In the first six months of 2023, the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) made remarkable strides, having cleared over 151sq km of minefields, surpassing their target by 113.28 per cent.

Throughout the operation, a staggering 36,315 mines and unexploded ordnance (UXOs) were located and neutralised, according to CMAC director-general Heng Ratana.

Ratana told The Post that he had chaired a meeting at the CMAC Phnom Penh headquarters on August 14, where attendants looked over the achievements from the first six months and deliberated on plans for the second half of the year.

Although a few projects experienced delays, he said that overall, CMAC’s operations were both smooth and successful.

“During the first six month of this year, we surpassed our set target, destroying over 36,000 mines and UXOs,” he elaborated.

Ratana highlighted CMAC’s educational efforts too, saying they have raised awareness about the dangers of landmines and explosive remnants of war, reaching over 11,600 target groups.

That’s an outreach to approximately 571,810 homes and nearly 900,000 individuals.

To further enhance their operations, CMAC has been training their staff in new technical skills.

Earlier this month, seven of CMAC’s special officers went to Colombia. Their mission is to offer training in mine action operations.

This project, running from August 13 to 27, receives support from both the Japanese and Cambodian governments as part of the South-South Cooperation Project.

Ratana also congratulated 41 CMAC unit leaders who have recently been honoured with retirement by the King’s decree.

“On behalf of CMAC and myself, I express deep gratitude to Prime Minister Hun Sen and Minister of National Defence Tea Banh. Their support has been invaluable,” he said.

Reflecting on past achievements, he pointed out that by early 2023, nine provinces had been declared mine-free. He’s optimistic about future progress too.

“In the next few months, we aim to declare even more provinces mine-free,” he stated.

Current data suggests that around 400sq km still need clearing of mines and ordnance. However, Ratana said that with CMAC’s continued efforts, this number is set to decline by year’s end.

“Given our pace and determination, we aim to achieve a mine-free Cambodia by 2025.

“We believe we’re on track to meet our plan. However, a more precise assessment will come by mid-2024. By then, after concluding this year’s work and the first half of next year, we’ll have a clearer picture,” he explained.