Cambodia’s foreign minister has requested the aid of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to verify the remnants of reported chemical weapons unearthed in the country.
The request from Prak Sokhon came amid tensions between the United States and Cambodia which has seen Prime Minister Hun Sen criticize Washington for what he said was its reticence to deal with the remnants of its wars in Southeast Asia.
Sokhon’s November 1 statement said he had written to Ahmet Uzumcu, director-general of the OPCW, based in the Netherlands, saying that operations to clear landmines and other unexploded ordinance had uncovered numerous “contaminated” areas of the country.
Devices believed to be vehicles for the disbursal of chemical weapons were found in Mondulkiri province in 2012 and in Svay Rieng province in October this year.
So far the government has identified 34 locations thought to contain the remnants of chemical weapons, the statement added, saying the government “wishes to seek OPCW’s assistance in the verification process of all devices in the known locations, and assistance to support further national survey on chemical weapons contamination as well as future clearance and destruction.”
The OPCW did not respond to immediate requests for comment. Heng Ratana, director general of the Cambodian Mine Action Center, and a foreign ministry spokesman could not be reached.
Meas Ny, a political and social researcher, said he was unaware of whether the Untied States had used chemical weapons during its bombardment of Cambodia in the early 1970s, adding that he had witnessed the use of napalm and cluster munitions dropped by U.S. B-52 bombers near his home in Svay Rieng.
“But as for chemical weapons, as far as I remember ... bombs were dropped not far from my home, but I did not hear about chemical bombs. I’ve been wondering why all these bombs were just found now, unexploded.”
The United States has spent more than $160 million over two decades on mine and unexploded ordnance clearance in Cambodia.