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CMAC Investigating Cluster Munition Site

A Cambodian army soldier takes photographs of the damaged section of Cambodia's famed Preah Vihear temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Cambodia angrily rejected Thailand's accusation that Cambodian troops used a centuries-old Hindu temple along their di

The Cambodian Mine Action Center is investigating a site in Preah Vihear province where the Cambodian military has accused the Thais of firing cluster munitions.

Thai military officials have strongly denied the use of the widely banned weapons, which scatter bomblets that often fail to detonate and pose a future risk for civilians.

The investigation follows intense border clashes over the weekend that have left up to 10 people dead, including civilians, and have caused thousands villagers to flee.

CMAC Secretary-General Heng Ratana said Wednesday that teams from the organization were investigating a site in Kantaut commune, Choam Khsant district, some 5 kilometers into Cambodia.

“We are conducting more investigation of 105-millimeter and 155-millimeter shells loaded with cluster munitions by Thai soldiers,” he said. “We found some remnants. We have clear evidence and see cluster munitions have spread in some areas.”

However, a tense military situation has made conducting an investigation difficult, he said.

Thai military and political spokesmen strongly denied the use of the weapons.

“No such thing happened,” Chinnakaj Rattanajitti, a Thai army spokesman on the border, told the Voice of America in the Thai province of Si Sa Ket.

Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn told the Voice of America that Thai soldiers had also discovered cluster weapons in the area, but he ascribed these to the Cambodian military.

CMAC is meanwhile in the process of educating civilians in the area of safety around cluster munitions.

The investigation comes amid increased amid relative calm on the border. No clashes were reported Wednesday, but Cambodian and Thai troops remain entrenched along the border near Preah Vihear temple.

Cambodia rejected a Thai request for bilateral talks to ease tensions and is seeking mediation through Asean or the UN Security Council, said Koy Kuong, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Bilateral talks conducted since a military build-up in 2008 have failed, he said. “Cambodia was willing to solve the problem through bilateral talks, but Thailand lacks a clear will to resolve it.”