The number of victims of mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) in Cambodia decreased from 4,320 in 1996 to just 41 in 2022, and it has been below 100 per year on average for the last 10 years, according to Prime Minister Hun Sen.

At the same time, the government also called on the ministries and local authorities to participate in raising awareness about the dangers of mines and UXOs to the public.

Hun Sen revealed this in an official statement marking the 24th anniversary of National Mine Awareness Day on February 24, held this year under the theme “Together for a community free of landmines and UXOs.”

He said that years of war left behind a large number of mines and UXOs, which caused tens of thousands of injuries, some of which resulting in disabilities, and deaths that hindered the country’s development.

“Education on the dangers of mines and UXOs should be carried out in the affected communities through direct educational activities in the communities, schools and pagodas; implementation of the safe village-commune policy; enforcement of laws on weapons, explosives and ammunition; the curriculum of the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport; and broadcast on radio, television and social media as well as billboards and leaflets,” he said.

Hun Sen also called on the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA) to continue to coordinate with national and international demining operators and stakeholders to identify areas or locations where there is a risk of mines and UXOs to educate and prevent accidents in a timely manner.

“Donor countries and development partners should continue to support the clearance of mines, cluster munitions and explosive remnants of war [ERW] and mine education to reduce accidents and also rescue people with disabilities due to these explosives,” he said.

He asked that CMAA, ministries, relevant institutions, donor countries and development partners continue to explore innovative ways to mobilise resources, especially to encourage the participation of the private sector in the process of achieving the vision of a mine-free Cambodia by 2025.

Since 1992, according to the CMAA, 2,554sq km of land have been cleared for use and cultivation, of which 71 per cent is used for agriculture, seven per cent for infrastructure and 22 per cent for other sectors.

The land has been used for the construction of houses, villages, schools and health centres that benefit more than 10 million people.

A total of 1,153,217 anti-personnel mines; 26,135 anti-tank mines and 3,034,727 UXOs have been found and destroyed.

In particular, in 2022 alone a total of 250sq km of land was cleared for use and cultivation, including the detection and destruction of 36,609 anti-personnel mines, 183 anti-tank mines and 55,803 UXOs.

“Meanwhile, the number of victims has dropped from 4,320 in 1996 to just 41 in 2022 and below 100 per year on an average over the last 10 years. Today we have achieved many major accomplishments in the mine action sector, which is an important factor in contributing to national economic growth and poverty reduction,” Hun Sen said in the statement.

“These glorious successes have not left us indifferent, but require us to work harder to achieve the goals of the National Mine Action Strategy 2018-2025 to make the lives of the people safe and ensure national development everywhere,” he added.

CMAA first vice-president Ly Thuch said that mines and UXOs were referred to by various names like blockers, ambush soldiers and hidden killers, but now many years after the war ended, they only caused death, disability and injury.

Thuch added that to address and respond to these risks, the government has stepped up efforts in mine action and set the clear goal of “Mine-Free Cambodia 2025” and is addressing the remaining risks from ERWs after 2025.

“We have high hopes that we can do it with the high determination and common commitment from all of us,” said Thuch.

He said that although Cambodia has made great achievements in clearing mines and UXOs, the country are still facing many problems caused by them, which are complicated.

The Kingdom needs to clear an area of 648 km of land with mines and 1,327km of land with UXOs.

According to the CMAA, by 2022, Cambodia had transformed 1,921 villages into demined villages and declared the capital and seven provinces mine-free: Stung Treng, Kep, Prey Veng, Preah Sihanouk, Tbong Khmum, Kampong Cham and Svay Rieng.

In 2023, Cambodia plans to declare 10 more provinces mine-free: Kandal, Takeo, Kampong Chhnang, Kampot, Kampong Speu, Kratie, Kampong Thom, Siem Reap, Ratanakkiri and Mondulkiri.

The Kingdom also plans to clear all mines by 2025 for the remaining seven provinces: Koh Kong, Pursat, Battambang, Pailin, Banteay Meanchey, Oddar Meanchey and Preah Vihear.

The CMAA will observe the 24th anniversary of National Mine Awareness Day on February 24 at the Pi Thnou Memorial Monument in Kratie province.