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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Demining standards set to rise

Demining standards set to rise

The government's demining regulatory body has announced new regulations to ensure

all operators meet their land clearing targets, and that those which fail to do so

account for any shortfall.

Sam Sotha, secretary-general of the Cambodian Mine Action Authority (CMAA), said

the new rules were designed to ensure cleared land went to those who needed it most.

"CMAA's aim is to ensure operators demine areas with a high density of incidents,

land that landless people need, areas that have high priority for development, and

ensure the policy of poverty reduction is met," said Sotha.

By the end of March four teams from CMAA should be in the field to monitor the performance

of the four demining operators: the government's Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC),

international NGOs the Halo Trust and the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), and the armed

forces.

Regulations due to be signed off by Prime Minister Hun Sen by the end of March state

that operators must justify the amount of land cleared against their start of year

projections.

Of the four monitoring teams, the quality management unit will ensure demining is

safe and carried out according to operators' plans. Socio-economic teams will make

sure the demined land is given to people who need it most. Sotha said both units

would be permanently based in the provinces, and would monitor operators on a daily

basis.

The two other units will collect data and ensure all operations meet international

standards.

In the past, Sotha said, the lack of a monitoring system meant it was impossible

to tell if demining operators were working to the best of their abilities.

"After demining we do not know if the land is given to the right beneficiary,"

he explained. "[There was] lack of coordination, lack of a focal point, and

no follow up of land cleared."

Richard Boulter, program manager with the Halo Trust, said the regulations would

simply endorse standards to which responsible operators already adhere.

"We do not envisage many, if any, changes to our operations. We have been working

to international standards," said Boulter. "It may make the process a little

more transparent, but I doubt it."

Boulter said the regulations might introduce a degree of clarity among operators,

but was skeptical about the authority's powers.

"[The regulations] will [make a difference] if they are rigidly adhered to,

but they probably won't be," he said.

MAG's representative, David Hayter, said only that the introduction of a regulatory

body was a positive step, but would not comment further until the rules were officially

signed off.

Another issue the CMAA will address this year is the safe handling of explosives.

There was some concern last year after it transpired that CMAC had "lost"

an undisclosed amount of C4 plastic explosives over an eight year period.

"Storage, transportation and handling of explosives must meet standards,"

said Sotha, adding that the authority would compare explosives used within a year

against stock held at the beginning of the year. Any operator found in breach of

regulations and unable to explain why, he said, could lose its license.

Other developments for 2003 include the introduction of a central database, which

Sotha said would act as a focal point for people who wanted information on the country's

demining activities.

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