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AP-Thais Start Destroying Land Mine

Subject: AP-Thais Start Destroying Land Mines

Saturday May 1 6:18 AM ET

Thais Start Destroying Land Mines

LOPBURI, Thailand (AP) - Thailand detonated 1,000 land mines today, becoming
one of the first nations in the developing world to start destroying the
weapons under an international treaty banning their use.

Thailand is one of more than 100 signatories of the Ottawa Treaty, which
bans the use of land mines. The pact, which the Southeast Asian nation
ratified in November, went into effect March 1.

The U.S. anti-personnel mines were destroyed at a large Thai army base to
applause from diplomats, foreign military officers, Thai officials and a
representative of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. A total of
10,000 will be destroyed over the next 10 days.

Gen. Vasu Chanarat, director of Thailand's Mine Action Center, said his
country was the first in Southeast Asia to begin destroying its stockpile,
which numbers about 300,000.

Other officials said Thailand was also among the first in the developing
world to take action under the treaty, which specifies that signatories must
destroy all stockpiles of mines within four years and clear all mines from
their territory within 10 years.

The United States has refused to sign or ratify the treaty, maintaining that
such weapons are needed on the Korean peninsula to deter North Korea from
invading South Korea. Russia and China are also holding out, contending they
need land mines for defensive purposes.

Tens of millions of land mines are scattered in more than 60 countries, and
they kill or injure an estimated 20,000 people each year, mostly innocent
civilians. The mines have rendered huge swaths of productive land unusable.

Some of Thailand's border areas with Myanmar and Cambodia are still strewn
with mines, which take a toll of mostly civilian victims.