The director-general of the Cambodian Mine Action Centre has vowed that his organisation will clear more than 117 square kilometres of minefields in 2018.
Heng Ratana said yesterday that CMAC would also carry out minefield information research and education programmes this year, as well as strengthen volunteer networks in 700 villages and provide job training to people disabled as a result of landmines.
“We will step into a new phase to clear mines from our beautiful country,” he said. “CMAC will be responsible for 65-70 percent of the national plan for clearing land, so will serve as a backbone to its success.”
In 2017, CMAC cleared more than 8,636 hectares of land and found and destroyed 37,448 landmines and explosive remnants of war.
Mr Ratana said CMAC is also preparing to respond to 9,000 urgent requests for help this year, and may clear 50,000 explosives over the next 12 months.
Lem Kosan, a 52-year-old resident of Svay Leu district in Siem Reap province, was injured by a civil war landmine in 1989 and became disabled as a result.
“At the time, I crossed a path without knowing mines were buried under the ground. I stepped on a mine and both of my legs were disabled, while my left arm was broken, and my chest was also hit by many pieces of shrapnel, as was my left eye,” he said.
He said people in his area were still struggling with the legacy of mines left by the war, but CMAC’s work had helped return areas of land to local farmers.
Angkor Association for the Disabled director Sem Sovantha said that mine clearance work was leading to a decrease in the number of those injured by unexploded ordnance.
“I am very happy because there are fewer victims following the mine clearance of CMAC,” he said.
He also urged donor countries to continue supporting organisations that work to clear unexploded ordnance from Cambodia, in order to reach the target of eradicating mines completely.
“There are a lot of complicated problems with land where there are still mines, which makes it impossible for the people to use that land,” he said.
He admitted it would be challenging for CMAC to rid the country of all mines by 2028 in line with its strategy, but said the painstaking work must continue at whatever pace is necessary to get the job done properly.
His association works with more than 1,000 disabled people. Those disabled by mines and unexploded ordnance make up the largest proportion.