Demining remains priority, says PM

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Landmine education in Battambang province on September 21. CMAA

Prime Minister Hun Sen instructed local authorities, demining operators and citizens to cooperate to safely eliminate the scourge of landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW).

The premier urged all demining operators to strive to respond quickly and carry out their work collecting and destroying landmines and ERWs effectively and in a timely manner when they receive reports from residents or local authorities, according to Ly Thuch, First Vice-President of the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA).

Thuch was on hand for the mine and ERW risks education on September 21 in Sdao commune of Battambang province’s Rattanak Mondul district.

He said that awareness of the risks associated with landmines and ERWs are an important part of preventing and reducing casualties.

"The government considers education and awareness raising on the dangers of landmines as an important movement to prevent and reduce mine casualties,” said Thuch.

The government has also asked people not to risk wandering around in unfamiliar areas for any purpose, such as going into the forest to look for non-timber forest products.

The main precautionary measure, Thuch said, is to absolutely never touch mines, cluster munitions and ERWs.

"[Hun Sen] instructed local authorities to help educate the public about landmines and ERW in a comprehensive and effective manner in and outsides of their community to eventually eliminate the dangers,” he continued.

The premier also instructed them to help to extensively disseminate information about the dangers of landmines and ERW to people through various forums, especially the implementation of “safe village-commune” policy and laws on the control of weapons, explosives and ammunition.

The campaign event was also attended by Soeum Bunrith, deputy governor of Battambang province and other authorities at all levels, including the armed forces and teachers as well as residents and many students.

"[Hun Sen] always cares about the wellbeing of the people in all circumstances and does not want to see anyone continue to be in danger due to landmines and ERW. The cause of this accident is due to the division of internal solidarity between Khmer and Khmer, causing armed conflict and all kinds of suffering to the people,” Thuch stated.

Thuch recalled that 1998 marked the end of decades of war in Cambodia, when comprehensive peace was achieved with Khmer Rouge soldier reintegration through Hun Sen’s win-win policy. He urged all people to continue to remain in solidarity and stay united.

Thuch further stated that the mine action sector is considered an important priority of the government, and that mine risk awareness and education is considered an important element of preventing and reducing landmine casualties.

Between 1992 and August of this year, Rattanak Mondul district has cleared about 96sq km, with 14,807 anti-personnel mines, 699 anti-tank mines and 50,230 ERWs destroyed.

And from January of this year through August, the district had two victims of landmines and ERWs while out in the forest for logging.

In these first eight months of the year, there were 40 casualties from explosives, which represented a 21 per cent increase over the same period last year when there were 33 victims.

Of the 40 victims, 18 were victim to mine and 22 to ERWs, according to the CMAA.