Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Less US funding for UXO clearing




Less US funding for UXO clearing

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
CMAC Director Heng Ratana (centre) speaks at a workshop on Cambodia’s demining strategy yesterday in Phnom Penh. Heng Chivoan

Less US funding for UXO clearing

The United States has warned Cambodia it may have to shoulder more responsibility for the cost of clearing mines from its territory, ending an era in which Washington has carried the bulk of the cost of removing mines and other explosives after the Vietnam War spilled over into Cambodia.

United States Ambassador William A Heidt yesterday told Cambodian land mine clearance officials that new priorities had emerged, which would mean Phnom Penh and nongovernment donors taking more of the cost of mine clearing. His comments come after leaks from the State Department suggested the US could cut development assistance to Cambodia to zero beginning next year.

Right now the US is the largest contributor to the cost of mine clearance worldwide.

Heidt spoke to Cambodian landmine officials and donor nations assessing Cambodia’s draft National Mine Action Strategy from 2018 to 2025. He noted the US had contributed $120 million in Cambodian mine clearance since 1993.

“The international environment for humanitarian mine clearance has become more challenging,” Heidt said. That is code, analysts say, for a refocus on hot spots in the Middle East away from older, longer-term problem spots like Cambodia.

Heidt said the success in removing mines, ordnance and explosive remnants made it hard to keep Cambodia as the “top priority for international funding”. Cambodia, he said, had also moved into lower-middle-income status, and it was time to fund mine clearance itself.

He urged the government to win the confidence of donors by tripling its rate of land mine clearance, prioritising the poorest and most vulnerable areas for clearance, strengthening the use of “evidence based surveys in determining clearance priorities”, and stepping up its own funding.

Matthew Hovell, Cambodia country director for the demining NGO Halo Trust – which receives funding from the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany and Ireland – said yesterday that funding for land mine clearance is growing internationally, with the UK pledging more than $100 million over the next three years.

Still, Hovell said, the question is how available funds will be distributed. “Prioritisation globally is responding to the crisis in the Middle East and I think donors are going to have to factor priorities accordingly.”

Nevertheless, said Hovell, land mine clearance in Cambodia remains an urgent need. Though Cambodia made great strides in clearance, it still contains areas with a high density of anti-personnel mines, which, with road development and internal migration, makes Cambodia the site of “some of the most important land mine clearance in the world”.

Contacted yesterday, Heng Ratana, the director general of the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC), acknowledged that Cambodia would need to consider potential aid cuts into its mine clearing strategy.

“In the US they have their own problem, because of their policy ‘protectionism’ they cut aid; we also think about this strategically,” he said. “We cannot stand looking at Cambodian people dying of landmines, cluster bombs or war remnants without solution.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Hungarian exposes 90 to Covid in Siem Reap

    The Ministry of Health has discovered 90 people who have been exposed directly or indirectly to a Hungarian man infected with Covid-19. They all are required to quarantine at home and the hospital. The ministry is searching for other affected people. Among the 90, one is the

  • PM: West unfair to Cambodia

    Prime Minister Hun Sen released a message celebrating the International Day of Peace on Monday, saying that some major powers and western countries had been systemically cooperating to put political pressure on Cambodia as they did in the 1970s and 1980s. Hun Sen said pressuring

  • PM warns of ‘new Cold War’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said the possibility of a so-called new Cold War has become a significant concern and that all countries have to reject outright, any attempt to allow history to tragically repeat itself. He made the remarks in a speech during 75th Session

  • ‘Bad news is an investor’s best friend’ – unlocking investment potential in Cambodia

    It is time to shop. Economic woes provide good pickings for investors if they know where to look The poem If, written by English Nobel laureate poet and novelist Rudyard Kipling for his son circa 1895, is widely perceived as fatherly advice for John who would

  • PM requests Russia’s Covid vaccine

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested that Russia provide Cambodia with its Covid-19 vaccine after the former announced it planned on mass vaccinating its population next month. The request came on Thursday through the prime minister’s Facebook page as he met with Anatoly Borovik,

  • First ‘mobile kitchen’ in Cambodia enters service

    A catering company recently rolled out Cambodia’s first “mobile kitchen” – a $50,000 container capable of serving up to 200 people at a time. The kitchen is the brainchild of Seng Hok Heng Catering Services. At 4.4m-high, 6.8m-long and 2.4m-wide (expandable to 6.8m), the kitchen is equipped