Officials at an annual conference on landmine and unexploded ordnance yesterday revealed a drop in fatalities of nearly 28 per cent from 2014 to 2015.
Attributing the drop to better public education and dissemination of information to local authorities, Deputy National Police Chief Sous Ang Kea announced deaths had fallen from 154 in 2014 to 111 last year.
He noted, however, that there were still “stubborn” people – often driven by economic necessity – who take the risk of going onto mine-infested land.
“Difficult living conditions have caused people to clear the land [for use] … newcomers do not know about the geography and take risks,” he said.
According to Kea, 22,795 landmines and UXOs were cleared in 2015 and 1,640 square kilometres have been identified as needing further clearance.
Prak Sokhon, vice president of the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim’s Assistance Authority (CMAA) estimated a $360 million budget over the next 10 years will be necessary to get the job done.
Interior Ministry undersecretary Ouk Kimlekh, meanwhile, called for better training of local law enforcement and for more public information campaigns, telling officials not to try clearing mines unless they know how and to “quickly contact an expert” otherwise.
Amid the positive news on fatalities, the conference offered the latest chapter in an ongoing referendum on the lack of control over police weapons.
Coming just days after two military police were arrested for misusing their firearms in separate incidents, National Police Commissioner Neth Savoeun said his department had appealed directly to Interior Minister Sar Kheng to call a joint meeting with the anti-terrorism committee, the Military Police, RCAF and other relevant defence forces.
Noting the Kingdom imports 2,000 tonnes of “explosive powder” per year, Savoeun said all of the bodies had to agree to the same rules on the “import, transportation, storage and use [of explosives],” he said, citing terrorism as a concern.
He then went on to echo recent calls by the military police to trace misused weapons back to the officials who signed for them.
“We need to control the weapons of the civil servants . . . we need to take action to check weapons on the street in order to collect weapons in order to prevent other crimes,” he said.