Mine Awareness Day Brought To Nation’s Far Corners

In an effort to inform people of the dangers of landmines, ceremonies were held around the country yesterday where landmines 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 landmines. 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 landmines 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 of the events yesterday, which brought attention to the ongoing clearance efforts, the needs of survivors and to educate people to avoid mines and unexploded ordinances.

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

Sister Coghlan said Cambodia still needs to work on victim assistance and to focus on the most heavily affected districts in the country.

Chhiv Lim, program manager of the Cambodia Mine/ERW Victim Information System, said the last official survey about mines and ERW was conducted in 2006 and the results showed that the there was a steady decrease in casualties was because demining programs were doing well and people were learning about the dangers.

“The number of casualties has decreased every year since 2006,” Mr Lim said.

 

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