and provincial authorities issued new directives banning certain activities during the upcoming Khmer New Year