Prime Minister Hun Manet has issued a statement to commemorate the 25th anniversary of National Mine Awareness Day, observed on February 24 under the theme “Together towards Mine/Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) Casualty-Free Communities”.

In the message, he explained that thanks to the national unification, peace, stability and development brought about by the win-win policy of former Prime Minister Hun Sen in 1998, the Cambodian government has been able to conduct widespread mine action, contributing significantly to socio-economic development.

Manet reminded all of his compatriots, especially people living in the areas which are still affected by landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXOs), to be wary of the dangers posed by mines and ERWs.

“Wars fought in the Kingdom left behind a lot of landmines and ERWs. Not only have they left tens of thousands of people injured, disabled or dead, but obstructed the country’s development.

According to Manet, between 1992 and 2023, some 3,024sq km of land was cleared of mines and ERWs, with more than three quarters of the land now under cultivation. He estimated that the clearance work directly benefited almost 12 million people.

Demining operators located and destroyed 1,179,365 anti-personnel mines, 26,339 anti-tank mines and 3,105,593 pieces of UXOs.

The number of victims decreased from 4,320 in 1996 to just 32 in 2023, although he noted that 32 was still too many. In the past decade, ERW casualties have been below 100 a year on average, with the figure falling to 50 in the past five years.

In 2023, deminers cleared 444sq km and destroyed 23,946 anti-personnel mines, 204 anti-tank mines and 66,374 pieces of UXOs.

“We have celebrated many accomplishments in mine action, which is an important factor in contributing to national economic growth and poverty reduction,” said Manet.

He explained that despite these successes, the government is far from indifferent to the remaining work. 

To achieve the government’s vision of a mine-free Cambodia 2025 and meet the goals of the National Mine Action Strategy 2018-25, the Kingdom still needs to clear 533sq km of landmines and ERWs, and an additional 1,321sq km of cluster bombs.

Manet reiterated the government’s commitment to continued mine action, as well as its sustainable development goals (SDGs) and the first phase of the Pentagonal Strategy, as a foundation for achieving its 2050 vision.

In his message, he also called for wider participation from the international community to raise awareness of the dangers of landmines and UXOs, as they remain hidden killers and continue to pose a threat to human security, long after a conflict is over.

Cambodia was elected as chair of the Ottawa Convention by its 164 state parties, and will host the fifth review meeting, the “Siem Reap-Angkor Summit on a Mine-Free World”, which is scheduled to take place in Siem Reap from November 25 to 29 this year.

The Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA) also organised a function to mark mine awareness day in Battambang province.

The event aimed to raise public awareness o the dangers of landmines and celebrate the achievements of the mine action sector in Cambodia, as they work towards the 2025 goal. The authority noted that 15 capital and provinces had been already declared mine-free by the end of 2023.

Ly Thuch, CMAA first vice-president, addressed the event.

“Thanks to the clear vision which we share with our development partners, the Kingdom is successfully heading towards the 2025 target of a mine-free Cambodia. Today’s event has a significant meaning for strengthening the work together as a sector and pursuing the same vision and target,” he said.

“2024 is an important year for mine action in Cambodia as we prepare to host the Ottawa Convention summit. It will be a significant opportunity for Cambodia to share its knowledge and the capacity we have built through decades of experience,” he added.

“Through strong partnerships for landmine clearance, mine risk education, and advocacy, the number of casualties has been decreasing drastically over the years. Indeed, the number of victims decreased from 4,320 in 1996 to just 32 in 2023. But one victim is already too much,” said Alissar Chaker, Resident Representative of UNDP.

“UNDP remains a strong and committed partner of the Royal Government of Cambodia in its pursuit of a mine-free Cambodia by 2025 and avoiding more victims,” she added.

In the past 17 years, 9,281 Cambodian Blue Helmets, including 753 women, have participated in UN peacekeeping missions. 

In 2023, Cambodia became the second-largest donor of peacekeepers in the ASEAN region.