Defence Minister Tea Banh has criticised the US government again for ignoring Cambodia’s plight in removing chemical bombs and unexploded ordnances dropped during the Vietnam War.
Speaking at the launch of the chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear national action plan conference in Phnom Penh on Sunday, General Tea Banh said some chemical bombs have been discovered over the past few months.
They are believed to have been dropped by the US during the 1970s, and Cambodia has been waiting for the US to resolve the issue. He said to date there has not been any response.
“Someone seems to ignore the issue and try to neglect our suffering,” Gen Banh said.
“They dropped the bombs on us, and now they force us to pay the debt,” he noted, referencing the $500 million in war loans accrued during the Lon Nol era.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry last month filed a request to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague to ask for assistance in clearing the country of chemical bombs.
In response, the OPCW, which works closely with the UN, dispatched experts to Cambodia to evaluate the impact of chemical weapons at several sites in Mondulkiri, Tbong Khmum, and Svay Rieng provinces.
“We will begin to carry out demining operations at these sites soon,” Gen Banh said.
“The Defence Ministry’s chemical weapons experts and officials from the OCPW will work together to carry out the operations.”
The Cambodian Mines Action Centre reported they had discovered more than 50 locations where US bombs were dropped. In Svay Rieng province alone there were 22 sites found, including chemical bombs thought to contain mustard gas.
More than 100 villagers have sought medical treatment for suspected exposure to chemical bombs at Svay Rieng Provincial Hospital over the past couple of months. Most had skin and respiratory complaints.