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Four more provinces declare mine-free by year’s end: Thuch

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Ly Thuch, Senior Minister and first vice-president of the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA) speaks at a press conference on August 2. Hong Menea

Four more provinces declare mine-free by year’s end: Thuch

Five provinces – Takeo, Kampong Cham, Kampong Chhnang, Kampot and Svay Rieng – will be declared mine-free as part of the Samdech Techo Project for Mine Action, said the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA) on August 2.

“We will begin demining 30.91sq km of thee provinces in August, at a cost of $3.8 million, said Ly Thuch, Senior Minister and first vice-president of the CMAA.

He added that three of the five would be completely cleared this year. Takeo had 55 minefields, which covered 362ha, to clear. Kampong Chhnang had 42 minefields of 328ha to clear, while Kampong Cham had just 11 locations of 98ha. All three operations would be completed in December, he said.

The two remaining provinces – Svay Rieng and Kampot – were expected to be mine-free by June next year. The former has 139 minefields covering 1,238ha and the latter has 121 minefields covering 1,064ha.

“On behalf of people of these provinces and indeed, across the Kingdom, I express my deepest thanks to Prime Minister Hun Sen for offering the special gift of safety and harmony,” he said.

Thuch said that members of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces will be deployed soon to clear landmines in Kamong Speu province’s Phnom Sruoch district. The district was a former battlefield with 62 minefields covering 655ha.

He added that Cambodian peacekeepers had cleared 25 per cent of the 90ha of remaining minefields in Tbong Khmum. It was expected that the province would be declared mine-free in November.

Thuch added that since the prime minister had called for assistance on July 1, some $20 million had been raised. Hun Sen had allowed the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) to use the funding for its efforts.

“Many donors joined the prime minister to help demine Cambodia, under the inspirational slogan ‘Providing Safe Ground, Creating Smiles’. This is a great example of Khmer loving Khmer, by helping make sure that people can return to growing rice for their livelihoods, without the risk of death or disability due to landmines,” he said.

He said Cambodia has already declared several provinces – Kep, Prey Veng and Stung Treng – totally mine-free, along with Phnom Penh. Preah Sihanouk province was completely demined and will be formally declared mine-free when Hun Sen presides over the inauguration of the Phnom Penh-Preah Sihanouk Expressway.

“In 2022, nine provinces will be declared mine-free, with three more expected to be added next year. By the end of 2023, 12 provinces will have been completely demined,” said Thuch.

CMAC director-general Heng Ratana said the centre would deploy 250 staff across the five provinces.

“In addition to human resources, we will use heavy demining equipment and mine-detection dogs,” he added.

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