Local officials in Cambodia's northwestern Battambang province have refused to instruct the country's demining agency to remove land mines from villages that voted for the political opposition, opposition and rights activists say.
Repeated requests to local authorities to direct the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) to send demining teams to the Bovel district of Klaing Meas commune have gone unanswered, said opposition party official Koery Sina on Thursday.
"In the area even CMAC recognizes as a hazardous zone, there are plenty of land mines hidden, but CMAC is afraid to demine in the area because local authorities don't allow their missions," he told RFA's Khmer Service.
The reason, Koery Sina says, is because the villages support the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).
Yin Mengly, coordinator for the rihgts group Adhoc in Battambang, said villagers had raised complaints about favoritism. The lack of action despite several cases of injuries from exploding landmines had left people fearful for their safety and unable to trust local authorities.
"The top-level authorities must examine the areas immediately and must take action against political discrimination because people have the freedom to choose any parties they like," he said.
In Anlong Raing village on March 18, an 11-year-old boy lost his limbs to a landmine while he was looking for firewood about 500 meters from his house, the activist said.
Asked by RFA about the allegations, Klaing Meas commune chief Bun Sambath denied that local authorities discriminate against political opponents. He said that authorities conducted studies but couldn't locate any information that areas have land mines.
"So far the CMAC wants to demine in the areas, but the village chief said there are no landmines. The village chief said there is no landmines, so I didn't report it to the CMAC." he said
Bun Sambath said, however, that following complaints from villagers, he made a request to the CMAC to send a team to demine in the area, but had not received a response.
CMAC officials could not be reached for comment.
Cambodia is one of the most heavily mined territories in the world, with millions of landmines and unexploded ordnance that has caused tens of thousands of casualties. The bombs and mines are left over from U.S. forces during the Vietnam war, but also include Chinese and Russian mines from the Khmer Rouge era in the 1970s and the Cambodia civil war of the 1980s.
Reported by Hum Chamroeun for RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Paul Eckert.