King Norodom Sihamoni and Queen Mother Norodom Monineath Sihanouk have donated a total of $1.5 million to fund demining work in Cambodia through the “Samdech Techo Project for Mine Action” (STP-MA).
The fundraising drive, initiated recently by Prime Minister Hun Sen, has now reached over $20 million in just over three weeks.
In two separate letters to the premier, King Sihamoni and the Queen Mother donated $500,000 and $1 million respectively to the government to fund demining efforts throughout the country as part of the renewed push to make Cambodia mine-free by 2025.
“I would like to add to the government’s efforts by donating $500,000 to help deal with the landmine issue across Cambodia,” read the King’s letter dated July 23 and addressed to Hun Sen.
Ly Thuch, first vice-president of the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA), told The Post that since STP-MA started in early July, more than $20 million has been donated to the foundation.
Cambodia’s goal, established for some time now, is to clear all of its remaining landmines and achieve landmine-free status by 2025. Some provinces had already been declared free of landmines: Kep, Prey Veng and Svay Rieng.
Thuch said earlier this month that Tbong Khmum, Takeo and Kampot provinces as well as nine other towns and districts in other locations are on track to be declared mine free in the next six months.
Last week, the CMAC said Preah Sihanouk province will achieve landmine-free status by the end of this month following four months of intensive mine clearing operations which kicked off on March 1.
Last week, HALO Trust, an international non-profit organisation based in Britain that is focused on demining operations, vowed to make Siem Reap province mine-free by 2025, with Siem Reap town and Kralanh district expected to be totally cleared by the end of this year.
On July 25, HALO Trust marked its 30th anniversary of operations in Cambodia, which began back in 1999 while sporadic fighting was still continuing in some remote areas of the country. The anniversary celebration was held in Siem Reap with the participation of Ly Thuch and UK ambassador to Cambodia Tina Redshaw.
Speaking at the anniversary, Thuch praised HALO Trust, noting that it was one of the first demining operators to arrive in Cambodia to begin the decades-long effort to clear the Kingdom of all landmines.
“It is no surprise to anyone that HALO Trust goes where no one else dares to go,” he said. “They stayed in Afghanistan when others left during the takeover by the Taliban. HALO has lost several heroes due to terrorist attacks, but this hasn’t stopped them from continuing their humanitarian mission.”
He said that even in Ukraine where a war is currently raging, HALO has not left the country and has continued to work there with 400 staff members clearing landmines and other remnants of war, including from Ukraine’s farmlands, in order to help alleviate the looming global food crisis set off by the Russia-Ukraine conflict and blockade of its ports.
According to Thuch, during their 30 years of operations in Cambodia, HALO Trust has found and destroyed 323,000 mines and over 212,000 remnants of war. Over 430 million square metres of land has been made safe and handed over to the community by the organisation thus far.
HALO Trust country director Miles Hawthorn said at the ceremony that over one million people had benefited from the organisation’s demining operations. He said that in 1992, there were over 1,500 accidents involving landmines, but in the last 12 months there were just 34 accidents with only 40 casualties.
He said HALO currently employs over 1,100 staff for whom he thanked. He also thanked donors and relevant stakeholders for their support in their demining endeavours.
“I congratulate the government for the visionary and ambitious targets that our sector is aiming for – to achieve these, it will need all demining operators and other stakeholders to work together in unison.
“We all have the same aims and the same aspirations – to create a safer future for all people in Cambodia. I am confident that together we can be stronger, smarter and faster in achieving our goals over the coming years,” said Hawthorn.