The Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) cleared more than 30,000 land mines from 75sq km in the first 10 months of this year, the organisation’s director-general said on Monday.
Heng Ratana, speaking at a CMAC meeting, said the organisation aims to clear a further 116sq km of mines in the next two months. Progress usually slows during the rainy season, but with the drier weather between October and December, operations can resume at a faster pace.
“We have completed more than 75sq km so far, but we hope that by the end of this year, we can achieve our plan by clearing mines from over 100sq km of land.”
Leading demining organisation
CMAC is Cambodia’s leading demining organisation, formed by the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia in 1992.
In August 2001, then King Norodom Sihanouk assigned CMAC status as Cambodia’s national institution for demining. According to their latest report, CMAC has reclaimed about 1,500sq km of land since it was founded.
Ratana said that roughly 80 per cent of CMAC’s operations depend on international assistance and funding. CMAC has roughly 30 projects scheduled for next year, five of which have already received $14 to $15 million in funding.
CMAC now aims to receive further funding for projects that will clear mines from 110 to 120sq km of land next year.
“We need a new plan and donors to support our operations and I think that next year, the aid situation will be better than this year."
“We will sign with the donors this week for funding worth about $12 million, which we will receive by early 2019. We will continue to negotiate with our funders, and if everything goes as planned we think that we can get around $16 to $18 million for 2019,” he said.
Cambodia remains among the leading nations in the world in the field of land mine clearing, with the Cambodian government aiming to rid the country of all the anti-personnel mines by 2025 as part of Ottawa Treaty.
However, Cambodia also has extensive unexploded ordnances as a consequence of years of domestic and international conflict that will take longer to clear. Ratana said that cluster bombs detected by CMAC cover about 650sq km, making them a much harder problem to resolve.
“US cluster bombs dropped in Cambodia were on such a large scale that we do not believe we can clear them by 2025 with our resources. However, we will tackle this problem at a later time. The government see this problem as a long term one,” he said.
CMAC also trains dogs for the purposes of their work, with 2018 witnessing the birth of a large new cohort of mine detecting canines.
“We are proud to announce the birth of 67 new mine detection dogs in 2018. The new puppies are being trained, and many of last year puppies have already started to operate in the field,” said Ratana.