Anti-Persoonsmijnen Ontmijnede Product Ontwikkeling (APOPO) – a Belgian non-profit that trains African giant pouched rats to detect landmines and tuberculosis – had requested more dogs from the Cambodian Mine Action Centre to be used for demining operations in other countries, according to CMAC director-general Heng Ratana.

The proposal was made on June 7 during a working meeting between APOPO regional manager in Cambodia Michael Heiman and CMAC on the cooperation of the two institutions in the implementation of demining techniques by rats and their technical research regarding dogs.

“The dogs sent from CMAC to serve in South Sudan, Angola and Turkey are performing well. And APOPO has asked for more dogs from CMAC to operate in other countries,” Ratana said in a Facebook post.

He said APOPO also confirmed the possibility of receiving assistance from Belgium to support the operation of CMAC in the five years span from 2022 to 2026.

The assistance would mainly be focused on the project to eliminate unexploded ordnance (UXO) in Preah Vihear province, especially around the Preah Vihear temple area.

Separately on June 6, CMAC announced the retirement of their gold medal-winning rat Magawa due to old age after five years of service in Cambodia. Magawa will retire to a CMAC training centre in Siem Reap province.

According to CMAC, both they and APOPO have used 57 rats between them for demining operations, of which 34 are currently active, five retired and 18 in training.

Ratana said both rats and dogs were involved in accelerating the search for UXO underground, both in Cambodia and across the world, because modern electronic devices cannot be used to explore some places effectively, especially when searching for unexploded ordnance underground.

Cambodia has more than 800sq km still affected by UXO. The government has set a goal to make Cambodia a landmine-free country by 2025.