Gov’t Given Demining Dogs

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.


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