2010 Mine, UXO Casualties Jump 17 Percent Since 2009

Mines and other unexploded ordnance killed or injured 286 Cam­bodians in 2010, according to the government’s latest figures, a 17 percent increase over 2009. It marks the first year-on-year increase in the past six years.

According to the Cambodian Mine/UXO Victim Information System, the government’s casualty tracker, mines and UXO killed or injured 244 people in 2009, continuing a steady decline from 2004.

But 2010 casualty figures started overtaking the previous year’s early thanks to an especially severe May, when mines and UXO claimed 52 victims that month alone.

By Nov­ember, when 13 people died in the deadliest single explosion in years, government officials were already expecting years of declining figures to reverse. Of the 286 casualties by the end of the year, 71 died and another 45 had to have a limb amputated.

But the rise came with only 150 individual accidents, just as many as in 2009, “so the trend has not in­creased in terms of incidents,” CMAA deputy secretary-general Chan Rotha said yesterday.

That falls in line with what government officials have said previously, that casualties are only on the rise because victims were running into more anti-tank mines, which are much more powerful than the anti-personnel variety. It is unclear why this is happening.

Still, Mr Rotha downplayed the risk that casualty figures would continue to rise in 2011. “Of course we are surprised…but if we look at the number of incidents it’s the same as last year,” he said.

Mr Rotha said the government had also been increasing its stock of the latest anti-tank mine detectors.

And despite a dip in international donor funding for demining work over the few years, he said the country cleared more contaminated land in 2010 than the year before thanks to not only better equipment but better techniques. He hoped to see another 40 to 50 square km cleared this year.

The government aims to clear all the 650 square km still believed to be contaminated by mines and UXO by 2020.



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