Renowned British film actor Daniel Craig – best known for his portrayal of James Bond or “Agent 007” in the last five instalments from that franchise – called on the international community to rally behind the Cambodian government in order to achieve a landmine- free Cambodia by 2025.
Craig serves as the UN Global Advocate for the Elimination of Mines and Explosive Hazards. He virtually joined the UNDP Cambodia-organised launch of Cambodia’s first Safe Ground campaign in Battambang province on January 22. The project’s goal is to turn minefields into playing fields.
“Safe ground is a fundamental human right. I know there’s a lot of work remaining to achieve the 2025 goal of a mine-free Cambodia and it can’t be achieved without a sustained commitment and increased resources.
“With a clear deadline in sight, now is the time for the international community to rally behind the Royal Government of Cambodia and fulfil all of their previous commitments.
“Please join me in supporting the mine action authority and the United Nations to see that the job is finished. And to all the men and women at the frontline who carry out this necessary and crucial work, I extend my personal thanks and gratitude; I wish them all health, safety, and happiness in 2021,” Craig said in his remarks for the occasion.
Ly Thuch, first vice-president of the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA), said that from 1960 until 1998 Cambodia faced a series of internal and regional conflicts which left landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) strewn across the country.
Mines and ERW had claimed nearly 20,000 lives and injured over 45,000 others, causing ongoing suffering to individuals, their families and communities.
Over a 27-year period the Cambodian government had spent over $160 million on mine clearance, while the international donor community had contributed over $216 million, Thuch said.
He said Cambodia is facing operational and financial challenges due to the pandemic and he called for increased international support in order for the Kingdom to meet the 2025 mine-free goal.
Thuch said Cambodia had 2,152 sq km of land impacted by the presence of landmines and ERW, an area three times the size of Singapore and to make Cambodia mine-free by 2025 the country must clear the remaining 835 square km contaminated by landmines or just over one Singapore in area.
Thuch noted that even with the generous support of development partners, Cambodia currently faces a shortfall of $225 million from 2021 to 2025.
“Daniel, your kind willingness to stand as the UN global advocate for the elimination of mines and explosive hazards is deeply valued by the government and our people here in Phnom Penh as you have shone a light on the continued plight we face,” Thuch said, adding that Prime Minister Hun Sen wanted to meet Craig and thank him personally should he ever visit Cambodia in the future.
UN resident coordinator to Cambodia Pauline Tamesis congratulated the Cambodian government on its “strong, forward-looking and ambitious National Mine Action Strategy” and said it is now time to step up support for this initiative to ensure Cambodia’s future is free of landmines.