Cambodia flatly denied allegations made by Thailand that it was responsible for planting the mine that severely injured a Thai soldier last week, saying the old landmines were laid by the Khmer Rouge more than 30 years ago.
“This was clearly in violation of Thai sovereignty and seriously injured a Thai soldier,” Thani said.
Sergeant Chatree Kaewprasan of the Thai 23rd Infantry Division was on a foot patrol in the disputed area near Preah Vihear temple on Wednesday night when a landmine blew off his right leg.
In a statement released the same day, Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the border between the two countries is still heavily contaminated by landmines and unexploded ordnance that were buried by the Khmer Rouge, sometimes in Thai territory, over the course of nearly three decades of war.
“The area near Preah Vihear temple where a mine was set off by a Thai soldier was previously a battle zone and a sanctuary of the Khmer Rouge forces, who must have laid many landmines to protect their position during the war,” read the statement. “It is extremely sad and disturbing that such baseless accusations are made against Cambodia, when mine explosions are still a common occurrence, even in places inhabited or cultivated for years after the war ended.”
Heng Ratana, director general of Cambodian Mine Action Centre, said areas along the Thai-Cambodian border remain heavily mined.
“We cleared the areas around the temple and the pagoda [Wat Keo Sekha Kirisvara] in 2008, and we collected a lot of landmines,” said Heng Ratana. “But since we had the border dispute, we stopped the activity. Cambodian soldiers have also stepped on mines along the border before, not just Thai people.”
A Thai army spokesman Col Prawit Hukaew said both the wounded sergeant’s legs had been amputated and that he was now out of danger.
To contact the reporter on this story: Cheang Sokha at [email protected]