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US extends demining support by 2 months

CMAC officials remove a US chemical bomb last month in Svay Rieng’s Koki commune.
CMAC officials remove a US chemical bomb last month in Svay Rieng’s Koki commune. Photo supplied

US extends demining support by 2 months

After saying last week that it will discontinue funding for Cambodia’s mine-clearing body at the end of this year, the US Embassy announced it will provide the Cambodian Mine Action Centre additional funding for the first two months of 2018.

Meanwhile, the Japanese government has committed to providing more than $7 million to demining in the northwest beginning in January, officials said yesterday.

CMAC head Heng Ratana said yesterday the US Embassy had notified him that they would provide $350,000 for January and February – an amount he said would give them some leeway in preparing for US aid cuts.

The US government cut its annual support for CMAC’s demining activity last week amid an escalating war of words between the two governments. For eight years it had provided just over $2 million annually for demining in the east – which it heavily bombed in the late 1960s and 1970s.

“We made this decision to guarantee there is no disruption in these demining activities while the tender for our new project is under way,” US Embassy spokesman David Josar said via email yesterday, referring to a new removal programme whose funding will be open to bids.

Ratana said he had notified Prime Minister Hun Sen, who he said was “encouraged” by the move. Since the decision to suspend the funding, the Cambodian government declared it would take responsibility for supporting CMAC, and China earlier this week pledged funding for demining efforts.

“I hope that [the] continuing [of] support from the United States . . . will reduce some difficulties,” Ratana said.

Meanwhile, Ratana confirmed that CMAC signed two contracts totalling some $7.3 million with the Japan International Cooperation System. One contract for $3.5 million supports some 500 mine-clearance personnel for all of next year in Battambang, while the other $3.7 million provides equipment for minesweepers – materials that are slated to arrive in March.

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