The Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) on August 4 marked the 30th anniversary of its founding in 1992 and awarded medals to CMAC officers from the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) at the Technical Institute of Mine Action in Kampong Chhnang province.
The prime minister’s son Hun Manet, deputy commander-in-chief of the RCAF and the commander of the army's infantry, presided over the ceremony at the event, during which 250 CMAC deminers from the RCAF were awarded medals by Hun Manet.
He commended the CMAC officers who dedicated their personal time to clearing unexploded ordnance left over from the war years.
“There were landmines everywhere, the scars of disability, the loss of life and the grief of the thousands of orphans. Cambodia has gone through it all and it taught us painful lessons, so we have to all remember and never forget the pain and the suffering,” he said.
Hun Manet expressed sorrow on behalf of the nation for the loss of the deminers who were injured and killed during their demining operations and sent his condolences to their family members.
After the Paris Peace Agreement on October 23, 1991, the United Nations Advance Mission in Cambodia (UNAMIC) had arrived in Cambodia on November 9, 1991. The main purpose of the UNAMIC was to coordinate with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to deport and resettleCambodian refugees from refugee camps along the Thai-Cambodian border, CMAC said.
According to CMAC, around the time of the organisation’s founding the UNAMIC had also set up three demining platoons comprising 100 forces to establish a Mine Risk Education Unit and begin clearing landmines. The demining at that time was only meant to pave the way for future efforts by dealing with the most urgent areas of concern to ensure the safe return of the refugees.
CMAC’s statement details that under the management of UNTAC and with the support of the Supreme National Council (SNC) the three demining platoons became the Mine Clearance Training Unit (MCTU) in April 1992, based in Siem Reap province, which then expanded its demining forces to 46 platoons comprising about 1,500 deminers.
Then on June 10, 1992, the SNC had approved a proposal establishing a Cambodian Mine Action Centre with the aim of carrying out demining operations and providing mine risk education.
CMAC’s statement recalls that the first meeting of the CMAC Board was held in November 1992.The board at that time was headed by the late King-Father Norodom Sihanouk. The board was made up of representatives from the SNC and the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. In August 1993, UNTAC had completed its mission in Cambodia and the MCTU deminers were integrated into CMAC, bringing the total number of CMAC staff to 2,000 at that time.
CMAC also thanked Prime Minister Hun Sen in its anniversary statement and Minister of National Defence Tea Banh as well as Hun Manet for allowing CMAC to join the RCAF under the military pension and employment framework to provide greater stability and benefits for its deminers.