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CMAC, Golden West renew cooperation agreement

CMAC Director Heng Ratana renews an agreement with Len Austin, director of special projects for the US State Department-supported Golden West Humanitarian Foundation.
CMAC Director Heng Ratana renews an agreement with Len Austin, director of special projects for the US State Department-supported Golden West Humanitarian Foundation. Photo supplied

CMAC, Golden West renew cooperation agreement

Heng Ratana, president of the Cambodian Mine Action Centre, announced on Tuesday the renewal of a partnership with the Golden West Humanitarian Foundation, which is supported by the US State Department.

According to Ratana, the agreement covers programs for the next three years.

Len Austin, Golden West’s director of special projects, confirmed the renewal today, calling it “standard process”.

Austin said the memorandum of understanding is required for Golden West to continue working from CMAC’s office in Kampong Chhnang. Among its work, the organisation recycles explosives that are used to destroy landmines and other unexploded ordnance, he added.

The organisation is supported by the US State Department, and has also worked to train CMAC’s Dive Unit in underwater bomb disposal, with the first Cambodian-led removal mission in 2015. In order to remove the ordnance, a team of divers must inspect it underwater and fasten equipment to it, before hauling it out of the water.

The relationship between CMAC and the US became fractious earlier this year after multiple high-ranking government officials publicly accused the US of neglecting its Vietnam War-era legacy. The heightened anti-US rhetoric coincided with a crackdown on the Cambodian opposition, which officials accused of colluding with the US to foment “revolution”.

The US, in turn, responded by accusing Cambodia of seeking to politicise a humanitarian issue, ultimately cut its $2 million in annual funding for CMAC and opening a clearance project in the country’s east up to bidding.

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