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.


Trump lauds US economy in Davos, says little on climate woes

Updated 21 January 2020

Trump lauds US economy in Davos, says little on climate woes

  • Trump addressed the annual WEF in Davos, hours before his impeachment trial was to reconvene in the US Senate

DAVOS: President Donald Trump boasted Tuesday that he’s led a “spectacular” turnaround of the US economy and urged the world to invest in America, but had little to say about climate change issues that are a focus of this year’s gathering of top business and political leaders in the Swiss Alps.
Trump addressed the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, hours before his historic impeachment trial was to reconvene in the US Senate in Washington. The two-day visit will test Trump’s ability to balance his anger over being impeached with a desire to project leadership on the world stage.
He reminded the audience that when he spoke here two years ago, early in his presidency, “I told you that we had launched the great American comeback.”
“Today I’m proud to declare the United States is in the midst of an economic boom, the likes of which the world has never seen before,” the president said.
American economist Kenneth Rogoff said some, but not all of Trump’s claims regarding the strength of the US economy are true. But he noted that the economy wasn’t doing badly when he took office. “It’s been a good 10 years and his three years probably better than expected,” Rogoff said, adding that he thought Trump was careful to keep his comments about climate change to a minimum to avoid getting booed.
Climate issues are a main theme at the forum and the phrase “Act on Climate” was written in the snow at the landing zone where Trump’s Marine One helicopter set down in Davos.
Late last year, the Trump administration began pulling the US out of the landmark 2015 Paris climate agreement signed by nearly 200 nations. Under the deal, each country sets goals to curb emissions of heat-trapping gasses that lead to climate change. Trump has called the Paris accord an unfair economic burden to the US economy.
Trump’s speech was received in virtual silence from the audience apart from a brief flurry of applause when Trump said the US would join a World Economic Forum initiative to plant 1 trillion trees worldwide.
Climate activists Greta Thunberg doubled down on her criticism that world and business leaders aren’t taking the threat of global warming seriously, dismissing some of the measures bandied about by governments and companies, such as setting long-term targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions and planting billions of new trees to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
“Planting trees is good of course but it’s nowhere near enough,” Thunberg said.
Trump’s participation at the forum provided another conspicuous split-screen moment in his presidency. Before entering the hall to deliver his speech, Trump called the trial “disgraceful” and part of “the witch hunt that’s been going on for years.”
Asked whether Trump would watch the impeachment trial from Davos, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said, “He has a full day here in Davos, but will be briefed by staff periodically.”
Trump spent nearly all of his approximately 30-minute speech talking about how the US economy has performed under his leadership.
“America is thriving. America is flourishing and yes, America is winning again like never before,” Trump said before talking about a newly signed trade deal with China and a pending trade agreement with Mexico and Canada. He also spoke of record low unemployment, stock market gains and millions of people removed from the welfare rolls.
Trump’s speech was criticized by the Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz for failing to address the climate emergency beyond a commitment that the US will join the initiative to plant a trillion trees worldwide.
“He managed to say absolutely zero on climate change,” Stiglitz said. “Meanwhile we’re going to roast.”
Trump’s appearance at the forum ends Wednesday when he travels back to a Washington, which is consumed by the impeachment trial.
The Democratic-controlled House impeached the Republican president last month for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress after it was revealed that he had pressed Ukraine’s president to announce investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democrat and a Trump political rival. Trump withheld foreign aid that Congress had approved for the Eastern European nation and dangled the prospect of an Oval Office meeting as leverage.
Trump denies any wrongdoing and argues that Democrats want to remove him from office because they know they can’t deny him reelection in November. Trump would be forced to leave office if convicted, but the Republican-controlled Senate is expected to acquit him.
The White House has not named any of the business leaders Trump is set to meet with. But he is scheduled to hold talks Tuesday and Wednesday with the leaders of Iraq, Pakistan, Switzerland and Iraq’s self-governing Kurdish region, as well as the forum’s founder, the White House said. Trump also will have his first meeting with the new European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, the first woman to hold the position.