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Kingdom denies laying mines

Kingdom denies laying mines

Cambodian soldiers keep a watchful eye on the border at Preah Vihear in July.

Cambodian ambassador, military commanders dismiss allegations from Thais who have accused RCAF troops of deploying new land mines near Preah Vihear.

CAMBODIA’S ambassador to Thailand and an RCAF commander have both rejected media reports and claims by Thai soldiers that Cambodian soldiers have been laying more land mines in the disputed border area around the Preah Vihear temple.

Yim Phim, commander of Brigade 8, which is stationed at the Preah Vihear temple, said Wednesday that there was no reason to lay new land mines in the area. “I reject the Thai military’s accusation,” he said. “Cambodian soldiers are not laying land mines along the border. All the mines on the border were put there in the ’80s and ’90s. [The Thais] have always made accusations against the Cambodian military and have tried to provoke problems with Cambodia in different ways.”

You Ay, the Cambodian ambassador in Bangkok, wrote a letter to Thai newspaper The Nation in response to an article published on September 30 that also alleged that Cambodian troops were laying mines at the border.

In the letter, which ran on October 6, You Ay wrote that decades of war had left Cambodia contaminated with millions of land mines, particularly along the border areas. Though they are decreasing, You Ay wrote, mine explosions in these areas still claim the lives of Cambodians and still pose a grave threat to the people who farm those areas for a living.

“It is extremely provocative and belligerent to allege that Cambodian troops have laid new land mines,” she said in the letter. “This rabble-rousing insinuation to which the Thai media always resorts will only cause greater tension between Cambodia and Thailand.”

Cambodia and Thailand have never fully demarcated their 805-kilometre border. Tensions flared when Cambodia’s Preah Vihear temple, situated surrounded by territory claimed by both nations, was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in July 2008. Since then, troops from both sides have exchanged gunfire, killing at least seven soldiers.

Heng Ratana, director general of the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC), said that since 2003 his organisation had cleared roughly 130,000 land mines – and Halo Trust about 3,000 land mines – from around the temple. “The landmines we cleared were old, but still in good condition. They could still pose a danger to humans,” Heng Ratana said. CMAC is clearing other sites requested by the Preah Vihear Authority.