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PM again hits at US as bomb removal planned

CMAC officials place a tent yesterday around an undetonated 1970s-era CS gas bomb on the grounds of a school in Svay Reing province.
CMAC officials place a tent yesterday around an undetonated 1970s-era CS gas bomb on the grounds of a school in Svay Reing province. Photo supplied

PM again hits at US as bomb removal planned

The Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) will begin removal next week of two chemical bombs found in Svay Rieng in January, as Prime Minister Hun Sen again took aim yesterday at the United States for allegedly not shouldering the burden of its war legacy.

In response, the US Embassy said it had not received any requests to remove the ordnance in Svay Rieng province.

Speaking at a university graduation yesterday, Hun Sen referred to the unexploded American tear gas bombs as “weapons of mass destruction”.

A day after demanding that the US take back its Vietnam War-era bombs, the prime minister said in his speech that he doesn’t expect America will comply with his request.

“I asked the US to take them back. But wait until death, the US will not come,” he said.

The bombs were found by CMAC in January near a pagoda and on a school campus in Svay Rieng’s Romeas Hek district. They contain a substance known as CS, a type of tear gas.

“We have not received any requests from the [Royal Cambodian Government] to assist in removing this ordnance . . . We are happy to consider any requests for additional assistance, if asked,” said US Embassy spokesman Arend Zwartjes, adding that the US has already provided “extensive training” for such situations. “We have no objection if CMAC were to use some of the $2 million we provide annually to take care of this ordnance.”

Hun Sen said thousands of locals would have to be evacuated during the removal and students would have to temporarily stop studying.

“I have recommended to use the special national budget . . . These are the chemical weapons, which is a weapon of mass destruction. It was used as an excuse to accuse Saddam Hussein and deploy troops,” Hun Sen said. Tear gas is generally classified as nonlethal.

Heng Ratana, director of CMAC, said that his organisation and the National Authority for Chemical Weapons (NACW) will inspect the area today, and begin removal Monday.“The technical aspect, we can do it,” Ratana said.

Ke Da, the deputy general secretary of the NACW, said the authorities were not yet sure how long removal would take. “We need to dig, but we cannot use an excavator. I cannot make a conclusion. It depends on the geography,” he said.

Sar Hun, 63, a resident living about 2 kilometres from the bomb site, welcomed news of its removal but he said villagers were not yet aware of the plan or the need to evacuate.

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