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CMAC operations continuing unabated despite Covid-19

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A demining expert removes a UXO unit in Kampong Cham province’s Kampong Siem district on May 3. CMAC

CMAC operations continuing unabated despite Covid-19

In the first four months of this year, Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) cleared more than 35 million square metres of land, detecting and destroying over 15,000 landmines and other unexploded ordnance (UXO), according to CMAC director-general Heng Ratana.

Ratana said CMAC also held 5,818 information session to instruct groups on landmines and other munitions leftover from wars. The sessions reached almost 200,000 households.

He said that in the first four months, CMAC cleared land equivalent to more than 94 per cent of its objective. This is equal to 31.38 per cent of the annual plan or a total of 15,348 landmines and UXOs destroyed.

According to Ratana, CMAC hoped that by the end of this year, the organisation would be able to achieve about 117 sq km of its target. But to reach this goal, it depends on the resources available and the location of UXOs.

Considering CMAC’s operations amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, he said the results have been a remarkable achievement.

“Although Covid-19 is rampant in the country, CMAC has not missed a job or suspended operations, meaning that we have achieved our goals without hesitation,” he said.

“The challenge for our forces is not to rest at home. For more than three months, we have asked them to stay in their operations area. We forbid them from travelling because of Covid-19. But it does not affect operations as our forces are united and do not need to travel much,” he said.

Separately, Chhun Bora, Explosive Ordinance Disposal supervisor and training manager at Cambodia Self Help Demining (CSHD), said that in the first five months of this year, CSHD staff have found and destroyed more than two thousands landmines and UXOs.

“From January 1 to May 30, a total of 2,522 rounds of ammunition were destroyed. The ammunition has not been categorised,” he said.

Bora noted that this year, the detection of landmines was more than last year as people had encroached on forest land laden with mines, especially in the provinces bordering Thailand such as Oddar Meanchey and Preah Vihear.

“Encroachment on uncleared land is dangerous because of UXOs. It takes time for demining teams to clear them. People need to contact [experts] to clear mine-laden areas,” Bora said.

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