German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his wife Elke Budenbender on February 14 touched down in Siem Reap province, where they observed mine clearance activities and pledged to help Cambodia achieve its mine-free 2025 goal.

Ly Thuch, Senior Minister and First Vice-President of the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA), accompanied Steinmeier during the field visit. He said the German leader witnessed mine clearance operations by HALO Trust in Prasat Char village of Puok district’s Donkeo commune.

Thuch, on behalf of the government, welcomed Steinmeier and his entourage and thanked them for paying an official visit to Cambodia as Germany is hosting a meeting on the Ottawa Treaty this year.

“I would like to thank the government and the people of Germany for their contribution to humanitarian assistance in demining actions by HALO Trust.

“Since 2016, Germany has provided more than €17 million [around $18.3 million] for demining work which covers more than 23sq km consisting of 578 mine fields. This benefits more than 130,000 people,” Thuch said.

According to HALO Trust, Steinmeier was led through a minefield and shown how to destroy a landmine.

“The German government has funded HALO’s clearance operations in Cambodia since 2016 and we are enormously grateful for their continued support of this life-saving work,” said the international demining NGO in a social media post.

Thuch said Germany has also provided funding for mine action to the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) since 1999, which so far totalled over $19 million. The funds have been used to clear minefields of more than 30sq km.

“Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested that Germany support mine actions in Cambodia to help the country achieve mine-free status by 2025. The German president said he supported mine clearance in line with the ‘mine-free Cambodia 2025’ vision,” Thuch told reporters at the field.

He said Steinmeier’s visit to Cambodia is a historic event, not only because it is his first but also because he directly visited minefields.

“This visit is really important and provides motivation for Germany to contribute more to support our mine clearance work, supporting the prime minister’s vision of a mine-free Cambodia 2025,” he added.

According to the itinerary, Steinmeier also visited the Angkor Wat temple complex and the German Apsara Conservation Project that day.

On February 15, he will meet with Senate President Say Chhum, the acting Head of State, and lay wreaths at Independence Monument and the statue of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk.

Steinmeier will also meet with Prime Minister Hun Sen, visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and meet with representatives of the opposition and civil society organisations before flying to Malaysia on February 16 as part of his Indo-Pacific tour.