Donor country representatives and development partners have continued to assist the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA) in carrying out mine clearance projects and making forward progress towards Cambodia’s goal of becoming mine-free by 2025 despite the difficulties posed by Covid-19.

CMAA has announced that as of June this year, their combined efforts have cleared 2,221sq km of formerly contaminated land and destroyed 1,103,192 anti-personnel mines, 25,603 anti-tank mines and 2,909,764 explosive remnants of war of various types including cluster munitions.

All told this has directly benefited 7,196,965 people throughout Cambodia, according to the information compiled for review as part of the Clearing for Results IV Project Board Meeting that was recently held virtually.

The meeting was led by Ly Thuch, senior minister and first vice-president of the CMAA. It was also attended by representatives from the Ministry of Economy and Finance and donor countries and development partners including the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Australia, Korea International Cooperation Agency and New Zealand.

Ly Thuch expressed deep gratitude on behalf of the Cambodian people for the generous support provided by the governments and international agencies assembled virtually for the progress review.

“Analysis of the first three years of the National Mine Action Strategy 2018-2025 highlighted a need to increase resource mobilisation efforts and establish a technical task force to discuss ways to clear and release contaminated land safer and faster.

“We are taking these lessons learned and applying them in the execution of our second three-year implementation plan, which has now been developed for 2021 to 2023,” he said.

Thuch said the Cambodian government had drafted mine-free village guidelines that were ready for piloting in Kep province and would be rolled-out nationally after the results from it were reviewed.

UNDP resident representative Nick Beresford complimented the CMAA on the successful project implementation and its close cooperation with UNDP for over 15 years.

“Through an increase of funding, additional support from the Royal Cambodian Army, and improved land release methods, I am confident that the 2025 deadline is still within our reach. We must consolidate our efforts and aim to achieve a mine-free Cambodia by 2025,” he said.

Ryan Tierney, first secretary and consul at the Australian embassy, said his government also believed in the CMAA’s capacity to achieve a mine-free Cambodia by 2025 if they continued their close coordination with UNDP.

Ji Yea Kyung, deputy country director of KOICA Cambodia, pointed out that mine contamination was a serious hindrance to the country’s rural development efforts, a key focus of her agency.

“KOICA is extremely pleased to see the project’s achievements in clearance, victim assistance and mine risk education, capacity development for the national authority, and gender-mainstreaming in mine action.

“Korea’s approach to mine clearance is not simply to maintain peace, but to build the foundations for Cambodia’s prosperity,” she said.

Elliott Kirton, first secretary of the New Zealand embassy in Thailand, express his satisfaction with the progress made in humanitarian demining operations in Cambodia, saying New Zealand would continue to support the operations until the ultimate goal of a mine-free Cambodia was achieved.

According to the CMAA, 87 per cent of cleared land was already being used for the agricultural sector and the remaining land was used for other purposes such as building houses, schools, health centres and other infrastructure projects.

At the meeting, CMAA and UNDP agreed to work together on updating several planning documents and continue to push for completion of all mine-clearance operations by 2025.