Landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXOs) not only destroy lives and injure the innocent, but also pose an obstacle to the development of the nation, said Lieutenant General Hun Manet, deputy commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF).

Lt Gen Manet made the remarks on November 17, at an event held by the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia to announce its new name – Textile, Apparel, Footwear and Travel Goods Association in Cambodia (TAFTAC) – and raise funds to support the Samdech Techo Project for Mine Action.

The project – themed “Providing Safe Ground, Creating Smiles” – was initiated by Prime Minister Hun Sen aiming to make Cambodia mine-free by 2025.

“I will personally contribute $10,000 to mine clearance action. By doing this, we are helping ourselves. The army is a major demining operator, and our soldiers are Khmer. Demining Cambodia is a way to help all Khmer,” said Manet.

He added that millions of landmines and UXO were spread across Cambodia following three decades of civil war from the 1960s to the 1970s.

“Those landmines and UXO have not only destroyed lives and injured the innocent, but also posed an obstacle to the development of the nation,” Manet continued.

The Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA) said the government began clearing mines in 1979, but it was not until 1992 that large-scale humanitarian clearance action kicked off formally. In the past 30 years, Cambodia has detected and destroyed millions of explosive remnants of war (ERW) and transformed formally contaminated land into a “land of gold”.

Manet said that despite the government’s efforts – and the participation of development partners – around 2,000sq km of land in the Kingdom remain to be cleared of landmines and UXO, with over 1.1 million people living in areas suspected of being contaminated with mines.

“The government has an ambition to completely demine 702sq km by 2025. To support the national priority development plan and achieve Cambodia’s mine-free vision by 2025, guidelines on mine-free village mechanism implementation were set up to ensure that all minefields will be cleared,” he added.

The guidelines recommend mobilising financial resources from friendly development partners, national and international demining operators, investors and various donors to clear landmines completely by 2025 from one village to another and from one province to another.

The CMAA is also due to hold a landmine exhibition commemorating the 30th anniversary of mine action in Cambodia on November 21-22 at the Koh Pich Convention and Exhibition Centre in Phnom Penh.

It said the exhibition is made possible through cooperation with 21 institutions including national and international demining operators and civil society organisations. The exhibition will display 52 booths.

The exhibition will be free to attend for members of the public. It will showcase 30 years of mine action achievements, and will feature a display of demining equipment and hand-cleared landmines, as well as information on landmine-sniffing dogs and rats.