Anew report released by the Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) has identified
the first substantial reduction in deaths due to landmines and unexploded
ordnance (UXO) since 2000.
The country has averaged 850 deaths a year
over the last five years, but final figures from January and February of 2006,
which total 119 for both months, indicate a dramatic decrease in the casualty
rate, said Khem Sophoan, Director General of CMAC.
He said that high risk
still exists for poverty-stricken Cambodians who collect UXO to sell for
"I hope that the numbers of casualties by landmines and UXO
will continue to decrease in 2006," Sophoan told the Post on April 4.
said Prime Minister Hun Sen has said the government aims to reduce casualties to
zero by 2012, and the target date to rid the country completely of land mines is
According to Sophoan, the government expects that six modern
demining machines that will be imported to Cambodia from Japan in May will speed
up the clearance of mines and UXO.
On March 17, government officials and
the Japanese Ambassador signed a $3.88 million aid pact for the research and
development of mine clearance equipment and just over $900,000 for humanitarian
demining activities in six areas in Battambang province.
"I haven't seen
the machines yet, but I know they are modern and equipped with ground radar so
we can see mines on the computer screen," Sophoan said.
"At present we
use metal detectors and we search for mines/UXO by sound. Sometimes we find only
a nail or a metal fragment - and we lose time."
Takahashi Fumiaki said on March 17 that the development of new machines is
needed to further empower the demining activities and ensure safety for those
involved in the dangerous endeavor.
"I hope this project, by introducing
the new machines with high technology, will contribute to accelerating such
demining activities in Cambodia," Fumiaki said.
But despite the
encouraging findings and such technological advances, Sophoan said CMAC is
suffering financial problems. Donors suspended aid to CMAC in 2000 when it was
in a financial crisis because of allegations of corruption and fraud. But CMAC
officials said international assistance resumed after it implemented
Sophoan said CMAC has received about $8.7
million from donors such as the US, Japan, Germany and the Netherlands.
Australia and Canada contribute through the United Nations Development Program.
He added, however, that CMAC continues to post shortfalls of about $500,000 each
year because its annual budgetary requirements are between $9 million and $10
He said a report made by the United Nations Transitional
Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) in 1993 estimated that there were ten million
mines imported to Cambodia. A subsequent UN report in 1997 estimated six million
UXO, including mines.