This year's 30th anniversary of mine action in Cambodia is being observed in the capital with exhibitions and displays memorialising the Kingdom's long fight against landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW).
The event, held from November 21-22 at Koh Pich Convention and Exhibition Centre, also saw live demonstrations of how trained animals are used in demining and presentations by deminers regarding the safest techniques to use when one stumbles upon a potentially dangerous landmine.
Ly Thuch, first vice-president of the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA), said at the opening of the event that the preservation and display of the historical objects related to war, peacekeeping and mine action provide many benefits to society, such as raising awareness of its origins to teach the public lessons about the past and encourage them to take pride in national achievements.
He further stated that the government's mission to clear the Kingdom of landmines with the assistance of development partners, national and international operators and all stakeholders over the past 30 years has made a significant contribution to addressing the lingering impacts of Cambodia's wars of decades past.
The 30th anniversary exhibition features displays on demining achievements, materials, machinery and equipment, demonstrations of manual demining as well as the use of mine detection systems, and detection of mines and explosives by animals such as dogs and rats.
In addition, there were demonstrations of victim rescue operations, risk reduction education, use of information management technology and state-of-the-art technology to deal with landmines and ERW as well as displays on the peacekeeping missions related to demining undertaken over the past 16 years by Cambodia's "blue helmet" forces.
According to the CMAA, over the past 30 years, a total of 2,531 sq km – equal to 1,703 villages – have been cleared and turned into safe land for an estimated nine million people to use for the construction of houses, schools, hospitals, bridges, roads and farming.
During their missions, demining operators found and destroyed millions of landmines and ERW, including 1,151,232 anti-personnel mines and 26,112 anti-tank mines along with 3,028,659 other pieces of unexploded ordnance (UXO).
According to the CMAA, there were 65,004 casualties from mines over the past three decades in Cambodia with 19,818 people killed.
"Due to the large area of landmines and ERW and limited resources, Cambodia has planned and prioritised clearance for the most affected and in-demand areas. For the clearance operations, the operators have used all of the possible methods, equipment and technologies to clear areas in accordance with the situation of the actual mine field," Thuch said.
For the occasion of the 30th anniversary, Daniel Craig – an actor who gained international fame playing secret agent James Bond and who serves as the UN's global advocate for the elimination of landmines and unexploded ordnance – issued a statement noting that more than one million Cambodians still live in areas where they are at risk due to landmines.
"The livelihoods of people in rural areas are restricted by the unsafe land they must use. Many families still mourn their own victims of landmines," he said in a video.
Craig added that in his time with the UN, he has seen changes come about in Cambodia with millions of people benefiting from the work of the CMAA, UN and their partners.
The opening ceremony of the 30th anniversary of mine action in Cambodia was attended by 300 representatives of ministries, institutions, embassies, development partners, national and international demining operators and students.
The exhibition features 52 booths showcasing the achievements of demining operators and other relevant institutions to the public who are invited to attend the event for free.
On the second day of the exhibition, Prime Minister Hun Sen will close the exhibition, announcing that 1,703 additional villages are now clear of landmines, according to Thuch.