WHILE representatives from Cambodia and over 100 other nations meet in Oslo to push
for a treaty to ban the use of landmines, new mines are being laid in the northern
Aid workers and others returning from the Samrong/O'Smach area confirm that new mines
are being placed. However, most of the devices are basic, badly disguised anti-personnel
mines which are not highly dangerous, according to Piers Zog of the Halo Trust demining
"All the mines we have seen have been only improvised mines... only on the edges
of the road," said Zog. During his three-day survey of the area between Samrong
and Kong Kriel - roughly halfway to O'Smach on Rt 68 - his team cleared160 mines.
"They're fairly crap and very, very easy to find," he added.
He indicated that the mines had been manufactured and laid by the resistance forces,
but could not say whether they were produced by the Khmer Rouge or by Funcinpec.
Almost all were placed in tall grass alongside Rte 68 to aid in ambushes of advancing
CPP troops, Zog said.
The 30cm mines, containing 1.5kg of explosives, sit on the ground, covered in foliage,
with an electric wire leading to a pressure plate 30cm away. Their simplistic design
makes them injurious but "not particularly dangerous," said Zog, since
the fragments tend to explode vertically and the victim is at a distance from the
"I spoke to three soldiers who had trodden on them. They only had superficial
fragmentation damage to their upper bodies," he reported.
Representatives of the anti-Hun Sen resistance have freely admitted that mines are
their main form of defense. "We have laid a lot of mines... In five minues,
we can lay 10 to 15 mines," one said last week.
It is unclear how many victims mines have claimed in the fighting. A recent visitor
to two Siem Reap hospitals, where the more badly injured from the O'Smach area are
usually taken, saw about 20 people, soldiers and civilians, with mine injuries.
Medical and aid workers are concerned at the prospect of refugees returning to the
Samrong/O'Smach areas through newly-laid mines.
"I am afraid they will go back and clear their rice fields limb by limb and
leg by leg," said Friedrun Medert, Head of Delegation of the International Committee
of the Red Cross.
Piers Zog acknowledged the fear. "We know there are new mines around O'Smach,"
he said. "This will mean problems for repatriation on Route 68 north of Kong
While Zog said that he had "no reason to suspect that the government forces
are doing it," a freelance photographer reported seeing CPP soldiers laying
the same type of mines in early August.
Tea Chamrath, Co-Defense Minister, said he had no knowledge of either government
or resistance troops laying the devices. "Mines? I don't know about that."
Ieng Mouly, Minister of Information and president of the Cambodian Mine Action Center,
led a Cambodian delegation to the Oslo conference. A draft law to ban mines has been
presented to the Council of Ministers, but has not yet progressed to the National
Assembly for a vote.
On August 18, a group of five NGOs sent a letter to the Council of Ministers expressing
concern about press reports of new landmine use by government soldiers.