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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Mine clearance could cost $300 million over 10 years

Mine clearance could cost $300 million over 10 years

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Deminers clear land in Battambang province in April.

At opening of conference on Cambodia's clearance strategy, official predicts effort will last far beyond first treaty deadline.

THE government will attempt to collect US$300 million over the next 10 years for mine-clearance projects, an official said Monday during the opening of a two-day conference on the government's national mine-clearance strategy.

"We will make an effort to collect $300 million within 10 years, which means we need $30 million per year," said Prak Sokhon, a secretary of state at the Council of Ministers, who noted that the yearly figure was equivalent to current funding from development partners.

Ten years ago, Cambodia became a signatory to the 1997 Ottawa Treaty, committing itself to removing all antipersonnel mines by the end of 2009. The Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA) in May drafted a request to extend the deadline for another 10 years.

That request will be formally submitted in September to the Secretariat of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, which will decide whether or not to approve the request during a conference at the end of the year in Cartagena, Colombia.

At the Cartagena conference, Cambodia will also present its national strategy, which is the subject of this week's conference. Roughly 120 members of the mine action community in addition to 40 RCAF soldiers attended the launch Monday, during which Prak Sokhon said it remained unclear how long it will take to clear all of Cambodia's mines.

"No one knows how many mines still remain in Cambodia," Prak Sokhon said. "To tell you the truth, even 10 years from now, mines will not be cleared from Cambodian terrority."

Next steps
CMAA Secretary General Chum Bunrong said Monday that a first draft of the national strategy will be submitted on August 19, while the final draft will be ready in September.

Sophie Baranes, deputy country director for the UN Development ProgramME, said Thursday that the national strategy should go beyond clearance to address issues such as how cleared land is put to use.

"The strategy will guide development partners, and particularly operators, to better coordinate and align our support," she said.

Between 1992 and February 2009, deminers cleared 479,957 square kilometres of land for development purposes. Landmine experts estimate that fewer than 700 square kilometres of land still need to be cleared, although this figure has not been backed up by technical research.

Prak Sokhon said Monday that 4,544 square kilometers of land have been affected by land mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO), though that figure - taken from a 2001 baseline survey - is no longer considered valid.

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