The US Embassy in Phnom Penh denounced “efforts to politicise” the recent discovery of several tear gas bombs in Svay Rieng province in a statement yesterday, claiming that Cambodian authorities knew about the bombs “for many years”.
The embassy’s statement added that the Cambodian Mine Action Centre [CMAC] had “received two rounds of detailed training in 2015 and 2016 from US military experts on this specific topic”.
Cooperation between the Kingdom and the US in finding and disposing of unexploded ordinance “has saved lives and brought significant development benefits” to the Kingdom, the statement continues.
CMAC Director Heng Ratana denied the group was aware of bombs in Svay Rieng and rejected claims that the issue was being politicised.
“This is a real problem to Cambodians,” Ratana said. “If someone in the embassy wants to go to the site, I will ask someone on my staff to take them there so that they can see the problem.”
The bombs have become a talking point for Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has repeatedly linked them to birth defects in the province, despite there being no evidence to support such a claim.
Ratana allowed that a “proper assessment” was needed to determine the cause of the birth defects.
Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority Senior Minister Ly Thuch said he wasn’t sure when the body first learned of the bombs because he was new to the organisation, but said the US had “a historic obligation” to remove them.