Donor representatives witnessing mine clearance effort

Donors visit mine fields
Nicholas Wolf from AusAID prepares to detonate an anti-tank mine during the visit to the landmine field in Kouk Roka village in Battembang province. (Photo: UNDP Cambodia/Lisa Rennie)

Battambang – There is something unnerving about treading through a mango plantation in the village of Kouk Roka in Battambang province. A roped-off dirt trail indicates the hazard underfoot: undetonated landmines and other explosive remnants of war (ERW). Despite the indulgence of being led along a safe path by demining professionals wielding specialised dogs and equipment, there was a respectful hush among the visiting donors.

On 8th November, representatives of the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAid) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) witnessed the effort required to eliminate the legacy of landmine warfare in this northwestern region of Cambodia.

Highlights

  • More than 700 square kilometres have been cleared since 1992

“I was struck by the difficulty of the task faced by CMAC’s clearance staff. Under a hot Cambodian sun, wearing heavy protective clothing and carrying a range of technical tools, [Cambodian Mine Action Centre] staff must slowly and carefully follow strict procedures to find any hidden landmines, whilst ensuring their own safety,” said Nicholas Wolf from AusAid.

Later in the afternoon, the villagers met and addressed the donors regarding their fears. Their vision for the 15 hectares of land in their village includes additional mango plantations, rice fields, and cattle grazing, but their dependence on the land means their safety is still elusive. As is their stability: The lack of food and livelihood security drives many to migrate seasonally across the border to Thailand. This is part of a wider pattern in Battambang, where 325 square kilometres of still contaminated land makes it the highest-ranking province in the country for landmine/ERW incidents and resulting casualties. 

 The present effort in Kouk Roka village has been the result of protracted land clearance efforts by, among others, the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) under the leadership of the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA) and with the support of the United Nations Development Programme. 

Since 1992, more than 700 square kilometres have been cleared in support of agriculture, resettlement and infrastructure such as roads, schools and pagodas. Nevertheless, further resources are still critical for continued land release.  The significance of this is not lost on Kouk Roka’s villagers with the site visit presenting them an opportunity to personally appeal for continual donor support.

 Cambodia remains one of the most landmine and ERW affected countries in the world, the result of 30 years of armed conflict and war. In light of the detrimental consequences to Cambodia’s development and human security, UNDP’s Clearing for Results project remains a priority.

Clearing for Results is a project implemented by the Cambodian Mine Action Authority (CMAA), with technical support from UNDP, with the objective to promote cost-effective and transparent use of resources for the clearance of mine/ERW affected land for productive use by the poor. The project is a multi-donor funding facility for mine action receiving financial support from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Australian International Development Agency (AusAid), the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID),  the Government of Austria and UNDP.