CASUALTIES resulting from land mines and explosive remnants of war this year remain on pace to exceed those from 2009, according to a report released this week, which would mark the first year-on-year increase since 2005.
The monthly report, released on Tuesday by the Cambodian Mine Action And Victim Assistance Authority, said total casualties reached 207 for the period of January to August this year, compared with just 186 for the same period in 2009. Of those, 45 people were killed, 37 required amputations and 125 suffered other injuries.
After about five years of minor fluctuation, casualties in Cambodia fell by 50 percent – to 450 – in 2006, and the total has declined every year since. Last year, 244 were recorded.
Chhiv Lim, project manager for the Cambodia Mine/ERW Victim Information System, said yesterday that this year’s increase was likely due to people carelessly venturing into areas that had not been properly de-mined. “Some play with ERWs like they are toys,” he said.
But Jamie Franklin, country programme director for the Mine Action Group, suggested that the elevated casualty total could be the result of a single anomalous month. May saw a total of 51 casualties, making it the worst month for Cambodia in nearly three years.
“One mine accident in Pailin [province] in May resulted in 16 casualties when a vehicle carrying villagers to the fields for work detonated an antitank mine,” Franklin said via email.
Khem Sophoan, director general of the Cambodian Mine Action Centre, expressed concern about prospects for bringing yearly casualty totals down further, saying some countries had scaled back mine action donations.
“Some donors have promised to continue to assist us, but they later decreased their funding because of the effect of the economic crisis on their nations,” he said.
Battambang is the province most heavily hit by mines, with 112 casualties reported since January last year.