Photos, Darren Whiteside
P OPE John Paul appealed to arms producers on Feb
29 to stop making anti-personnel mines, which he said were designed to kill and
mutilate innocent people and children.
"I would like to make a new and
vigorous appeal for a definitive ban of production and use of anti-personnel
mines, which in a number of countries compromise the return of peace because
they are placed along roads and in the countryside with the intention of harming
in an indifferent manner as many people as possible," the Pope said.
effect, even after the end of the hostilities, they continue to kill and cause
irreparable damage by seriously mutilating adults and above all, children," the
Pope said during a speech to members of the peace group "Pax
Relief groups say there are about 100 million anti-personnel
mines scattered across the world, mostly in Third World countries. A further 100
million are believed to be stockpiled.
In Cambodia, one of the world's
most heavily mined countries, there are reckoned to be 10 million land mines.
Casualties are anything up to 400 each month. The International Committee of the
Red Cross has estimated that one in every 236 people in Cambodia has an
amputated limb due to a landmine.
To guage some of the enormity of
Cambodia's problem, it took CMAC deminers working for one year to clear six
villages in Sisophon ready for resettlement.
That covered no more than
100 hectares, or 247 acres of land. There is living space now for 259 families,
and room enough now to contemplate schools, homes, and perhaps a
As Prime Minister Pince Norodom Rannaridh said at a ceremony to
hand over the land, the villages were on six dangerous minefields. The Prince
presented Banteay Meanchey Governor Buong Khem with two million riel ($833) for
resettlement assistance and another one million riel ($420) to displaced people.
Thirty villagers had been killed and another 61 wounded by mines before
CMAC started this particular patch, CMAC director Ieng Mouly
Delegates are now gathering in Phnom Penh for a land mine
Conference organizers are hoping that the draft law now
before the National Assembly will be passed by the time the conference ends.
Anti-personnel mines are made in China, Russia and several European
countries such as Italy, Britain and Germany.
Preah Maha Ghosananda, the
most venerable monk in Cambodia, is presently on his fourth peace march across
the country. The specific focus of the Cambodian march is against land
The Pope also made a more general appeal for world disarmament,
saying it has become too easy to buy weapons.
"There is a need to remind
arms-producing countries of their moral responsibility, in particular, in their
trade with dveloping countries where too much importance is given to the
supplies of arms, putting them in debt, instead of helping them use their
resources and international aid to help their citizens," he said.