The Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) has cleared a total of 91,919,972sqm of mine fields and areas with explosive remnants of war (ERW) in the first 11 months of this year, or over 92 per cent of the planned area. In the process, CMAC destroyed a total of 82,138 landmines and pieces of unexploded ordnance (UXO).
CMAC director-general Heng Ratana said on December 14 that 16,138 of the 82,138 items cleared were anti-personnel mines; 323 were anti-tank mines; 39 were larger bombs dropped from airplanes; 8,090 were cluster bombs; and 17 were improvised landmines. The rest of it was various other kinds of UXO such as ammunition or items less easily categorised.
“This is the result of our hard work and it is with pride that we have achieved this success without any serious impacts on the health of our [deminers] during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We thank all development partners and aid agencies who work with us. Despite the difficult economic situation globally, they remained committed to fully supporting us.”
He added that CMAC and its network of volunteers also engaged in efforts to educate many Cambodians about mine-related dangers in addition to sending investigators whenever the public reported landmines or UXO.
He said that as a result of the education programme, people then understood whom to provide information to about the locations of landmines when they find them, allowing CMAC to safely remove and destroy them.
“What’s really great is that the public has such a positive attitude about our work these days. They volunteer to join us immediately when we are in the area and we always have people to help through our network of volunteers,” Ratana said.
Im Bunyou, chief of Ta Kream commune in Battambang province’s Banan district, said on December 14 that landmines and UXO remained a concern for residents because they still sometimes found buried munitions while digging canals or herding cattle. He said he was glad that CMAC was actively working in the area and continued to search, clear, collect and destroy them.
He added that the clearance of landmines and UXO was of vital importance to the safety of the residents and cleaning up the local area meant that no one would have to live in fear of accidentally stepping on a mine anymore.
These days, he said, the local people are aware of what to do and would cooperate by reporting anything they find that they suspect is dangerous or explosive to the police who then call CMAC.
“Our brothers and sisters are not worried about the danger from UXO and they can build houses on the land in their villages without risking their lives. Without the deminers, it would still be very dangerous for people every year when they are out farming and herding cattle,” he said.
Ratana thanked Cambodia’s development partners for their support for a total of 25 aid projects in the demining sector, including the US, Japan, China, Norway, Belgium and the UN Development Programme.
He said CMAC plans to clear more than 125sq km of land polluted by landmines and ERW in 2022 and that the Kingdom still wants to meet its “mine-free” goal by 2025.