The highly skilled dogs that help Cambodia’s deminers sniff out land mines were handed over to the government Saturday after five years of administration by Sweden, Khem Sophoan, director-general of the Cambodian Mine Action Center, said on Monday.
Since 1997, the Sweden International Development Agency has provided technical assistance in the form of military advisers to train the dogs and manage the program, which deploys 50 Mine Detection Dogs to three provinces, Khem Sophoan said.
Saturday’s handover “is about greater national ownership of the management process,” said Massoud Hedeshi, land mine program manager for the UN Development Program. “It’s a positive step.”
The dogs, whose noses are sensitive enough to detect tiny amounts of explosive material, have been a major boon to deminers over the years.
Unlike metal detectors, the dogs can find mines and unexploded ordnance made of plastic while ignoring nonexplosive shrapnel.
The dogs come from Germany, Holland, Sweden and Thailand. Thirty of them are divided into five teams—two in Battambang province, two in Banteay Meanchey province and one in Pursat province, Khem Sophoan said. The others are being trained at CMAC’s training center in Kompong Chhnang province, he said.
Between June and November 2002, the dogs helped detect 284 anti-personnel mines, 10 anti-tank mines and 186 UXOs over 150 hectares in the three provinces, Khem Sophoan said.
Hedeshi said another partner is being sought to help CMAC manage the dogs, most likely an international NGO with experience in demining.
Several candidates are being considered, including Norwegian People’s Aid, which is already active in Cambodia. The decision will be made by the Swedish government, He added.
Khem Sophoan said Swedish financial aid to CMAC would be unaffected. “The Swedish military mission has finished its project, but the Swedish government still supports [CMAC] through the UNDP trust fund,” he said.