In Cambodia we say that every mine destroyed is a life saved. At the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) our daily mission is to save lives through the removal and destruction of mines. Next year will be the 20th year of our operations. In that time we have made great strides in the pursuit of a mine-free Cambodia. However, there are many mines that remain and many lives that can still be saved.
Early last month the Royal Government of Cambodia welcomed the international community to Phnom Penh for the 11th Meeting of States Parties to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention in order to discuss how best to help countries that are affected by landmines and to ensure that they are never again produced or used. The meeting was particularly symbolic as it saw the return of the campaign to ban landmines to its spiritual home.
Throughout the conference, the message that I heard loud and clear is that countries affected by landmine contamination need much more support and assistance in order to get the job done. Cambodia is no exception.
Therefore, I thoroughly welcome the launch of The Phnom Penh Post’s 2020 campaign, an initiative that seeks to revitalise the push for a mine free Cambodia by 2020. It is not only through maintaining the established momentum, but increasing it that we will achieve our goal. The good news is that the push for progress is an activity in which we can all participate. Here are three ways that you can help:
We must encourage every country to sign the Mine Ban Convention. Countries that sign the convention are required to provide assistance to those affected by landmines. Cambodia is one of the 158 countries (more than 80 per cent of the world) that have signed; however, there are still many that have not. It is not until the treaty is universal that we can ensure that these horrible weapons are never used again.
There is a real need for an increase in funding on both a local and international level. Clearing landmines is not an activity that can be delayed. In order to be effective, mine action must happen as soon as possible. Contributions large and small are required to ensure that humanitarian demining operations are able to continue at an expedient rate. Those wishing to contribute can do so through the Cambodian Mine Action Centre, where you can sponsor a demining team or participate in the Adopt-a-Minefield program.
We can all help by changing our attitudes towards mine affected communities. Landmines are not simply a threat to those who come into contact with them. Each year hundreds of individuals are directly affected, and thousands of communities are indirectly affected through the existence of these weapons. You can help through supporting initiatives and organisations that seek to support these communities; you can spread the mine awareness message and you can treat those affected with the respect they deserve.
Landmines and explosive remnants of war remain a very real threat to Cambodia. Now more than ever it is important that we push for the goal of a mine free Cambodia and a mine free world. We have not given up hope. You can help us get there.
Director, Cambodia Mine Action Centre