Mine Awareness Day Brought To Cambodia’s Far Corners

In an effort to inform people of the dangers of land mines, ceremonies were held around the country yesterday where land mines are most prevalent to commemorate the an­nual National Mine Awareness Day, organizers said yesterday.

“We usually have [one] big ceremony, but we saw it did not reach the poorest people,” said Leng Soc­hea, permanent deputy secretary-general of the Cambodia Mine Action Authority.

Mr Sochea said that this year, events marking the day were held in six provinces, including Preah Vi­hear, Battambang, and Banteay Meanchey.

The annual event is one of two dedicated to land mines. The UN established April 4 a as a mine awareness day while the Feb 24 date was established by then-King Norodom Sihanouk in 1995, Mr Sochea said.

Mr Sochea noted that in 2009, there were 243 casualties compared to 271 in the previous year.

“The difference is only 28,” he said. “It’s good to have a decrease, but it is not satisfactory.”

Cambodia ratified the UN Mine Ban Treaty in 1999, agreeing to finish clearing the country of land mines and other explosive remnants of war by 2009. In January, Cam­bodia was awarded a 10-year extension on the treaty, and Mr Sochea said that completion of this goal would require continued funding from donors. “We have requested $300 million for the 10-year period,” he said.

Sister Denise Coghlan, country director of Jesuit Refugee Services, said her organization participated in three events yesterday, which brought attention to ongoing clear­ance efforts, needs of survivors and the need to educate people to avoid mines and unexploded ordnances.

“It’s better than having a big celebration in Phnom Penh because that’s where the mines are not,” she said, adding that the important part was disseminating the message.

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