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Mine clearance needs time


Cambodia will ask for additional time to meet the 2010 deadline for mine clearance, saying ‘only a divinity ... could possible know where all the mines are'.

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A mine identified and cordoned off by CMAC deminers prior to its destruction in Battambang province last week.

CAMBODIA is to submit a request to the Mine Ban Convention Implementation Secretariat in Geneva, asking for demining assistance extending beyond the 2010 deadline for mine clearance set in the Ottawa Treaty, officials said this week.

The 1997 mine ban agreement, to which Cambodia is a signatory, gives states four years to dispose of anti-personnel mines and 10 to clear mines already on its territory.

"We will submit documents to the committee in Geneva at the end of April," Heng Ratana, director general of the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC), said Wednesday.

"We will ask for 10 more years to clear Cambodia's land mines after the deadline ends next year."

Prak Sokhon, a secretary of state at the Council of Ministers, said he expected the request would be approved by the committee.

"We have a team in Geneva that is helping us prepare the legal basis for the request," he said, adding that such requests can be made according to Article 5 of the Ottawa Treaty.

Prak Sokhon said the documents presented by Cambodia will explain the reason why the country could not clear all its mines within the 10-year window.  

"I've told development partners, donor countries and people working in the demining field that only a divinity in the sky could possibly know where all the mines are located in Cambodia," he said.

Heng Ratana estimated that following the 2010 deadline, around 4,000 square kilometres of land would require clearing.

Between 1992 and 2008, local and international demining teams have cleared land mines from 486 square kilometres, destroying 820,000 anti-personnel mines, 20,000 anti-tank mines and 1.77 million pieces of unexploded ordnances, Prak Sokhon said.

The number of people suffering from mine injuries has dropped from 450 in 2006 to 266 in 2008, according to a CMAC statement released on Saturday, the International Day for Mine Awareness.

Prak Sokhon said the priority areas for clearance were Battambang, Pailin, Banteay Meanchey, Preah Vihear, Oddar Meanchey and Pursat provinces.



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