Cluster bombs used in Cambodia-Thai border clash

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA: The Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) confirmed Thursday the use of cluster munitions by the Thai military to bombard Cambodia and said it is deploying an “emergency response” team to Preah Vihear province.

"An immediate preventative measure is being taken by CMAC to quickly deploy Mine/UXO Risk Education (MRE) teams to begin a massive rapid campaign for the populations affected by the four day clash between Thailand and Cambodia that took place from the 4th to 7th February this year," CMAC said in a statement.

The teams are posting leaflets and conducting training sessions to help the communities identify and avoid the explosive weapons, the statement added.

Cluster munitions are air-dropped or ground-launched weapons that split open before impact to scatter sub-munitions ("bomblets") over an area. During the attack, because of their dispersing bomblets, they strike indiscriminately, especially over populated areas.

Unexploded cluster bomblets continue to cause harms on the populations long after the conflict has ended.

Earlier this week, the government demining body said that its staffers had discovered cluster munitions in Cambodian territory near Preah Vihear temple following the clashes with Thailand that left at least eight people dead, Cambodia's Phnom Penh Post reported.

The Thai Army denied that troops used cluster bombs in the recent clashes. Army spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said that Cambodia had in fact deployed the weapons against Thailand, and claimed that Major Thanakorn Poonperm was killed by this type of weapon, Thailand's The Nation newspaper reported.

On Wednesday, Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen accused Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva of war crimes.

"They launched a cluster bomb. Is that a clash? This is the real war, it exchanged many heavy artillery," he said, as cited by Phnom Penh Post.

"Thailand is making this war, not Cambodia, and Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva must take responsibility for these war crimes," the prime minister added.

According to the CMAC statement, Cambodia and Thailand have not signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions which prohibits the use of cluster munitions.

On Tueday, The United Nations cultural agency UNESCO said it plans to send a mission to assess the damage caused to the Preah Vihear Temple, a World Heritage site, by the recent armed clashes between Thailand and Cambodia.

Tensions first escalated between the South-East Asian neighbours in July 2008 following the build-up of military forces near the temple, which dates back to the 11th century and is located on the Cambodian side of the border.


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