Thursday, February 10, 2011
Hun Sen insists it's war while Abhisit says it's only border incidents
The Phnom Penh Post's online edition highlighted this main story yesterday:
Prime Minister Hun Sen has accused Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva of war crimes, saying Cambodia has to prepare a “long-term” strategy in its “struggle” with Thailand. Speaking at Chaktomuk Theatre today, Hun Sen described the recent clashes as a “war” necessitating the involvement of the United Nations Security Council.
“This is a real war. It is not a clash,” he said.
“This word has not been used for the call to the UNSC meeting; that’s why Cambodia has called for an urgent meeting.”
Both sides blame the other for the skirmishes, which erupted early on Friday and have claimed at least eight lives on both sides.
Hun Sen today thanked “all political parties and civil society” for their support of the government.
“Thailand is making this war, not Cambodia, and Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva must take responsibility for these war crimes.
“The shelling at the temple and pagoda are one among the war crimes.
“We have to take long action, not just one or two days to finish it,” he said, citing the decades-long dispute over Preah Vihear temple.
“We have to make a long plan strategy to struggle with Thailand.
“To struggle with Thailand is not one day, one year, [but] many years.”
Hun Sen also echoed earlier government claims that Thailand deployed cluster bombs during the skirmishes.
“They launched a cluster bomb. Is that a clash? This is the real war, it exchanged many heavy artillery,” he said.
The government-run Cambodian Mine Action Centre released photos today of cluster munitions allegedly discovered in Kantuot commune, in Preah Vihear province’s Choam Ksan district.
CMAC director general Heng Ratana said his organisation was “really disappointed that these kinds of weapons were used in this conflict”, calling for international organisations to investigate the issue.
Speaking to a delegation of visiting parliamentarians at Sa Em village 27 kilometres from Preah Vihear today, RCAF deputy commander in chief General Hing Bunheang also alleged the use of the weapon.
“[Thailand] used 150mm, 105mm, 130mm and used BM [rockets] as well as cluster bombs,” he said.
“Our soldiers responded to them effectively.”
Thailand is known to hold stockpiles of cluster munitions, according to the advocacy group Cluster Munitions Coalition, which said last year that Bangkok had pledged that it would not use the weapons but had declined to sign the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions outlawing their use.
Thailand reportedly cited “challenges related to the destruction of its stockpiles” as its main obstacle to signing, the CMC said.
Cambodia also has yet to sign on to the Convention, though Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said the Kingdom’s forces “do not use” the weapons.
“The cluster bomb is the bomb that the international community condemns,” he said.
Cluster bombs, launched from the ground or dropped from the air, split open before impact to scatter multiple bomblets over a wide area.
Many initially fail to explode and can lie hidden for decades, maiming civilians who inadvertently happen upon them.
US forces used cluster munitions during the bombing campaign in eastern Cambodia in the 1970s, rendering the Kingdom one of nations most heavily affected by the weapons.
Denise Coughlan, director of Jesuit Services, noted that Preah Vihear temple was not significantly affected by the American bombing campaign.
“If it does prove to be true, I deplore the humanitarian consequences that are going to be caused by the use of cluster bombs,” she said, adding that it might encourage the Kingdom to sign on to the international cluster munitions ban.
Colonel Veerachon Sukondhadhpatipak, deputy spokesman of the Royal Thai Army, denied the charge earlier this week, saying Thai troops had only deployed conventional artillery.
“This is just a normal one, not something against international law or standards. We completely deny the reports,” he told The Post.
Carl Thayer, a professor at the Australian Defence Force Academy, said cluster munitions were typically deployed over a large area as anti-infantry weapons.
“Usually they’re fired in barrages,” he said. “They land and they take out a whole football field.”
Thayer said that if true, Thailand’s use of cluster munitions would constitute “an outrageous escalation” of the conflict, though he cautioned against taking reports from the Cambodian government on the issue at face value.
“From 2008 to now, they’ve always tried to grandstand on this issue … and paint Thailand in the worst possible light, so I’d be initially suspicious,” he said.
Cambodian soldiers stationed close to Preah Vihear temple said there was no sign of fighting since early Monday, but the situation remained tense.
“We’re ready because we can’t trust the Thais any more,” said RCAF soldier Muong Van.
Ung Oeun, governor of Banteay Meanchey province, said Thai officials and military had requested a meeting with Cambodian officials tomorrow along the border in O’Chrou district’s O’Beichoan commune in order to avert the threat of further clashes.
“Even though the situation is calm, our armed forces are on high alert because we have no belief in the Thai military.” ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JAMES O’TOOLE, THET SAMBATH, SEBASTIAN STRANGIO AND REUTERS