Ly Thuch, first vice-president of the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA), urged the public to make use of fields cleared of landmines rather than letting them lay fallow.
Thuch made the remark while leading a delegation from the Clearing for Result project to review recently cleared land in Banteay Meanchey province on March 1.
He was accompanied by UN Development Programme (UNDP) country representative Allissar Chaker, Australian embassy first secretary Ryan Tierney and Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) deputy country director Ji Yea Kyung.
The delegation inspected two fields. The first – with an area of 55,503sqm – was in Svay Chek district and commune, with nine members of two families dwelling on the land. The second, smaller field was in O’Chrou district’s Sophie commune. The 21,050sqm field supported 13 member s of three families.
Both fields were extensively planted with cassava and rice.
“I call on our people to use cleared land as much as possible. We should not let the land sit wasted and unused. The donors who provided humanitarian assistance and cleared it wanted the land to be used to improve your living situations,” he said.
Thuch reminded people to keep vigilant and warned them not to enter areas that have not been cleared of mines.
Boeung Sruch, a Svay Chek commune council member, said the two fields were once significant battlefields. Before they were cleared, people had taken a big risk by ploughing the ground there. Many people had discovered unexploded ordnance and mines. Eventually, people became so fearful that they decided to wait for the land to be cleared by deminers.
He noted that nobody was hurt during the clearance operations because the deminers had provided quality education to the people in the area. Locals were very pleased that the land is now available for cultivation.
Thuch also presided over a handover ceremony of rehabilitation equipment at a physical rehabilitation centre in Battambang province. The equipment – provided by phase IV of the Clearing for Result project – had a value of $90,000.
KOICA’s Ji said Cambodia’s landmine contamination is the result of a protracted sequence of internal and regional conflicts that affected the country from the mid-1960’s until the end of 1998. The northwestern regions bordering Thailand have some of the highest concentrations of anti-personnel mines in the world.
“With this in mind, the Korean government through KOICA decided to support mine clearance activities in Cambodia by providing $10 million from 2021 to 2025 through the Clearing for Results-Phase 4: Mine Action for Human Development Project,” she said.