Cambodia, Thailand agree to clear all mines on border
Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday instructed provincial authorities at the border with Thailand and relevant agencies to clear all mines and remaining explosives in border areas.
His instructions came during the closing ceremony of an exhibition in Phnom Penh celebrating the 30th anniversary of anti-mine action in Cambodia.
The premier called on all relevant authorities to work with Thailand on demining before border issues could be discussed at a later date.
“Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and I have already agreed on demining along the border, to clear areas where there are mines, regardless of border issues, as defining the demarcation line can be done later,” Hun Sen said.
He said that while in the past Cambodia had made such requests to Thailand “without receiving any response”, this time Prayut raised the matter during discussions with him at the 40th and 41st Asean Summit earlier this month.
Hun Sen said Prayut had stated that there were still more than 40 square kilometres to clear on the Thai-Cambodian border.
Cambodia has cleared all landmines from its frontiers with Vietnam and Laos.
“Prayut Chan-o-cha said that now there are more than 40 sq km of land with mines or suspected to contain mines, so we need to remove them all before resolving the demarcation line issue.
“To ensure people’s safety, we can work together to decide which areas Thailand clears and which Cambodia clears,” Hun Sen said.
The number of casualties from landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) had dropped sharply, from 4,320 cases in 1996 to less than 100 per year over the past decade, he noted.
The prime minister also said that while Cambodia still needed help from friends, it could itself set goals for funding to support demining activities.
To date, more than US$18 million (650 million baht) has been received from donors, with $10 million used to clear mines in target areas and $8 million remaining.
“I feel that with the Covid situation improving, there may be a reduction in people affected and needing support, which can be directed to funding demining.
“So we can ensure the mine action is not affected by any lack of funds because we need Cambodia to be landmine free by 2025,” Hun Sen said.
The prime minister also said that “without commitment, we will not be able to clear all mines from Cambodian territory”, as he called on the philanthropists to help their country.
“When we can end the mine problem in Cambodia, it will be one of our great successes after the country suffered so much.
“The war is over, but the curse of mines is not. I have also raised the issue with the US president,” he said.
Ly Thuch, senior minister and first vice-president of the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA), said at the ceremony that clearing mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) began after liberation day in 1979.
Large-scale demining efforts then began in 1992 with a complete mine action programme, with Cambodia having found and destroyed millions of landmines and ERW over the past 30 years, turning “mined land” into “golden land”.
“As we all know, mine action is not just a technical undertaking, it also comes from the heart.
“The commitment and dedication of demining workers stem from their compassion and sympathy for the people whose lives and livelihoods are being threatened by landmines and explosive remnants of war,” Thuch added.
Cambodia has successfully cleared Phnom Penh and the provinces of Stung Treng, Kep, Prey Veng and Preah Sihanouk, with 1,705 villages declared mine-free.
The government has agreed for the CMAA to hold a “global conference on victim aid” in Cambodia in 2023, which will be attended by 36 countries.
The Phnom Penh Post
Asia News Network