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Landmines pose threat to over one million people in Cambodia

SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA (XINHUA) – More than one million people in Cambodia still live in fear and work in areas contaminated by mines and explosive remnants of war (ERWs), a senior official said yesterday.

First vice president of the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority Ly Thuch said landmines and ERWs still continue to kill, injure and traumatise people, and severely impede social and economic recovery and sustainable development.

He said that since 1979, mines and ERWs have killed and injured nearly 65,000 people in the southeast Asian nation.

“Positively, because of mine action efforts in clearance and explosive ordnance risk education, the number of annual casualties has been brought down from 4,320 in 1996 to 44 in 2021,” he said at a high-level dialogue on mine action.

“But still today, throughout Cambodia, more than one million people live in fear and work in areas contaminated by mines and ERWs,” he added.

Mines and explosive remnants of war have killed and injured nearly 65,000 people in Cambodia since 1979. PHOTO: XINHUA

Cambodia is one of the countries worst affected by mines and ERWs. An estimated four to six million landmines and other munitions have been left over from three decades of war and internal conflicts that ended in 1998.

According to Yale University, between 1965 and 1973, the United States (US) had dropped some 230,516 bombs on 113,716 sites in Cambodia.

Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen wrote in his book titled Hun Sen: 10 Years of Cambodia’s Journey, 1979-1989 that the US bombings of Cambodia caused “tens of thousands of civilian casualties because of this vicious undeclared war”.

Thuch said from 1992 to April 2022, Cambodia cleared 2,379 square km of landmine/ERW contaminated land, destroying over 1.1 million anti-personal mines, more than 26,000 anti-tank mines and nearly three million ERWs.

He added that the cleared land had been used for agriculture, infrastructure development, and other purposes such as housing, villages, schools and healthcare centres with nearly 7.5 million beneficiaries.

“There is no doubt in my mind that humanitarian mine action has contributed significantly to socio-economic development in Cambodia by ensuring safe land for local community livelihood activities and sustainable economic development, while also reducing mine/ERW casualties,” he said.

Thuch said despite this remarkable achievement, the kingdom still needs to clear the remaining 736 square kilometres of land contaminated by mines by 2025.