Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon has rejected claims the army used cluster bombs in breach of an international agreement during border clashes with Cambodia in early February.
Gen Prawit was responding to allegations by the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) that Thailand had confirmed the findings of its officials on Tuesday. “No cluster bombs here. We have strictly complied with international laws banning their use,” Gen Prawit said.
The CMC said Thailand was not among the 107 countries that have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, banning their use.
Prawit: We didn’t deploy them
The CMC claimed the Thai army killed two people with cluster bombs during the border fighting.
The army has consistently denied using cluster bombs during border clashes with Cambodia, though the issue appears to be turning on a question of semantics.
The CMC on Wednesday condemned the Thai use of cluster munitions in Cambodia.
It said the Thai ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva confirmed the Thai use of 155mm Dual Purpose Improved Conventional Munition (DPICM) cluster munitions at a meeting on Tuesday.
It claimed the ambassador said Thailand used cluster munitions in “self-defence”, based on the principles of necessity, proportionality and in compliance with the military code of conduct.
The Thai ambassador to the UN in Geneva Sihasak Phuangketkeow, however, denied he said the Thai army used cluster munitions during the Thai-Cambodian border skirmishes.
Mr Sihasak spoke to the Bangkok Post in a phone interview from Geneva yesterday saying he said the Thai army used Dual-Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions (DPICM) which it did not classify as a cluster munition. For other groups, however, DPICM are indeed regarded as cluster munitions.
“This organisation misunderstood [us] and tried to claim that Thailand really used cluster munitions. They want to pressure us to accede to the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” he said.
Mr Sihasak said the Foreign Ministry was encouraging the army to sign the convention so Thailand would receive assistance to destroy these weapons. Cluster bombs are considered a major threat to civilian populations during and after attacks.
They are launched from the ground or dropped from the air, and open before impact to scatter multiple bomblets over a wide area.
The bomblets often lie dormant and undetected for years before exploding, maiming or killing civilians who happen upon them. Children often mistake them for toys.