China is to help clear land mines and explosive remnants of war from the country, reaffirming its commitment to protecting security and stability in Cambodia.
The pledge came as Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang met for talks in the Philippines on Monday, on the sidelines of the Asean summit.
Mr Li said his government was prioritising efforts to help countries clear mines from their territories.
“Our Chinese friends have promised to help in clearing land mines and explosive remnants of war from the country as soon as possible,” Mr Hun Sen said in a post on Facebook. “The relevant institutions in both countries will work to put together a proposal for approval before the Chinese premier’s official visit to Cambodia.”
After decades of war and violence, Cambodia is littered with land mines and UXOs, which continue to kill and maim people.
From January to September this year, nine people were killed and 34 people injured by UXOs.
Heng Ratana, director-general of the Cambodian Mines Action Centre, told Khmer Times he had been told that China could be providing funding for mine clearance in the country. He said China had CMAC with specialist mines equipment, as well as support for the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority.
“This is good news,” he said, adding that CMAC operations until 2025 would require about $400 million.
“Funding from donor countries is roughly $20 to $30 million each year, which is about half of what we require, since some donors have decreased or cut off funding.”
According to data released in 2000, the US dropped two million bombs – 800,000 tonnes’ worth – on Cambodia from 1963 to 1975, with the aim of destroying Viet Cong invaders.
Mr Ratana said CMAC had now identified 55 chemical bomb sites nationwide.
In Svay Rieng province alone, which borders Vietnam, he said there were 29 locations awaiting inspection and removal operations to be carried out by United Nations experts. In another meeting on the sidelines of the Asean summit, Mr Hun Sen told UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres about the discovery of the chemical bomb sites and impact on the health of locals in Svay Rieng.
Cambodia last month asked the UN to intervene and ensure US chemical bombs were cleared from Cambodian territory.
The move came as diplomatic relations between the US and Cambodia continue to deteriorate over the legacy of bombs left from the Vietnam War.
The promise of support from China followed news the US would no longer be funding Cambodian mine clearance through the NGO Norwegian People’s Aid.
The US was supplying CMAC with $2.5 million annually through NPA to clear UXOs.
However, the US has pledged to continue funding work to clear landmines and unexploded ordnances from the country through other means.
Cambodia is set to host the second Mekong Lanchang summit in January, during which the Chinese premier is scheduled to sign a number of agreements with the government.