Prime Minister Hun Manet paid his respects to and commended the efforts of all mine action operators to clear landmines from Kampong Speu province and protect lives.

Manet declared Kampong Speu mine-free while presiding over the October 30 inauguration of a new provincial administrative building.

“On behalf of the government and all the people of Cambodia, I thank the mine action operators for all of their struggles, dedication and sacrifices that led to today’s achievement,” he said.

“We have one capital and 24 provinces and now 13 of them have been declared mine-free. Senior Minister Ly Thuch said we had little light, but little light is better than no-light or darkness,” he said in reference to the first vice-president of the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA).

“This means an end to war. New mines are no longer being planted, and we are united to solve problems and make our future’s brighter,” he added.

He noted that Cambodia did not just clear mines within the country but has also sent mine operators on UN missions to clear landmines abroad.

Thuch said the day marked an historic occasion, in which the people of Kampong Speu enjoy freedom from the threat of landmines.

He recalled that since 1993, operators from five national and international institutions had been working to clear minefields and explosive remnants of war (ERW) in the province. They included the Cambodian army, the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC), the National Centre for Peacekeeping Forces (NPMEC), the Halo Trust and the Mines Advisory Group (MAG). The operators had demined over 68sq km, and detected and destroyed 33,561 anti-personnel mines, 339 anti-tank mines and 159,462 ERWs. During this period, the munitions left 2,564 family members and innocent people suffering, and resulted in 828 deaths.

He detailed that in just over 30 years, Cambodia has demined 2,795sq km, destroying millions of landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) and benefiting over 11 million people. In spite of the sterling efforts of the government – and the participation of development partners, the private sector and donors – about 1,817sq km of contaminated ground remained, with over 1.1 million people continuing to live with the threat of the unseen killers.

“Cambodia has ambitions to completely demine 1,279sq km by 2025. Therefore, we will have to continue to address the remaining land after 2025. The light of a mine-free Cambodia by 2025 is gradually becoming brighter,” he said.

Thuch added that in 2024, Cambodia will take the chair of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty, commonly referred to as the Ottawa Convention. Its priorities will include the promotion of respect and implementation of the convention, assistance for victims of landmines, fostering south-south cooperation, sharing experiences, technology and mobilising financial resources in support of mine clearance of each of the state parties to the treaty.

He added that the government has chosen Siem Reap province to host a mine-free world summit, which will bring together over 200 representatives from the state parties to the convention, as well as observer states.

“We are optimistic and hopeful that our visitors will receive a warm reception from the Cambodian people and that each of our guests will act as ambassadors who will spread positive news from Cambodia to the world,” he said.

“Until then, I invite the prime minister to preside over the opening of the Siem Reap Angkor Summit of Ottawa Convention, to be held early in December 2024,” he said, adding that Manet has accepted the invitation.

Phnom Penh and 12 provinces – Stung Treng, Kep, Prey Veng, Preah Sihanouk, Tbong Khmum, Kampong Cham, Svay Rieng, Kampong Chhnang, Kandal, Takeo, Kampot and Kampong Speu – have been declared mine-free thus far.