Cambodia Hits Back Over Thai Border Landmine Claims

The Ministry of Defense on Friday hit back at Thai claims that Cambodia violated the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines after three Thai border rangers were seriously injured in a mine explosion on the Thai side of the border near Preah Vihear province Tuesday.

On Thursday, The Bangkok Post quoted Thai military spokesman Winthai Surawee as saying that Vietnamese mines newly planted by Cambodian forces were responsible for the blast, which cost one of the Thai rangers his leg.

The Ministry of Defense in Phnom Penh denied the claim that its forces had laid new mines.

“The publication…quoted a military spokesman…who accused Cam­bodia without foundation and confused national and international opinions,” the Defense Ministry’s statement said, adding that it was “very sad” that such allegations had been made, to the detriment of peacekeeping efforts in the previously restive border area.

“The spokesman of the Minis­try of Defense declares that we deny and condemn the accusation of the Thai military spokesman, which lacks foundation, and accuses Cambodia of using [TMN1] landmines produced by Vietnam,” the statement adds.

Reached by telephone on Friday, Cambodian Defense Minister General Tea Banh said the statement was intended to disseminate Cambodia’s innocence and response to Thailand far and wide.

“We broadcast the statement to let the world know,” Gen. Banh said. “We posted it online through the Council of Ministers. We sent it everywhere. We issued the letter because the newspaper did not report the truth.”

Neang Phat, a secretary of state at the Defense Ministry, said the Thai claim of planting mines, “was not right, so we responded.”

According to Bangkok Post report, the mine blast occurred in Thailand’s Surin province and involved a TMN1 landmine. A second report on Friday accused Cambodia of newly laying the Vietnamese-made mines, which were apparently found 1 meter over the border.

In its rebuttal, Cambodia flatly denied flouting the Ottawa Treaty, which it ratified in 1999 and prohibits countries from stockpiling and using the deadly weapons.

“Cambodia has tried to fulfill its mission, not only implementing the Ottawa Convention, but also campaigning against the use of landmines,” the Defense Ministry said in its rebuttal statement.

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