The government’s strategic policy in the seventh mandate is to clear all landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) remaining on Cambodian soil, said Ly Thuch, first vice-president of the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA).

Thuch noted that the land at risk spans an area of 1,817sq km,equivalent to 12,072 minefields.

These include a mine zone of 538sq km, or 6,543 minefields, a cluster bomb-affected area of 690sq km or 2,363 sites, and 590sq km of other UXO-contaminated land equalling 3,166 minefields.

Thuch announced these details at a press conference held on July 18, reporting on the results of demining activities funded by the Samdech Techo Fund.

Over the last three years, from 2020-2022, Cambodia had managed to clear 420sq km of landmines.

“This achievement represents half of the humanitarian demining work done by the 33 States Parties of the Ottawa Convention, which are currently engaged in demining operations,” said Thuch.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has set the ambitious target of ridding Cambodia of landmines by 2025, with a campaign slogan “Providing Safe Ground, Creating Smiles”.

This goal is intended to mark 55 years since the first landmine casualties in Cambodia in 1970.

From 1992 to June 2023, the cleared mine area totals 2,795sq km.

“In this area, we found 1,167,715 anti-personnel mines, 26,222 anti-tank mines and 3,070,526 UXOs,” Thuch said.

Over the years, the number of victims has declined significantly, dropping from 4,320 in 1996 to 41 in 2022, and staying under an average of 100 people per year for the last decade.

“The Ministry of Economy and Finance released more than $30 million for the ‘mine-free Cambodia 2025’ project. With this, we aim to clear about 10,680sq km of land with mines,” Thuch added.

A report by the CMAA indicated that the number of victims in the current mandate, from 2018 to 2023, was 275. This represents a 43 per cent decrease compared to 483 victims in the fifth mandate from 2013 to 2018.

In the first six months of this year, 215sq km were cleared. This operation discovered 12,296 anti-personnel mines, 87 anti-tank mines and 31,307 UXOs, directly benefiting 153,750 households, equalling 552,007 people.

According to the CMAA, Phnom Penh and 11 provinces – Stung Treng, Kep, Prey Veng, Preah Sihanouk, Kandal, Tbong Khmum, Kampong Cham, Svay Rieng, Kampong Chhnang, Takeo and Kampot – have been declared mine-free.

Six additional provinces – Kampong Speu, Kratie, Kampong Thom, Siem Reap, Mondulkiri and Ratanakkiri – are scheduled to declare mine-free status later this year.

“For the demining plan for 2024-2025, there is an area of 358sq km, which requires a budget of about $78 million,” Thuch noted.