Despite a decline in recent years in landmine and unexploded ordinance related casualties, the country must continue its efforts to rid the country of these dangerous remnants of war, Prime Minister Hun Sen said yesterday during a ceremony in Phnom Penh marking the Japanese government’s handover of demining equipment to the Cambodian Mine Action Center.
“There is still a huge number of landmines and UXO vastly scattered in villages, farm lands, paddy fields and many other strategic locations and they still pose constant threats to innocent people who reside in the former battle areas,” the prime minister said, according to a translation of his remarks.
The prime minister went on to make apparent reference to accusations by Thailand in 2008 that Cambodian troops planted new land mines near the disputed border in Preah Vihear province.
“I wish to reassure that those locations are densely contaminated with landmines and the landmines had been planted by various fighting factions in the past,” he said.
Since the start of the military standoff in July 2008, there have been three reported incidents of Thai soldiers being wounded by landmines in the area near Preah Vihear temple.
That accidents may befall people moving in mined areas is no surprise, the premier said. “Not to mention a foreign soldier who has little understanding of the geographic layout of the area,” he said.
According to CMAC, which has cleared more than 1,760 sq km of landmines and UXO, more than 4,544 sq km remain to be cleared.
“While 46.2 percent of the villages in those areas are affected and faced with the threats of these suspicious landmines” Heng Ratana, director-general of CMAC, said during the ceremony, “in total there are 1,934,630 landmines and UXO cleared and destroyed thus far.”
Japan would donate $5.5 million in demining equipment to CMAC, he said.
Last year, 243 people were involved in landmine and UXO explosions–down from 270 victims in 2008–and 93 of the victims were killed by the blasts, he added.
Mr Ratana said between 2010 and 2014, CMAC planned to clear 300 sq km of land from the explosive remnants of war, adding CMAC would need around $95 million in funding in the next five years.
Japanese Ambassador Masafumi Kuroki said Japan was providing $5.5 million in equipment for further demining work in Cambodia, including 588 mine detectors and 44 deep-search detectors.
“I would like to hand over today mine and UXO detectors, a mobile workshop for brush cutters and their spare parts worth a total amount of about $5.5 million. This demining equipment…represents almost half of all major equipment utilized by CMAC,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Paul Vrieze)