Norwegians Provide Boost to Mine Detection Dog Training

Dog trainers from Norway were in Kompong Chhnang yes­terday to begin testing 17 dogs to assist the Cambodian Mines Ac­tion Center’s explosive clearing program.

As part of a new $72,000 aid package, Norwegian People’s Aid has provided a technical training team to support a five-month dog training program with CMAC.

“The Cambodian mine detection dog program is the second big­­­gest in the world after Kabul in Afghan­istan,” said Pa Bergstrom, train­er and senior technical advisor for mine detection dogs with the Nor­wegian agency. “We hope to be train­ing 10 to 15 new dogs per year for 2012 to 2014.”

CMAC began its dog detection program in 1997 with assistance from the Swedish government and has since cleared 42 million square meters of land mine areas and 5 million square meters of un­ex­plod­ed ordnance areas.

“Our missions have been very successful,” said Hong Rith, CMAC detection dog officer. “And our dogs have never been killed or injured du­ring field operations.”

Mr Rith said CMAC currently has 46 trained detection dogs, with some working on mine detection and others on UXO detection.

Mr Bergstrom said most demining dogs in Cambodia come from a global breeding center in Sarajevo, Bosnia. Dogs bought abroad cost between $5,000 and $26,000.

“Sometimes, the puppies will be fully trained before arriving in Cam­bodia, but often the training takes place here,” Mr Bergstrom said. “It is very difficult for the Cam­bodians to learn new training techniques, so we are here to support them.”

Nem Sowathey, public affairs of­ficer at CMAC, said dogs were brought into Cambodia because lo­cally bred dogs do not have the same characteristics as their overseas-bred counterparts.

“We are hoping that we will be able to have all Cambodian dogs to do the detection work one day,” Ms Sowathey said. “We have a breeding program at our training center in Kompong Chhnang, but it is in the very early stages.”

She said the CMAC dog detection program has had on and off support since 1997, but the al­liance with NPA promises ongoing cooperation until 2014.


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