The Cambodian Mine Action Authority (CMAA) has released a statement in reply to US embassy in Phnom Penh claims that it knew about the presence of chemical bombs in Svay Rieng province for many years, and the organization called for the US to cooperate on disposing of the unexploded ordnance.
“CMAA just got information during January 2017 which was reported by villagers,” said the statement, adding that the US embassy statement was not correct.
CMAA said it condemned all the allegations raised in the statement from the US embassy, which it said was intended to avoid its country’s responsibility.
The US Embassy posted a statement on its Facebook page on Thursday, saying that CMAA had known about the presence of the tear gas bombs in Svay Rieng province for many years.
Though the use of tear gas is often controversial, clear procedures exist by which to dispose of it, and there is no evidence linking it to long-term health problems or birth defects, the embassy said.
“We regret ongoing efforts to politicise this humanitarian issue. The United States believes we should all work together to clear explosive remnants of war in Cambodia and throughout the world,” read the embassy statement, adding that the US also takes seriously its responsibility to address its own legacies and is always willing to consider sincere requests for assistance.
It said: “This cooperation has saved lives and brought significant development benefits to Cambodia. We hope we can return to it soon.”
However, the CMAA pointed out that there had been no response from the US to requests for assistance.
“We contacted the US embassy for joint cooperation based on humanitarian ideals to eliminate the fear of villagers over there, but we have never received any positive response from the US embassy in Phnom Penh,” CMAA said.
The government decided to dispose of the first two bombs itself and discovered more chemical bombs at that commune, while 19 villagers were found to be suffering from the effects of the bombs, it added.
Heng Ratana, the director-general of the Cambodian Mine Action Centre, said the US statement had the intention of insulting the Cambodian people who had died and who are suffering from chemical weapons as well as the experts who are working on the disposal of the barrel bombs.
“We need justice, truth, morality and responsibility,” he said, adding that he supported cooperation between both sides to resolve all these issues.