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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Pope's call has special local relevance

Pope's call has special local relevance

Photos, Darren Whiteside

P OPE John Paul appealed to arms producers on Feb

29 to stop making anti-personnel mines, which he said were designed to kill and

mutilate innocent people and children.

"I would like to make a new and

vigorous appeal for a definitive ban of production and use of anti-personnel

mines, which in a number of countries compromise the return of peace because

they are placed along roads and in the countryside with the intention of harming

in an indifferent manner as many people as possible," the Pope said.

"In

effect, even after the end of the hostilities, they continue to kill and cause

irreparable damage by seriously mutilating adults and above all, children," the

Pope said during a speech to members of the peace group "Pax

Christi."

Relief groups say there are about 100 million anti-personnel

mines scattered across the world, mostly in Third World countries. A further 100

million are believed to be stockpiled.

In Cambodia, one of the world's

most heavily mined countries, there are reckoned to be 10 million land mines.

Casualties are anything up to 400 each month. The International Committee of the

Red Cross has estimated that one in every 236 people in Cambodia has an

amputated limb due to a landmine.

To guage some of the enormity of

Cambodia's problem, it took CMAC deminers working for one year to clear six

villages in Sisophon ready for resettlement.

That covered no more than

100 hectares, or 247 acres of land. There is living space now for 259 families,

and room enough now to contemplate schools, homes, and perhaps a

hospital.

As Prime Minister Pince Norodom Rannaridh said at a ceremony to

hand over the land, the villages were on six dangerous minefields. The Prince

presented Banteay Meanchey Governor Buong Khem with two million riel ($833) for

resettlement assistance and another one million riel ($420) to displaced people.

Thirty villagers had been killed and another 61 wounded by mines before

CMAC started this particular patch, CMAC director Ieng Mouly

said.

Delegates are now gathering in Phnom Penh for a land mine

conference.

Conference organizers are hoping that the draft law now

before the National Assembly will be passed by the time the conference ends.

Anti-personnel mines are made in China, Russia and several European

countries such as Italy, Britain and Germany.

Preah Maha Ghosananda, the

most venerable monk in Cambodia, is presently on his fourth peace march across

the country. The specific focus of the Cambodian march is against land

mines.

The Pope also made a more general appeal for world disarmament,

saying it has become too easy to buy weapons.

"There is a need to remind

arms-producing countries of their moral responsibility, in particular, in their

trade with dveloping countries where too much importance is given to the

supplies of arms, putting them in debt, instead of helping them use their

resources and international aid to help their citizens," he said.

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