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RCAF OK’d to demine locally

RCAF OK’d to demine locally

RCAF de-miners return from participating in a clearance mission in Sudan last year.

I would imagine that RCAF would give greater support to government priorities.

A PLATOON of Royal Cambodian Armed Forces mine-clearance specialists has for the first time received accreditation from the Cambodian Mine Action Authority (CMAA) to clear mines within Cambodia, RCAF and CMAA officials confirmed on Monday – a move that could bolster a national clearance effort that the government has said is in danger of falling short of its goals.

The company to which the platoon belongs, Demining Company 315, has already completed demining operations as part of a UN peacekeeping mission in Sudan.

But it had not been formally accredited for domestic humanitarian clearance prior to a CMAA-led review, which was completed in December.

Leng Sochea, permanent deputy secretary general at the CMAA, confirmed on Monday that his organisation had certified the 24 soldiers of the company’s Third Platoon on December 29 of last year.

“From now on, this RCAF platoon has the right to participate in bids for demining projects in Cambodia,” he said.

The troops attributed the speed with which their CMAA certification came through – their review began just at the end of August 2009 – to their level of international training.

“Even though we have our licences from the UN, we also want to be recognised locally,” said Company 315 commanding officer Mey Sophea.

Parties to the Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty in November formally approved Cambodia’s request to push back the deadline for clearing all antipersonnel mines by 10 years, though the government’s formal extension request asserted that “current productivity levels will not be sufficient” to meet the revised goal.

“However, with a 38 percent increase of financial resources made available to the sector and a greater involvement of RCAF in addressing the
remaining challenge, productivity rates can be increased,” the request asserted, “which may make completion of clearance of all known minefields within the extension period possible.”

Prum Sophakmonkol, an adviser to the CMAA and director of its regulation department, said Monday that the platoon was seeking funding for demining projects and had no projects planned in the immediate future.

Jamie Franklin, the country programme director for the Mine Action Group, one of three organisations that was already accredited for humanitarian clearance, said he welcomed the contributions the RCAF team could bring to the national clearance effort.

He noted, though, that an RCAF-led clearance operation would be more likely to take its cues from the government.

“I would imagine that RCAF would give greater support to government priorities,” Franklin said.

“There’s a lot of work to be done in Cambodia, but not enough capacity.… The fact that this RCAF unit has been accredited by CMAA means they are clearing at international standards, and that can only be a good thing.”

He added that the heavy participation of militaries in clearance efforts was common in other mine-ridden countries, and that they had been able to accomplish a great deal.

Other responses to the accreditation news were similarly hopeful.

“It is a sign of great progress that Cambodian troops are employing their expertise both here and abroad to help make this a world free from the threat of land mines and explosive remnants of war,” UN Resident Coordinator Douglas Broderick said in a statement. “These indiscriminate weapons that have continued to kill and maim long after hostilities ceased seriously hinder Cambodia’s development. RCAF’s humanitarian demining accreditation is more evidence that the Royal Government is committed to working on this problem until it is solved.”

A Cambodian delegation attending the November summit said clearance efforts for the next 10 years will cost approximately US$330 million.