Mine clearance should focus on removing the maximum amount of mines while donor
interest lasts, and move away from the current trend of demining areas for
development. That was according to Richard Boulter, country program manager of
the Halo Trust, in his address to a regional demining seminar.
E Lai, 43, who stepped on a mine in Poipet while cutting firewood one month ago.
lot of tasking for demining is being driven by requests from donor
organizations, but it is not addressing the problem. They are not working in the
most densely mined areas," he told the Post on March 27.
Boulter made his
assessment after presentations from the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), the Royal
Cambodian Armed Forces, and the Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) at the
regional demining conference held in Phnom Penh between March 26
Boulter suggested the government should combat the problem by
writing land safety into all publicly-funded development projects to ensure
communities did not feel pressured into developing unsafe land for fear the
money would be diverted elsewhere.
He said the emphasis had "swung a
little too far" in favor of development-driven clearance. In the future, he
warned, the international community could lose interest. That made it imperative
to demine as quickly as possible before funding dried up.
mines must be considered on an equal footing, rather then [asking] what is the
land use right now, because people just up sticks and leave," he said. "Getting
rid of them now should be the focus of mine clearance agencies in
The aim of the seminar was to bring together Southeast Asian
countries to share their experiences and lessons learned. Delegates from US,
Britain, France and Germany were also present.
Of major concern was a
lack of commitment by Southeast Asian nations to the Ottawa treaty to ban
landmines, which came into being in 1999. Vietnam, Singapore, Myanmar and Laos
are yet to sign.
"Many states in this continent are still outside the
convention," said Jean Lint, president of the fourth meeting of state parties on
the Ottawa Convention. "Many, or most, of the producers are from this continent
... I urge all states that have not signed it to accede without delay. I also
urge producers to stop the production of this cowardly and deadly
Cambodia was praised for its ongoing demining efforts, and
operators expressed confidence the country would meet its Ottawa-driven target
of clearing all mined land by 2010 provided it was given sufficient
The high-profile conference took place shortly after the
Cambodian Red Cross and Handicap-International Belgium released their January
2003 mine and unexploded ordinance (UXO) victim report.
injuries from landmines and UXO fell by more than half in January 2003 compared
with the same month last year. Four people were killed, and 37
That is a substantial drop from January 2002, when 18 died and
68 were injured. Despite the decrease, demining experts warned the number would
climb again in March, which saw an average 113 casualties in each of past three
"Generally if we see the early months go down it is a good sign,"
said Handicap-International Belgium's project advisor Ray Worner. "[But] March
is typically a big number because people are moving around more, and as we get
further into the dry season people go further afield looking for firewood and
The monthly survey was released at the same time as the final
report on mine and UXO injuries for 2001, which recorded 828 people killed or
injured that year.
The highest rate of incidents were in Battambang and
Banteay Meanchey provinces. Men accounted for over half of the casualties,
followed by children who accounted for 27 percent.
Figures from CMAC show
that 46 percent of the country's villages are contaminated by mines, making it
one of the most heavily mined nations on earth.