Deminers urged to improve efficiency

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Demining operators prepare to clear landmines recently. LY THUCH

The Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA) called on all demining operators improve their efficiency to guarantee the Kingdom reaches its 2025 goal of becoming mine-free.

CMAA first vice-president Ly Thuch made the call at a December 5 meeting with relevant parties to discuss demining action plans, which are supported by the recently established Mine-Free Cambodia 2025 Fund.

Thuch said that over 1.1 million Cambodian people still live in communities which are under threat by explosive remnants of war (ERW). Having received government funds to clear more land, the CMAA and its partners would accelerate the work.

He said the meeting’s attendees approved several strategies to strengthen and speed up demining work, noting that 705sq km of minefields remain to be cleared.

“I ask that all demining operators enhance their work efficiency. Each of them will need to clear more than 200 or 300sq km if we are going to meet our goals,” he continued.

He insisted that the safety of deminers be enhanced so they could complete their work without fear.

“We will draw up a map of all of the remaining minefields for distribution for all the operators, as we are weary of overlapping their fields of operation. We are using resources from friendly countries, donor communities and development partners,” he said.

“The $30 million released from the national budget by Prime Minister Hun Sen will make a significant difference to saving peoples’ lives and providing safe land to cultivate,” he said.

Thuch was referring to the Mine-Free Cambodia 2025 Fund, which was established by a government sub-decree after funds for the Samdech Techo Project for Mine Action (STP-MA) – an initiative Hun Sen established on July 4 of this year to accelerate the goal achievement of a mine-free Cambodia 2025 – has run out.

The CMAA leader asked that “friendly” countries and donors continue to help Cambodia meet its goal.

“Donors have joined us for years. The government’s participation does not mean that the donors are no longer required. We sincerely request that they continue making valuable contributuions to this important work,” Thuch said.

The CMAA intends to train over 1,000 army personnel. When their training is complete, they will be armed with modern equipment.

“Our brave soldiers should not be sent into the field to do this work with anything other than the most up-to-date equipment, as this could mean unnecessary risk. We have to explore the possibility of acquiring the latest materials for them as soon as possible,” he added.

Heng Ratana, director-general of the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC), said the establishment of the Mine-Free Cambodia 2025 Fund would further ease the pressure on demining personnel.

“On behalf of the demining operators and all Cambodians who still live under the threat of landmines and ERW, I express a deep gratitude for the close attention the prime minister is paying to this work. By freeing the country from landmines, he is providing happiness and safety to the people and guaranteeing lasting peace in the Kingdom,” he said.