By The Nation
The Army on Thursday rejected Cambodia's claim that Thai troops used cluster bombs in the recent armed clashes at the common borders, saying that in fact it was Cambodia that resorted to the weapon.
Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd, spokesman for the Royal Thai Army, said that the Army has not used cluster munitions in the latest round of border fight against Cambodia.
In fact, it was the Cambodian side that used the weapon with Thai troops, he said. Major Thanakorn Poonperm, deputy commander of the Paramilitary Rangers Company 2306 was killed by this type of weapon, according to the spokesman. Thanakorn sustained serious head injuries during a Cambodian attack involving the use of cluster munitions and was pronounced dead at hospital.
Earlier, the Cambodians accused Thailand of deploying cluster bombs during the border skirmishes that began on Friday. Both countries have accused the other of opening fire first.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen made such a claim on Wednesday when he described the border clashes as a war. "They launched a cluster bomb. Is that a clash? This is the real war, it exchanged many [rounds of] heavy artillery," he was quoted as saying by the Phnom Penh Post.
The claim was echoed by the Cambodian army's deputy chief General Hing Bunheang and government-run Cambodian Mine Action Centre director general Heng Ratana.
However, a foreign expert has expressed suspicion at the Cambodian claim.
Carl Thayer, a professor at the Australian Defence Force Academy, cautioned against taking reports from the Cambodian government on the issue at face value. "From 2008 to now, they have always tried to grandstand on this issue … and paint Thailand in the worst possible light, so I would be initially suspicious," he was quoted as saying in a Phnom Penh Post report on Wednesday.
Cluster munitions - also known as cluster bombs and sub-munitions - are an explosive weapon that can be dropped from the air or launched from the ground. The bomb ejects smaller munitions - a cluster of bomblets.
Releasing many bomblets over a wide area, a cluster bomb poses risks to civilians both during and after attacks. During attacks, the weapon is prone to indiscriminate effects, especially in populated areas. Unexploded bomblets can kill or maim civilians long after a conflict has ended, and unexploded sub-munitions are costly to locate and remove.
Thailand and Cambodia are not among the 43 countries that have ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which has taken effect since August 1, 2010, and bans the stockpiling, use and transfers of existing cluster bombs and provides for the clearing up of unexploded munitions.
Many of the world's major military powers including the United States, Russia and China are not signatories to the treaty. These three countries also have produced and stockpiled cluster munitions.