NEWS | March 4, 2020

Royal Thai, US Forces Commemorate Landmine Reduction Operations with Unexploded Ordnance Destruction

By Capt. George McArthur 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit

SA KAEO, Kingdom of Thailand -- The Royal Thai Armed Forces Thailand Mine Action Center hosted a demonstration to inform U.S. and Thai military leadership about ongoing landmine reduction operations throughout the country, culminating with the destruction of unexploded ordnance at the Phakdi Phandin Village Tactical Training Field, March 3, as part of Exercise Cobra Gold 2020.

The ongoing landmine disposal exercise is a cooperative effort between TMAC and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command to conduct the reduction of landmines and UXO with subject-matter expert exchanges, according to Thai Army Lt. Gen. Sittipol Nimnuan, director general of TMAC.

“The landmine disposal exercise under the Cobra Gold 2020 framework, which is being conducted in Watthana Nakhon District, Sa Kaeo province this year, aims to dispose of 1,764 anti-personnel mines, 20 anti-tank mines and more than 300 UXO,” Nimnuan said

Total allied forces participating in the exercise include 16 U.S. explosive ordnance disposal participants from the Marine Corps, Army, Navy, and Air Force, and 86 Thai EOD technicians and medical personnel, according to Nimnuan.

Attending the demonstration were senior Thai and U.S. military leadership including the RTAF Deputy Chief of Staff Gen. Pariphat Phalasin and Marine Corps Lt. Gen. H. Stacy Clardy, III Marine Expeditionary Force commanding general, along with members from non-governmental and international organizations supporting the reduction of landmines in Thailand and throughout the world.

The scope of actions on Thailand’s eastern border is due to planning between Thai leadership and the U.S. Department of Defense Humanitarian Mine Action Program, which assists partner-nation civilian populations plagued by landmines, explosive remnants of war, and the hazardous effects of UXO, according to Lt. Col. Henry Soukup, an EOD officer with Marine Corps Forces, Pacific.

“Marine explosive ordnance disposal, and engineers along with U.S. Navy corpsman from 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force, have been supporting and assisting the Thailand Mine Action Center in humanitarian mine action since our partnership’s inception,” Soukup said. “We are honored to support and work beside our Thai partners, and we are proud to devote time, effort and sweat with [them] while working safely and effectively towards the ultimate goal of a landmine-free Thailand.”

At the conclusion of the event, which included exhibitions on the history of landmines in Thailand and interactions with subject-matter experts and exercise participants, the distinguished visitors inspected recovered UXO grouped in three sections downrange while wearing special personal protective equipment. At an observation point almost a kilometer away, and after remarks followed by a safety brief, Phalasin, Nimnuan, and Clardy each activated a group of explosives in-turn – taking the next step in reducing the presence of UXO in the Kingdom.

“The landmine disposal exercise for Exercise Cobra Gold 2020 ensures that these recovered landmines and UXO will not ever harm innocent people, Thai or otherwise, again,” Nimnuan stated. “The safety for the people is, after all, the ultimate goal for humanitarian mine action. The RTAF is committed to clear all landmines from Thailand by the year 2023.”

Exercise Cobra Gold demonstrates the commitment of the Kingdom of Thailand and the United States to our long-standing alliance, promotes regional partnerships and advances security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.