The Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA) and the Indian Ministry of State for External Affairs co-signed a June 21 memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Quick Impact Projects for “Mine-Free Villages in Koh Kong province”.
CMMA first vice-president Ly Thuch said the projects covers the four villages of Tam Kan, Prelean, Chamkar Leu and Thmor Sor, with a total area of 185sq km. With India’s support, the project will directly assist the lives of nearly 8,000 people, including 4,000 women and children. It will indirectly assist an additional 5,100 people who live in landmine-affected communes.
Thuch thanked the Indian government and people for their contribution, saying Cambodian children will be able to travel to school without fear. Their families, he added, will farm safely and their parents will return home to see their children.
“I cannot hide my feelings. It was an exciting moment when India, a special and long-time friend of ours, joined us on a journey to a mine-free Cambodia by 2025,” he said.
Thuch said the process of eliminating all threats in the villages will not only save the lives of the direct beneficiaries, but will also improve their socio-economic development. If the threat is allowed to remain, it will hinder progress in the villages.
Located in southwestern Cambodia, the coastal province spans 10,990sq km and has a population of 125,902. The province consists of 133 villages and includes many tourist destinations and agricultural development activities, including pepper and mango plantations. Of the 133 villages, 28 are affected by landmines, he noted.
Indian foreign minister Rajkumar Ranjan Singh said his government understood the devastating effects of landmines on the lives of Cambodians and had consistently supported the Kingdom in its demining operations. Singh recalled that in 1992-1993, India also contributed to the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), including mine clearance training and awareness programmes.
“We have provided training to the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces in demining operations. Our specialists have been visiting Cambodia regularly since 2008 to work with and increase the skills of Cambodian officials,” he said.
He added that India had also provided 15 improvised explosive device (IED) detection dogs to the National Centre for Peacekeeping Forces, Mines and Explosive Remnants of War Clearance (NPMEC-ERW) in 2016 and is in the process of providing four more canines. The Indian government had also provided $1.5 million in grants for the procurement of demining equipment to the Kingdom’s armed forces.
“We are very pleased that we are working with the CMAA on the project of establishing four mine-free villages in Koh Kong, The $49,554 in grants we have provided will directly benefit nearly 8,000 people,” said Singh.
He said the projects aim to detect and remove landmines and explosives left over from the war. India is also working with the CMAA to further define demining cooperation and demining activities and is pleased to be contributing to Cambodia’s efforts in this area.