Minefields Still Cover 1,700 Square Km of Land
Cambodians still suffer the negative impacts of a long civil war, started during the cold war period, with the coup d’état staged by General Lon Nol on March 18, 1970. I was at that time, seven years old. The war and the total destruction of Cambodia continued till 1998, when the leader of the Khmer Rouge Pol Pot died in the jungle. The bombardment of the US air force on Cambodian soil started even few years earlier than the coup. After three decades of war, republican, socialist and communist experiments, Cambodia has transformed itself from an “Island of Peace” in the sixties to the “Killings fields”, “minefields” and becomes one of the poorest countries in the world etc. More than two million people died during these period, not to mention about hardship of widows and orphanage or handicap people. Cambodia started in 1979 at “Year Zero”.
Our people are still suffering from the left over of mines, though the figure is going down a lot. Recently, Prime Minister Hun Sen mentioned that about 1,700 square Kilometer of land is still affected by landmines, mainly in the areas close to the Thai border, where fierce fighting was continued until the nineties. Between 2010 and 2012, 63 people were killed and a further 120 injured, by mines and UXOs. The numbers of victims goes down from 4,000 in 1996 to 185 in 2012 (Kampuchea Thmey, 22.03.13). The victims caused by landmines go down dramatically. We could say that the probability to get hurt by landmines is much less than lightning. For example: in the first five month in 2012, lightning killed 56 persons (13 women), injured 50 persons and 30 cattle died. In the same period in 2011, lightning killed 64 persons, injured 59 and 43 cattle died. (KT, 02.06.12).
In comparison: five deaths caused by traffic accidents (14.5 million population), daily, in 2011. In 2012, 1,894 people died by road accidents (MoI report, TCD, 11.01.13). On February 22, 2013, there were nine cases recorded nationwide, which made five people died (all men), eight injured (two female) and 16 vehicles damaged (KT, 24-25.02.13). 33 people killed in Vietnam (90 million populations) by traffic accidents every day, one of the highest in the world. (FM Radio 105.5 MHz, 18.05.12).
However, the vision of the Cambodian Mine Actions Center (CMAC) stated: by 2019, Cambodia shall be free of landmines (TCD, 22.02.13). Japan, Germany and other development partners have contributed a lot to help Cambodia demine itself in the past years. Also, Cambodia has sent experts and mines clearers to other countries such as South Sudan, Lebanon, and Afghanistan etc. Germany has supported since 1999 1 million Euro every year for mines clearance activities in the province of Siem Reap and Banteay Meanchey. In 2012, 78 million square meters were cleared by German led team using this aid money (in 2011, it was 72 million square meter). It is important to note that in the last twenty years (since 1992), CMAC and other clearance agencies have removed and destroyed 3.3 million unexploded ordnance, including 800,000 landmines (KT, 17-18.02.13).