Cambodia makes tremendous strides in ridding land of landmines

It is estimated that mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) are still scattered over an area of 2,149 square km in the country. AFP. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

PHNOM PENH, Nov 19, 2019, New Straits Times. Over the last 20 years, the Cambodian government has cleared landmines from about 1,900 square km of land, making it safe for cultivation. The move has raised incomes for more than 5.3 million people living in rural areas in the northwest of the country and also along the border with Thailand, New Straits Times reported.

However, it is estimated that mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) are still scattered over an area of 2,149 square km in the country.

Regional and internal conflicts from the 1960s to late 1998 had left Cambodia as among the most affected with mines and ERW in the world.

An estimated four million to six million landmines and other munitions were left over from nearly three decades of war.

As the nation strives to clear the mines and ERW, a joint statement reaffirming their ongoing commitment towards a mine-free Cambodia by 2025 was signed by Australia, the Cambodian Mine Action and Victims Assistance Authority (CMAA), and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), last Friday.

The signing was attended by CMAA’s first Vice President, Ly Thuch; Australian Ambassador to Cambodia, Angela Corcoran; and the United Nations Development Programme resident representative, Nick Beresford.

Since 2006, the Australian government has been a key contributor to the Clearing for Results project, partnering with CMAA and receiving technical support from the UNDP.

Thuch said that starting 2021, South Korea will also be aiding them in the project in terms of financial and skills contribution.

According to their press statement, the first three phases of the project have cleared and released 239 kilometres of land that is the most densely-contaminated with landmines and other ERWs.

It said that the clearance significantly reduced the number of landmine and ERW casualties in Cambodia from 4,320 in 1996 to 58 in 2018.

The project’s fourth phase is set to begin next year with US$20 million (RM83 million) in funding.

Thuch said they hope that from 2026 onward, no Cambodian is killed or injured by landmines.

He added that to achieve this goal, Cambodia is seeking about US$400 million in aid to clear all types of munitions.

“They have killed and maimed over 64,700 Cambodians,” he added.

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