Thai army destroys thousands of land mines in jungle

Soldiers clad in protective vests placed stacks of unexploded ordnance in a pit and gingerly laid explosive charges on top. (File/AFP)
Updated 06 August 2019

Thai army destroys thousands of land mines in jungle

  • Local residents who had been maimed by leftover mines were given gifts by the army after watching the operation
  • The border between Thailand and Cambodia is still littered with land mines from decades of civil war

SA KAEO, Thailand: Pulling back to a safe distance atop a hill, Thai troops blew up thousands of anti-personnel land mines on Tuesday with controlled explosions that sent black plumes of smoke high above jungle treetops. Thailand is one of more than 160 countries to have signed the Ottawa Treaty, which prohibits the use and stockpiling of the destructive weapon and aims to clear all mines by 2025.

As part of a dayslong operation to destroy the rest of Thailand’s stockpile, soldiers clad in protective vests placed stacks of unexploded ordnance in a pit and gingerly laid explosive charges on top. “From now on, Thailand will no longer retain any more anti-personnel land mines,” said General Chaichana Nakkerd with the Thai armed forces joint chiefs of staff.

Standing on an observation hill as technicians detonated the charges, he said 3,133 land mines would be destroyed in Sa Kaeo province to “affirm our stance in not using” them. But the border between Thailand and Cambodia is still littered with land mines from decades of civil war in Cambodia, where the remnants of the defeated Khmer Rouge retreated in the 1980s.

Chaichana said Thailand, which signed the treaty in 1998, still has a long way to go to clear a 360-kilometer area along the border by its deadline of 2023. “The problem we still have is... the border with neighboring countries are in rural areas and on hills,” he said, making them challenging to remove.

Local residents who had been maimed by leftover mines were given gifts by the army after watching the operation. The Ottawa treaty has helped eliminate 51 million land mines over the past two decades since it was enacted in 1997. But the United States, China, Egypt, India, Israel, Pakistan and Russia have not signed it.

A recent Landmine Monitor report shows that the number of people killed or injured from land mines nearly doubled in 2015 to 6,461 from 3,695 the year before — making it the highest recorded total in a decade.


Taliban aim to sign deal with US by end of month

Updated 18 January 2020

Taliban aim to sign deal with US by end of month

  • Washington has for weeks been calling on the militants to reduce violence
  • The Taliban and the US had been negotiating the deal for a year

KABUL: The Taliban are aiming to reach a withdrawal agreement with the US by the end of January and are prepared to “scale down” military operations ahead of signing the deal, according to their chief spokesman.
The statement by Suhail Shaheen to Pakistani daily Dawn comes as the group and the US held discussions in Doha this week, after insurgent sources told AFP they had offered to initiate a brief cease-fire.
“We have agreed to scale down military operations in days leading up to the signing of the peace agreement with the United States,” Shaheen told Dawn in a report published Saturday.
He added that the Taliban were “optimistic” a deal with Washington could be signed before the end of the month and that the reduction in fighting across the country would also include the targeting of Afghan forces.
“It’s now a matter of days,” said the spokesman.
Washington has for weeks been calling on the militants to reduce violence, posing it as a condition for resuming formal negotiations on an agreement that would see US troops begin to leave the country in return for security guarantees, after a near two-decade fight.
The Taliban and the US had been negotiating the deal for a year and were on the brink of an announcement in September 2019 when President Donald Trump abruptly declared the process “dead,” citing Taliban violence.
Talks were later restarted between the two sides in December in Qatar, but were paused again following an attack near the Bagram military base in Afghanistan, which is run by the US.
Any agreement with the Taliban is expected to have two main pillars — an American withdrawal from Afghanistan, and a commitment by the insurgents not to offer sanctuary to militants — and would ultimately have to be given final approval by Trump.
The Taliban’s relationship with Al-Qaeda was the main reason cited for the US invasion more than 18 years ago.
A deal would hopefully pave the way for intra-Afghan talks.
Many observers agree that the war can no longer be won militarily, and that the only route to a lasting peace in Afghanistan is for an agreement between the Taliban and the US-backed government in Kabul.
The Taliban have until now refused to negotiate with the Afghan government, which they consider an illegitimate regime, raising fears that fighting will continue regardless of any deal ironed out with the Americans.

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