CMAA enlists Hungarian help to make Kep first mine-free province

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
CMAA secretary general Prum Sophakmokol (centre right) and Istvan Bakos – charge d’affaires at the Hungarian embassy office in Phnom Penh – to discuss landmine clearance in Kep province on Tuesday. SUPPLIED

Ly Thuch, senior minister and first vice-president of the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA) requested the government of Hungary continue its support for demining operations in two villages of Kep province’s Damnak Changaur district – an area with 10 minefields covering 625,319sqm.

According to Thuch, once these two villages are cleared then Kep will have the distinction of being the first completely mine-free province in Cambodia and an important milestone for the demining operator community and the Cambodian people will be achieved after decades of hard work trying to end mine-related accidents.

Thuch made this request during a planning meeting held at the CMAA headquarters with Istvan Bakos – charge d’affaires at the Hungarian embassy office in Phnom Penh – on the morning of October 12.

Thuch thanked the government and people of Hungary for their generous recent contribution of $28,570 to the CMAA through their Ministry of Foreign Affairs during the Hungarian foreign affairs minister’s visit in November 2020.

Thuch informed the Charge d’Affaires that the CMAA used the grant money to implement two projects in Kep and Koh Kong provinces.

The first project over in Prey Thom commune of Damnak Changaur district in Kep province would check an area of approximately 46,000 sqm to determine its clearance status, while the other project would verify the presence of minefields in a separate area of Kep and Koh Kong provinces.

“The CMAA received permission from [Hun Sen] on September 6 to make Kep the first mine-free province in the Kingdom with support provided by the Hungarian government and the Cambodian Mine Action Centre the agency charged with directly implementing the necessary measures. Together we will achieve this historic-first and bring safety to the people of Kep province and pride to all of Cambodia,” he said.

On October 1, Thuch led a technical team to inspect the demining work carried out by CMAC and funded by the Hungary grant project which resulted in the discovery of six land-mines and hundreds of explosive remnants of war along with over 3,000 pieces of ammunition.

The two villages that CMAC has identified as the last remaining locations in need of clearance in Kep province are Chamkar Bei and Chamkar Chek villages, which are believed to be contaminated with 10 minefields covering an area of 625,319 sqm.

Istvan stated that the Hungarian government was a long-standing friend of Cambodia with a well-established history of positive relations that included Hungary’s frequent provision of scholarships to Cambodian students to attend schools in Hungary.

He then went on to state that it would be his pleasure and the Hungarian government’s honour to assist Cambodia in achieving this historic victory over the tragedies of its war-torn past. He noted that this was the first meeting between a Hungarian official and the CMAA on the topic and he suggested they make plans to travel together to Kep and inspect the area where the demining work would take place.

Nousamnath, a deminer working in Kep province, told The Post on October 12 that he estimated that the portion of the demining project in Damnak Changaur village that he was familiar with to be carried out over an area of 46,009 sqm would likely take at least one month to clear.