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US vows funding to clear wartime bombs

Ven Rathavong and Pav Suy / Khmer Times Share:
Embassy spokesman says funding will resume to remove unexploded ordnance in eastern Cambodia. Reuters

The United States has pledged to continue funding work to clear landmines and unexploded ordnances from the country.   

The announcement came after the Cambodian Mine Action Centre said on Monday the US would from January cease funding its work to clear UXOs.

CMAC director-general Heng Ratana said the US had cut its aid to CMAC through its partner NGO Norwegian People’s Aid without giving a reason.

The US was supplying CMAC with $2.5 million annually through NPA to clear UXOs.

However, David Josar, deputy spokesman for the US Embassy, yesterday said the US remained ‎strongly committed to its goals to clear all US-origin UXOs from the country, and to help eliminate the humanitarian impact of landmines by 2025. CMAC estimates $400 million is needed to clear landmines across the kingdom by 2025. About 1,946 square kilometres of land suspected to contain UXOs is yet to be cleared.

“We will use 2018 resources to put in place a world-class removal programme targeting US-originating UXOs in eastern Cambodia,” Mr Josar said, adding the work would coincide with support for clearing the more lethal Chinese, Vietnamese, and Soviet land mines in western Cambodia.

A mine-clearance officer with an explosive-sniffing rat.
KT/ May Titthara

Mr Josar confirmed the US-funded project implemented by the NPA would end this December, but more funding for UXO clearance initiatives would be awarded on a competitive basis.

“We intend to award funding for this effort on a competitive basis,” he said, “A request for proposals, which we will prepare in consultation with the government of Cambodia, will be released this month.”

Engineers in Takeo province on Monday meanwhile uncovered 10 unexploded ordnances as they worked to level a road in Tram Kak district’s Trapaing Kranhoung commune.District police chief Duk Thiya said his forces cooperated with the provincial police and CMAC to remove the bombs.

Top Saron, deputy chief of the ordnance management bureau, said the devices were damaged but still active.

The haul included two 81mm bombs, four 60mm bombs, one B-40 rocket, and three landmines.

“The UXOs were all rusty, but the explosives were still active. If the devices were hit with a hard object or burned, they could have exploded, so there was a high risk of danger,” he said.

“Some of the bombs were dropped by the US and some were dropped during the Pol Pot regime.”

Mr Ratana said Prime Minister Hun Sen had instructed him to advise all communities and CMAC staff that the government would cover the organisation’s expenses regardless of aid cuts.

The US said it has spent more than $131 million on removing unexploded ordnance from the country over the past two decades.

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