Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) director-general Heng Ratana expressed his pride over the CMAC dog training programme on Wednesday, saying it had trained over 200 canines to participate in mine clearance.

Ratana told The Post on that the dogs were imported from the Swedish Army. The first dog training session was held in 1996 and finished in 2002. Since that time, Cambodia has taken more ownership of the programme and strengthened it.

Cambodia would not forget the good deeds of Sweden and other development partners, Ratana said.

“However, if we do not strengthen our ownership, we would not reach this state. It would mean that we are not independent and we would be in trouble when the programme ends,” he said.

The dogs purchased from abroad cost between $30,000 and $40,000 each. Out of the 200 dogs CMAC trained, Ratana said 100 could be used in mine-clearing operations.

He said the programme can produce 80 to 100 puppies per year and 70 to 80 per cent of them can start the mine-clearing training.

“Among 100 puppies we bought to train, only six were successfully trained to be mine-clearance dogs. We now train them by ourselves. Our dogs are highly capable, which is a great pride for us,” Ratana said.

CMAC has trained its dogs to do more than smell for mines. The dogs also assist with unexploded ordnance (UXO) research, he said.

Dogs have greatly assisted CMAC officers in their demining operations. People can only find mines in big areas but dogs can explore narrow areas in forests, he said.

He said training expert dogs produces long-term benefits. Dogs are used widely in the army by neighbouring countries, including Thailand and Vietnam.

These countries use dogs to ensure their security, he said.

In its history, CMAC has cleared more than 2.9 million mines and UXOs covering about 1,200sq km, Ratana said.