The head of the Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) has blasted a decision by the United States to grant $90 million in aid to Laos for clearing its unexploded ordnance (UXO).
CMAC director general Heng Ratana exploded on his official Facebook page on Tuesday after US President Barack Obama announced that the US would be providing Laos, which was also heavily bombed during the Vietnam War, $90 million over the next three years to clear UXO.
“Cambodian people hurt twice by American policy related to bombardment,” Mr. Ratana said, adding that first, the US dropped nearly three million tons of bombs on Cambodia, with more than 30 million cluster submunitions, chemical bombs and conventional bombs directly killing more than 500,000 Cambodian people and destroying thousands of villages and homes.
He added that second, when the US acknowledged their cruel war in Indochina and said it was their moral obligation and responsibility to help, the US provided remarkable sums of financial assistance to Laos and Vietnam, while Cambodia only received marginal assistance.
Cambodia and Laos were also victims of the Vietnam War and millions of US bombs remain in these countries. About 20,000 Lao people have been killed or injured by UXO and more than 76,000 Cambodian people have been killed or injured by UXO and landmines.
“This is very unfair and an injustice for Cambodian people! Thus, USA hurts Khmers twice for their bombardment! During bombing and clearing remaining unexploded bombs!” read the post, which was written in both Khmer and English.
Mr. Ratana told Khmer Times that from 2005, the US granted about $1.5-2 million in aid directly to CMAC per year, but that increased to about $5-6 million including aid provided to NGOs working on landmine and UXO clearance.
“I ordered 300 officials to survey and clear the areas affected by America’s bombs. We need many decades to clear UXO dropped by the US,” he said, adding that landmines have already been surveyed.
According to Reuters, which reported the White House’s statement, the additional funding to Laos would be used for a comprehensive UXO survey and for continued clearing operations.
“I believe the United States has a moral obligation to help Laos heal,” Mr. Obama said.
Source: Khmer Times