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Committee to tackle legacy of chemical weapons

Khmer Times Staff No Comments Share:
The government has formed a new committee to help remove and dispose of all leftover weapons of war.

Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Tea Banh has set up a new committee tasked with getting rid of chemical weapons and remnants of war from the 1970s that are still being discovered in Cambodia.
Mr Banh established the committee after meeting with ministers to address the long-term impact of weapons and remnants left after years of conflict.
According to a report by the Defence Ministry seen by Khmer Times, Mr Banh told ministers the committee would help Cambodia fulfil its obligations under the UN Chemical Weapons Convention.
“Today we take another step that falls in line with this,” Mr Banh told the meeting.
The committee will set up a team charged with deciding how to destroy chemical weapons, such as barrel bombs filled with tear gas, which have been found mostly in the north-eastern province of Mondulkiri in Sen Monorom and O’Raing Ov districts, which border Vietnam.
The hilly province was part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail during the Vietnam War from 1965 to 1975. At the time, the US bombed North Vietnamese communists in the area, who used Cambodian territory to supply their forces in the south of their country.
The report explained how biological weapons, radioactive and nuclear contaminated material had also been found in other parts of Cambodia.
The 26-member committee will work with stakeholders and international organisations on how to destroy these remnants of war without posing security or environmental risks, it said. The committee will be chaired by Mr Banh and several deputies – Environment Minister Say Samal, Foreign Affairs Secretary of State Ouch Borith, Energy Ministry Secretary of State Ith Praing and Finance Ministry Secretary of State Chou Vichet.
Mr Borith said the committee marked a turning point in the country’s approach to cleaning up the aftermath of war. “This meeting was the first time Cambodia has addressed the negative impact from Agent Orange used by the US during the Vietnam War,” he said.
“Such chemical contamination continues to hurt us today. It affects our people’s health. We will look to draft a plan and seek foreign donors, especially America, given the US Air Force used Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.”
Mr Borith suggested Cambodia’s debt to the US should be considered as part of any arrangement.
“The US may look to help us by converting Cambodia’s debt to the US to address the impact of these chemical weapons,” he said. “Cambodia may raise this issue with the US in future.”
Cambodia’s debt to the US from the war era is about $500 million and increasing due to interest rates.
The US dropped about 500,000 tons of explosives on Cambodia without the approval of Congress, which was required at the time for any military action.

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