Mines Seminar Notes Progress in Cambodia

Cambodia has achieved its goal to rid the country of stockpiled land mines and could be on track to clearing mines from high-im­pact areas by 2010, officials said last week at a regional seminar on mine action.

The international conference—attended by donors, officials from mine-affected countries and a representative of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan—reviewed Cambodia’s progress in complying with the 1997 Ottawa Treaty to Ban Land Mines. The treaty was ratified by Cambodia in 1999.

In 2001, 17 donors reported contributions to mine action in Cambodia totaling more than

$21 million, according to the Inter­national Campaign to Ban Land­mines’ 2002 Landmine Monitor Report.

Jean Lint, president of the Fourth Meeting of the States Parties, which reviews compliance with the Ottawa Treaty, said Cambodia would continue to be a priority for donors because so many land mines exist in the country—some estimates put the number of remaining mines at

6 million—but that support would be contingent on Cambodia’s ability to eliminate mines from areas that are highly populated or developed by Jan 1, 2010.

“They can’t ask for eternity to finish the job. Donors don’t like that,” he said.

At next year’s review session, Cambodia likely will join a short list of countries struggling to meet the goal, a group that also will include Afghanistan and Angola, he said.

David Hayter, HALO Trust country program manager, and Richard Boutler, country program manager for the Mine Advisory Group, said Wednesday that Cambodia could meet the 2010 goal.

Now deminers are concerned about what will happen after that goal is met, when mines outside high impact areas still exist but donor money perhaps will not.

Heng Ratana, deputy director general of the Cambodian Mine Action Center, said it will be very difficult for Cambodia to eliminate all land mines.

The combined efforts of the country’s four main mine action agencies can clear 25 square km of land a year, he said. There are 4,200 square km of land known to be affected, bringing mine action far beyond 2010.

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