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

  • NY sisters inspired by Khmer heritage

    Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Cambodian-American sisters Edo and Eyen Chorm have always felt a deep affinity for their Cambodian heritage and roots. When the pair launched their own EdoEyen namesake jewellery brand in June, 2020, they leaned heavily into designs inspired by ancient Khmer

  • Schools drawn into Manet degree row

    Prime Minister Hun Sen stepped into the Hun Manet-Sam Rainsy war of words over the validity of Manet’s degree from the US Military Academy at West Point, set off by Rainsy’s claims that Manet had received a “second-class degree” or “honorary degree”. Hun

  • Cambodia records first Omicron community case

    The Ministry of Health on January 9 reported 30 new Covid-19 cases, 29 of which were imported and all were confirmed to be the Omicron variant. The ministry also reported 11 recoveries and no new deaths. Earlier on January 9, the ministry also announced that it had detected the Kingdom's

  • The effects of the USD interest rate hike on Cambodian economy

    Experts weigh in on the effect of a potential interest rate expansion by the US Federal Reserve on a highly dollarised Cambodia Anticipation of the US Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike in March is putting developing economies on edge, a recent blog post by

  • PM eyes Myanmar peace troika

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has suggested that ASEAN member states establish a tripartite committee or diplomatic troika consisting of representatives from Cambodia, Brunei and Indonesia that would be tasked with mediating a ceasefire in Myanmar. The premier also requested that Nippon Foundation chairman Yohei Sasakawa

  • Kampot tourism quay ‘90% done’

    Construction on Kampot International Tourism Port – a 4ha quay in Teuk Chhou district about 6km west of Kampot town – has fallen off track, reaching 90 per cent completion, according to a senior Ministry of Tourism official last week. The project is now planned to be finished