LANDMINE BAN TREATY. Thailand likely to get extension of deadline (UN/Thailand)
SA KAEO : Thailand is likely to be given extra time to complete the destruction of all landmines on its territory as required by the Ottawa treaty. The chairman of the 8th meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, HRH Prince Mired Raad Zeid Al-Hussein of Jordan, said yesterday an extension of time was possible because Thailand still had to clear landmines laid in at least 27 provinces.
The prince is visiting Thailand to view progress in the removal of mines by the Thailand Mine Action Centre (TMAC). The deadline is May next year.
Thailand has requested another nine-and-a-half years to complete the work.
''The request is under consideration at the moment and some extension will be granted, but we have to look at the extension requested,'' the prince said during a visit to Sa Kaeo province, which is included in the request for an extension.
At least 16 countries have applied for extra time _ including Thailand, Cambodia, Jordan and countries in Africa. The issue will be raised at the meeting of the standing committee in Geneva on June 2 to 6.
''Thailand is doing a fantastic job. It's complicated and difficult work,'' he said.
''Thailand could be role model in the region and I would like to encourage the country to continue the work.''
As chairman of the meeting, the prince said he has to encourage countries which may be a little slow in carrying out their obligations under the treaty to try to do more.
The prince flew on to Singapore yesterday to try to convince the government there to exceed the convention target.
Thailand has a total of 2,558 square kilometres in 27 border provinces where landmines are believed buried in the ground. It is estimated that only one-third of the mines have been destroyed.
Tumrongsak Deemongkol, director of TMAC, said Thailand is doing better than some other countries because it has a clear plan and is implementing it. Some countries have only just begun.
However, a shortage of funding and of personnel were hampering progress.
Lt-Gen Tumrongsak said if TMAC received 500 million baht a year for the operation, it could likely meet the new deadline. Currently, it gets only 40 million baht a year.
Foreign deputy permanent secretary Norachit Singhaseni told the prince that many mined areas were sensitive spots near Cambodia where the border is still not properly demarcated.
Thailand signed the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction in Ottawa on Dec 3, 1997. Thailand deposited its ratification instrument at the United Nations on Nov 27, 1998, the first nation in Southeast Asia to do so.
Von: 8.5.2008, www.bangkokpost.com, by Thanida Tansubhapol