The government plans to declare Kep the first mine-free province by year’s end as clearance work has accelerated again after a pandemic-related period of slower progress.
Ly Thuch, senior minister and first vice-president of the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA), told The Post on September 15 that Kep had the smallest minefields in the country and therefore was the best candidate for total clearance in the near-term.
“Two weeks ago [Prime Minister Hun Sen] gave me permission to use Hungary’s grant aid to clear Kep’s minefields. We will deploy personnel from the Cambodian Mine Action Centre [CMAC] to Kep and clear all of the remaining mines before declaring it the first mine-free province in the country,” he said.
According to Thuch, Preah Sihanouk province also has relatively smaller minefields left to clear and will be next up for mine-free status after Kep.
He said Hun Sen had allowed CMAA to mobilise resources from the private sector, donors and development partners for a much-needed boost in resources for demining. The work will proceed methodically and in order to receive mine-free status, the province must first declare each of its constituent villages mine-free by examining conditions there one-by-one.
“[Donor partners] can help support any village in its efforts to be free of mines by providing funding specifically to that locality to clear any mines left there ... We are speeding towards our national goal of achieving a mine-free Cambodia by 2025,” he said.
Vao Sokha, deputy governor and spokesman for the Kep Provincial Administration, said on September 16 that the province had received a letter from CMAA on September 13 requesting collaboration between local authorities and CMAC personnel to close out the mine-clearance work there.
“CMAC demining forces have already been here since September 13. Now they are clearing mines at Damnak Changaur village, which was a former military base during the war,” he said.
According to Sokha, Kep has a surface area of more than 100 sq km, with around 10 remaining minefields now slated for immediate clearance by CMAC and local authorities.
Nou Samnath, a deminer in the province, said that during the war Kep was one of the conflict’s hotspots and an active warzone so there are still some unexploded ordnance and remnants of war that need to be cleared.
“Minefields in Kep are well defined and the first step in demining preparation is now underway at Damnak Changaur village on a minefield that is around 5ha in size,” he said.
He said there are over 70ha of minefields in Kep town and Damnak Changaur district, but these areas do not have a lot of landmine remnants left now as people have been using the land in those areas for many years and villagers had gotten rid of much of it in piecemeal fashion whenever and wherever it was encountered.