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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - CMAC hopes to see land mine casualties eliminated by 2012

CMAC hopes to see land mine casualties eliminated by 2012

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081229_05.jpg

Agency head, Khem Sophoan, says deaths and injuries due to mine blasts down this year, as land mine authority leadership due to change

Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON

A deminer displays a type of anti-personnel mine that is common in Cambodia.

AN official with the Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) on Sunday set a target date of 2012 for the elimination or dramatic reduction in the number of casualties from land mines in the Kingdom.

"We expect by 2012, there will be almost no one injured from land mines," Khem Sophoan, director general of CMAC, told the Post.

Khem Sophoan said between January and November this year, 244 people were injured or killed by mines - down from 317 in 2007. He estimated that this number would drop to 50 or 60 casualties by 2010.

The prediction follows an announcement Friday that long-time director of the Cambodian Mine Action Authority, Sam Sotha, would be replaced by Chum Bunrong, an adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Sam Sotha could not be reached for comment on Sunday, but his assistant, Touch Teath, confirmed the replacement, which was made by royal decree from King Norodom Sihamoni.

The assistant could not say what prompted Sam Sotha's removal or what position, if any, he would hold in the future.

"So far, I have not seen the royal decree. We will know at the ceremony what new position [Sam Sotha] will receive," Touch Teath said, referring to a ceremony today to announce the leadership change.

Government spokesman and Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith told the Post Sunday Sam Sotha's removal was a normal rotation of leadership.

"He worked [at CMAA] since 1993 or 1994. He will be given a new position by decision of the Council of Ministers later on," Khieu Kanharith said, adding that Sam Sotha would not lose his government rank due to the rotation.

Rehab centres centralised

Meanwhile, the government announced Sunday that it would assume control of 11 rehabilitation centres across Cambodia that assist land mine survivors, as well as people affected by polio, cerebral palsy, leprosy and other debilitating illnesses.

The centres were first established in the 1980s and 1990s with assistance from the International Committee for the Red Cross, Handicap International Belgium, Handicap International France, Veterans International and the Cambodian Trust.

"According to a Memorandum of Understanding ... between the government and the five organisations, the 11 centres will be transferred to  ... the Ministry of Social Affairs by early 2011," Sem Sokha, a secretary of state for the ministry, said Sunday.

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