Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ratana decries lack of UXO aid

Ratana decries lack of UXO aid

Members of CMAC excavate unexploded cluster munitions in June after they were discovered in Kandal province. National police
Members of CMAC excavate unexploded cluster munitions in June after they were discovered in Kandal province. National police

Ratana decries lack of UXO aid

A top Cambodian demining official slammed US President Barack Obama’s widely heralded pledge to increase demining aid to Laos on Tuesday, faulting the US for what he characterised as its “marginal assistance” to Cambodia’s demining efforts.

In a speech at the 2016 ASEAN Summit in Vientiane on Tuesday, Obama pledged $90 million in demining aid to Laos over the next three years, prompting Heng Ratana, director-general of the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC), to immediately take to social media to decry the aid package.

“This is very unfair and injustice for Cambodian people!” Ratana wrote in a status update, published late that same night.

Ratana claimed almost 3 million tonnes of bombs were dropped in Cambodia, killing 500,000 people. (The actual tally of US bombs and the casualties they caused is still disputed by historians.)

“However, Cambodia remains receiving a marginal assistance”, Ratana wrote.

The US military engaged in secret bombings of Cambodia and Laos during the Vietnam War from 1964 to 1973. Many bombs failed to detonate on impact, leaving the countryside of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam riddled with unexploded ordnance (UXO).

Yale professor and historian Ben Kiernan has estimated that closer to 500,000 tonnes of bombs were dropped in Cambodia, with about 50,000 to 150,000 Cambodians killed.

By comparison, Kiernan accepts the conventional estimate – reiterated by Obama on Tuesday – that over 2 million tonnes of bombs were dropped on Laos during that same period, making it the most heavily bombed country, per capita, in history.

However, this did little to assuage Ratana.

“They dropped on three countries but gave aid to two, and don’t give to one”, Ratana said in an interview yesterday. “We don’t have power, as the money is in their pocket, but we will tell about our need.”

A spokesman for the US Embassy in Cambodia, however, said that the US government is “one of the largest donors” to Cambodia in terms of demining aid, currently contributing $5.5 million in annual support.

“The United States has been working to address explosive remnants of war in Cambodia for more than 20 years and has invested well over $100 million to remove and safely dispose of landmines and unexploded ordnance”, spokesman Jay Raman said yesterday.

Ratana, however, declined to address the US’s decades of assistance. He also dismissed the notion that his remarks could have a negative impact on future funding.

“I think that US President Obama understands about the moral obligation, and he should provide justice,” he said.

The Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority, meanwhile, took a more diplomatic approach, congratulating Laos on the new deal and acknowledging the past assistance of the US government, while expressing hope to strengthen cooperation in the future.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro

  • ACLEDA, WU to enable global money transfers

    Cambodia's largest commercial bank by total assets ACLEDA Bank Plc and global money transfer firm Western Union (WU) have partnered to offer customers cross-border money transfers to 200 countries via “ACLEDA mobile” app. In Channy, president and group managing director of ACLEDA, said the June 22 agreement

  • Aeon, Micromax partner again for third mall

    AEON Mall (Cambodia) Co Ltd and a locally-owned Micromax Co Ltd have entered into a partnership agreement to develop fibre optic infrastructure for $200 million Aeon Mall 3, which is expected to be opened in 2023. The agreement was signed on June 20 between Masayuki Tsuboya, managing director of

  • Walmart plans to diversify stock of Cambodia goods

    Walmart Inc, the world’s biggest retailer, on June 22 reiterated recent plans to scale up and greatly diversify its purchases of Cambodian products, according to the labour ministry. This came during a virtual working meeting between Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Samheng and