12 mln People Benefit from Clean-up of Landmine, ERW Contaminated Land in Cambodia: Senior Official

A deminer searches for mines and unexploded ordnance at a minefield in Siem Reap province, Cambodia, Jan. 16, 2024. Photo by Liao Hongqing/Xinhua

PHNOM PENH -- Some 12 million people, or 70.5 percent of Cambodia's total population of 17 million, have benefited from the clean-up of landmine and explosive remnant of war (ERW) contaminated land in the last 31 years, a senior official said on Tuesday.

Ly Thuch, senior minister and first vice president of the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authorities (CMAA), said the Southeast Asian country had cleared 3,024 square km of landmine and ERW contaminated land from 1992 to 2023.

"Seventy-six percent of the cleared land has been used for agriculture, five percent for social infrastructure and 19 percent for housing, villages, schools, and health centers, among others," he told Xinhua.

Thuch said nearly 1.18 million anti-personnel mines, 26,339 anti-tank mines, and 3.1 million ERWs were found and destroyed in the last 31 years.

He added that the number of landmine and ERW casualties had declined from 4,320 in 1996 to 32 in 2023 and below 100 a year in the last 10 years.

According to the senior minister, 14 of 25 provinces in Cambodia have been declared mine-free, and four other provinces are also expected to be announced mine-free this year.

"We are on track to achieve our mine-free target by 2025," he said.

Speaking of China's assistance to Cambodia's landmine and ERW clearance operations, Thuch said China is one of the key contributors to this humanitarian mission.

He said the China-Aided Cambodia Landmines Elimination Project, which has been carrying out in three phases from 2018 and 2025, has cleared more than 107 square km land contaminated with mines and ERWs, destroying about 78,000 pieces of landmines and ERWs.

"A total of 1.5 million Cambodian people have benefited from the China-aided project so far," Thuch said. "One landmine can destroy a whole family, so the support from China has saved a lot of lives from these silent killers, the landmines."

He said the mine-cleared land has become permanently safe for villagers, farmers, children and households to build houses, schools, playgrounds, and temples, among others.

Cambodia is one of the countries worst-affected by landmines and ERWs. An estimated 4 million to 6 million landmines and other munitions had been left over from three decades of war and internal conflicts that ended in 1998.

From 1979 to October 2023, landmine and ERW explosions had killed 19,822 people and either injured or amputated 45,212 others, said a Cambodian government report.

According to Thuch, currently, around 1 million people in the kingdom, particularly in rural areas, still live in fear and work in areas suspiciously contaminated by landmines, ERWs and cluster munitions.

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