Almost $6 million will be used on mine clearing across six provinces in the first phase of the Samdech Techo Project for Mine Action (STP-MA), according to the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA).

Themed “Providing Safe Ground, Creating Smiles”, STP-MA is working towards declaring the six provinces mine-free by year’s end or mid-2023, while an initial seven communes in Kampong Speu province will be tackled.

CMAA first vice-president Ly Thuch said at a September 5 meeting on the project’s progress and further plans that an initial budget of $5.7 million would be spent on clearing an area of 42,513,729sqm.

“So far, six provinces – Tbong Khmum, Kampong Cham, Takeo, Kampong Chhnang, Kampot and Svay Rieng – and seven communes in Kampong Speu are to benefit from the first phase of the STP-MA project.

“The seven communes to benefit from the project are in Kampong Speu province’s Phnom Sruoch district.

“An area of 42,513,729sqm, or 42.51sq km – equivalent to 520 minefields – in these provinces and communes will be cleared using the budget of more than $5.7 million,” Thuch said.

Back on National Fish Day on July 1, Prime Minister Hun Sen called on donors to join the government in helping remove unexploded ordnance (UXO) and make Cambodia mine-free by 2025.

Thuch said that in response to the premier’s appeal, the private sector and many Cambodians had contributed to the project, with Hun Sen handing CMAA the task of leading and managing the implementation of STP-MA.

CMAA had led many meeting with operators including army command, the National Centre for Peacekeeping Forces, Mines and Explosive Remnants of War Clearance (NPMEC-ERW) and the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) to prioritise goals and efficiently allocate manpower.

A CMAC deminer is clearing landmine in Battambang province in February. CMAC

Thuch said CMAA had also sent technical teams to evaluate the true situation regarding the minefields in collaboration with sub-national authorities to reduce the timescale and cost of the mine clearance.

“I would like to commend the CMAA technical team and the three operators for actively fulfilling their duties and cooperating well.

“This is for the common aim of accelerating mine clearing to make our country completely clear from UXO by 2025 in accordance with the vision of Prime Minister Hun Sen,” he said.

Separately, the National Authority for Preah Vihear (NAPV) and a CMAC demining force have also conducted a geographical study in the Koh Ker temple area and discussed demining plans for next year.

According to the NAPV, the CMAC team will clear mines and ERW from proposed priority areas in and around Koh Ker temple in 2023 and beyond.

Hun Sen has said that the negative impact of landmines and ERW on poverty reduction and economic development in Cambodia remains a major problem, with mine action an important priority in the National Strategic Development Plan.

“The National Strategic Plan for Mine Action is a strong and ambitious step forward,” he said.

According to a CMAA report, there were 40 victims of explosives from January to August, a 21 per cent increase over the same period in 2021 with 33. Of the 40 victims, 18 were from mines and 22 from ERW.