A senior Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA) official on Monday said the organisation needs an additional budget of $406 million and a further 1,000 mine-clearing personnel to meet its goal of 100 per cent mine clearance by 2025.
Senior minister and CMAA secretary-general Ly Thuch told The Post on Monday that the government has set the goal of clearing all land determined to contain mines and cluster bombs by 2025.
Thuch said there are currently 2,500 national and international de-miners in the Kingdom. With some ageing de-miners set to retire, he said the government needed fully qualified personnel to replace them.
“We spend a lot, but mine clearance brings huge benefits. It provides safety for people, prevents disabilities and the loss of lives. It helps farmers living along the border and other mine locations. It also alleviates poverty as people have the opportunity to farm safely. We want to turn mine-laden land into golden land,” he said.
Thuch said the government had spent more than $100 million on mine-clearing activities over the past 10 years, with around 10 countries actively contributing to the operations. He said Cambodia needs an annual budget of $10 million.
Thuch said CMAA is looking to recruit more soldiers from the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF). He said RCAF soldiers are strong and experienced, and would need only some additional training and equipment to participate in mine-clearing activities.
“We should inject fresh blood to expedite operations and achieve our goal by 2025. I cannot specify the exact number of soldiers we will recruit from the RCAF as yet, but we will do it accordingly."
“I don’t have the figures for retired [mine-clearing] officers, but there are more and more retirees year after year, while some are ill and cannot continue their work. Mine clearance requires strength and good health,” he said.
Thuch said the 10 highly experienced mine-clearance operators will be tasked with training new recruits.
Cambodian Mine Action Centre director (CMAC) Heng Ratana could not be reached for comment on Monday.
But Ratana on Facebook on March 31 cited the major challenges in building sustainable mine-clearance resources, including the establishment and development of a strong central command, training and research facilities, social affairs centres, and technical development, among others.
However, he said Cambodia had made great strides in developing its own human resources, reducing its reliance on foreign donors.
“Cambodians can do it. We have achieved a lot, including the breeding in 2018 of more than 60 mine-sniffing dogs that can detect mines and other unexploded ordnance. Most of the dogs have passed mine-detecting tests,” he said.
Since 1992, CMAA and 10 other mine clearance operators had removed unexploded ordnance from 1,823sqm of land and demined land for 4,320 families.
Among active donors that have contributed to mine clearance in the Kingdom are Japan, the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, Sweden, Norway, the European community, Germany, China, France, Denmark and New Zealand.
CMAA said on March 15 that casualties from mine and other unexploded ordnance have remarkably increased.
From January to April 4 this year, CMAA said there have been 44 cases of death and serious injury in Oddar Meanchey, Battambang, Ratanakkiri, Tbong Khmum and some other provinces from mines and unexploded ordnance.