Around 100 national and international landmine experts gathered in Siem Reap this week for the Asean Regional Mine Action Center’s (Armac) inaugural regional workshop.
Diverse topics were discussed, including new and innovative clearance techniques and strategies to enhance the assistance provided to survivors of explosive remnants of war (ERW).
Held from Monday to Wednesday, the workshop, which aimed to ‘enhance mine action knowledge and promote future platforms for mine action knowledge sharing for Asean member states’, was funded by the Canadian government and also looked at gender issues and methods to generate greater awareness on the dangers of landmines.
Armac executive director Ly Panharith said the event “was an opportunity to exchange the accumulated mine and ERW knowledge of Asean countries and other participants, and to assess the needs of Asean for Armac to organise future events and develop programmes to address the problems of mines in the region”.
Panharith said the three-day regional workshop focused on a wide range of important topics.
The need to consider gender mainstreaming in the sector was also an important conclusion, with presenters highlighting how landmine incidents often have different effects on men and women, such as in access to medical care and employment programmes.
Panharith said one session highlighted how the clearing of mines and the reintegration of their victims into society had a significant positive impact on a country’s socio-economic development.
For some affected Asean nations, this contributed to the achievement of UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Presentations on the use of pioneering techniques showed how the use of trained rats and dogs can greatly improve the efficiency and safety of mine clearing.
“We had skilled and experienced speakers who demonstrated the safety and efficiency of new techniques that used rats and dogs in mine cleaning operations."
The deputy director of the Victim Assistance Department of the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority, Ny Nhar, said from 1979 to November this year, a total of 64,771 people had fallen victim to mines, with nearly 20,000 killed, while the remaining 40,000 suffered disabling injuries.
“We raised many issues, and I turned the focus to prosthetic legs and arms [for victims], the provision of funding to start businesses, training and business opportunities, and education on the dangers caused by mines,” Nhar said
“Discussions on getting the [funding for such programmes may be held] at a later date.”
As Armac is headquartered in Phnom Penh, the workshop also highlighted Cambodia’s support to help the organisation operate effectively and its collaboration in mine action.
The idea for an Asean focused mine action centre was first proposed and adopted at the 21st Asean Summit in 2012 by the bloc’s leaders, who envisioned an organisation that could encourage cooperation among member states in tackling the shared problem of landmines.