The number of casualties from landmine and unexploded ordnance (UXO) accidents in the first four months of this year has decreased dramatically – plunging by 48 per cent compared with last year, a report released yesterday by the Cambodia Mine/UXO Victim Information System (CMVIS) says.
Out of the 44 casualties recorded from January to April this year, four people were killed, while the rest were maimed or injured. In the same period last year, there were 85 casualties, the report found.
That said, the overall number of accidents or incidents recorded remained fairly steady at 35 – one more than last year.
Director-general of the Cambodia Mine Action Centre Heng Ratana said the decrease was likely due to the fact that individual accidents this year involved smaller groups of people.
“Last year, there were a few incidents where big groups of people, about 10 to 15 people were travelling together and ran over anti-tank mines,” Ratana said. “We are very lucky that this has not happened this year.”
In a single incident last February, a pair of anti-tank mines killed eight and injured one in Banteay Meanchey when a tractor ferrying villagers strayed from mine-free roads and ran over the buried explosives en route to a cassava farm.
Ratana added that while the improvement was remarkable, such incidents could repeat themselves and that continued community awareness was needed.
“People need to pay more attention and be careful when using land in mine-contaminated areas,” he said.
According to the CMVIS report, some 19,666 Cambodians have been killed by landmines and UXO since 1979.
It is estimated that four to six million landmines and UXO were left over after decades of war and strife. Of that amount, about three million have been destroyed so far, but Ratana added that sustained financial support had to continue for demining efforts to be completed by 2020.