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Mines: The ‘underground devil’

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A Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) worker clears landmines. CMAC VIA Facebook

Mines: The ‘underground devil’

Mines are an evil spirit continuing to take human lives. According to incomplete statistics, there are more than 110 million landmines deployed in more than 70 countries around the world.

Every year more than 20,000 people are killed or injured by them. Some are still left behind from World War II.

The whereabouts of many mines are not clearly known, with them posing an invisible lethal threat.

It is said that it is hidden landmines, rather than collapsed houses and ruined bridges, that constitute the scars of war hardest to erase.

Mines are still an obstacle to Cambodia’s national development.

Over the past 40 years, landmines have killed or wounded more than 50,000 Cambodian people, with more than 30 cases last year.

I remember one article about a family of three living in the suburbs of Phnom Penh.

The husband gets up every day at 4am and runs 8km.

When the sun rises, he puts on his artificial leg and starts a new day.

His wife also lost her right leg more than 10 years ago when she stepped on a landmine.

Every time I hear about a mine incident, this story always comes to my mind, and I feel so sad for the misery of the families concerned.

Encouragingly, the Cambodian government has made significant progress.

Since 1992, the Kingdom has put mine clearance high on its agenda and made great strides.

Since 1992, Cambodia has found and destroyed 3.8 million landmines as well as other unexploded ordnance (UXO), with the number of victims decreasing year by year. Large areas of land ridden with mines have been cleared and given back to the people.

This has laid the foundations for the post-war restoration and economic development of Cambodia.

China’s mine action ‘starts again’

According to the “National Mine Action Strategy 2018-2025”, Cambodia will complete mine clearance by 2025.

This clearly demonstrates the commitment of the Cambodian government to mine clearance and the guiding principles of security, with the welfare of the people as its priority.

Chinese people follow an ancient philosophy: “When in distress, we need to develop ourselves. When in success, we must bring benefits to the world.”

Helping each other is a traditional Chinese virtue.

China was also affected by mines. The border areas of Yunnan and Guangxi provinces once had many landmines and other UXO.

In order to develop these areas and to improve people’s livelihoods, China has since the 1990s carried out three large-scale mine clearance activities, and currently the danger has almost been cleared.

These activities have helped China accumulate experience in mine clearance, and attests to the safety, reliability and practicability of China’s mine clearance technology and equipment.

To assist other countries plagued by landmines, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced a series of significant measures to support and strengthen UN peacekeeping actions at the 2015 UN peacekeeping summit.

These included 10 mine clearance assistance programmes in five years.

Even before President Xi’s announcement, China had always actively participated in international cooperation in humanitarian mine clearance, providing assistance to developing countries lacking the capability to solve their serious

mine problems and helping them achieve sustainable development.

Since 1998, China has been providing humanitarian assistance in mine clearance every year through organising technical training, sending experts for on-site guidance and providing equipment, etc.

A new era of cooperation

Statistics show that up to the present, China has trained nearly 1,000 experts in mine clearance in more than 40 countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia – including Cambodia.

As a good brother and partner, Cambodia is a priority partner of China’s mine clearance aid and cooperation.

Mine clearance cooperation between China and Cambodia is an important part of the two countries’ comprehensive strategic partnership of cooperation, and an important task for me as the Chinese Ambassador.

With the attention of leaders of the two countries, both sides have deepened cooperation in mine clearance in recent years.

The Chinese government, military and civil society have continued to strengthen support to the Kingdom and assist the Cambodian government in saving people’s lives and developing the national economy through organising training programmes, as well providing mine clearance equipment and human-itarian aid, among others.

The Chinese government will continue to provide selfless and honest assistance to Cambodia, and share with Cambodia without reservation its technologies and experience in mine clearance.

It is not only a reflection of the commitment of China to safeguard world peace and develop humanitarianism, but also a testimony of the China-Cambodia friendship.

In 2019, the Chinese government will provide Cambodia with five million yuan worth of mine clearance equipment and humanitarian supplies, and train another 40 Cambodians to carry out mine clearance and humanitarian aid.

This is not only an important measure to implement the consensus of the two countries’ leaders, but also a solemn commitment by China to help Cambodia eliminate its mine threat – saving lives and reclaiming homes.

As the old Chinese saying goes: “When brothers are of the same mind, they have the power to cut through metal.”

I believe, under the joint efforts of China and Cambodia, sad stories of mine accidents should never happen again in the near future. The bilateral relationship and the com-munity with a shared future between China and Cambodia will surely move forward steadily.

HE Wang Wentian is the Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia.

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