T HE Royal army is still using landmines against the Khmer Rouge, despite
co-Minister of Defence Tea Banh's comments to the contrary at the recent
international landmines conference.
Tea Banh told 400 delegates from 38
countries that RCAF soldiers had been ordered not to use landmines as combat
weapons, even in defensive measures against the Khmer Rouge.
delegate Denise Coughlan said Tea Banh's pledge had been "extremely exciting"
for fellow delegates.
Coughlan, in reply to Tea Banh, said: "We know it
is difficult, but we urge you to please implement your words."
King Norodom Sihanouk, in a later speech at the Royal Palace, was skeptical for
the success of a 300,000-strong petition calling for a mine ban while the war
with the Khmer Rouge guerrillas continued.
"The landmine problem and the
war problem are linked... we can not say just please use your artillery guns,
your tanks, your helicopter gunships, but don't use landmines," the King
"The Royal government's stance is that until the Khmer Rouge cease
using landmines,the army can not stop using landmines," he said.
Bahn confirmed that - despite his conference speech - the RCAF were still using
mines against the KR "in some areas to protect the lives of the people and the
"However, we are trying hard to stop using landmines," he
The petition to ban mines - which the King also signed - was backed
by a heavyweight endorsement from National Assembly chairman Chea
Along with a condemnation of the Khmer Rouge for using mines, Chea
Sim indicated his support of the law banning mines, which is now being
"We would like to strongly condemn those who are using and
laying mines. [Mines] must be outlawed," Chea Sim said.
He appealed to
countries who produced mines to stop and blow up their existing
"At the same time I would like to appeal to the KR rebel
faction to immediately stop laying new mines and blow up existing stockpiles,"
Chea Sim said.
Tea Bahn said that RCAF had bought no new mines since
"We accept that landmines have created great consequences for the
national society... thousands of lives have been lost, people lose their limbs,"
"I, on behalf of the Royal government and as the Minister of
Defense, I would like to reconfirm that we have been fully and actively
supporting all efforts made by your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen in order
to reduce of the danger of all types of landmines," Tea Banh said.
said the RCAF forces had an important role to help easing the danger and trying
to prevent further mine laying activities.
"I promise that the Ministry
of Defense and the General Staff of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces fully
support and cooperate at all time with you to eliminate landmines from Cambodian
territory," Tea Banh said.
An open letter was drafted by the delegates
to Khmer Rouge leaders.
"We have learned about Cambodia, its suffering
and devastation due to landmines. We plead with you this day to stop using
landmines," said the letter to guerrilla leaders Pot Pol, Khieu Samphan, Ieng
Sary, Ta Mok, Son Sen and all the followers of the Khmer Rouge.
boast of laying new mines on your radio programs. We can not accept this. It is
immoral. Please understand what you are doing. You are destroying lives,
communities and a nation," the letter said.
The participants told the
guerrilla leaders they would win neither the war nor the support of the people
by using mines.
"To all who fight we say stop waging war and using this
terrible weapon," the letter said.
"We have taken encouragement from the
strong support of His Majesty King Norodom Sihanouk. We will not forget what we
have seen. And we will not rest until the world has completed an inevitable
march towards an international ban of landmines," said the letter.
Williams, coordinator of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, said the
conference, the first ever held in a heavily mined country, allowed people to
"really see what it means to a country to live in the midst of
She said it was an privilege to be involved with the movement
towards a global ban on mines, but it was also a huge responsibility.
have the privilege of being in a position to be able to influence governments
and move them," she said. "Coming together here, seeing the effects of landmines
vividly makes us feel that responsibility more."