Ly Thuch, first vice-president of the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA), said that August and September clearance operations in five target provinces were ahead of schedule.

The operations were implemented under the Samdach Techo Project for Mine Action – themed “Providing Safe Ground, Creating Smiles” – and had neutralised over 1,200 munitions.

“We have achieved 31.18 per cent of our objectives in Takeo, Kampong Chhnang, Kampong Cham, Kampot and Svay Rieng provinces, clearing 8,703,082sqm of the target areas,” he added.

He noted that deminers had detected and destroyed 638 anti-personnel mines and 603 explosive remnants of war (ERW s).

Under the auspices of Hun Sen, the CMAA has been deploying demining forces from the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) in the provinces since August 1.

“We are preparing to declare these provinces mine-free. CMAC has deployed seven groups of demining forces, including 360 specialists, with operational support materials and demining machinery,” he said.

Almost 80 per cent of the mine-affected land in Takeo and Kampong Chhnang has been cleared, with nearly 40 per cent of mine fields in Kampong Cham now declared safe. The much-larger areas which required work in Kampot and Svay Rieng would take longer to render safe for the public, he said, noting that their clearance rates are currently slightly over 20 and 25 per cent, respectively.

He added that the work will be completed ahead of schedule. He expected Takeo and Kampong Chhnang to be declared mine-free in late October, while the work in Kampong Cham would be completed later in the year. Kampot and Svay Rieng should be demined completely by next March, he noted.

During the course of its operations, flooding had prompted CMAC to reorganise the schedule of its work. It has simply redeployed its forces to drier areas and will return to the inundated locations when the situation improves, Thuch explained.