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Phnom Penh -- A China-aided mine clearance project has cleared over 100 square km land contaminated with mines and explosive remnants of war (eras) in Cambodia, benefiting some 1.5 million people, a senior government official said here on Thursday.
Ly Thuch, senior minister and first vice-president of the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA), said the China-Aided Cambodia Landmines Elimination Project, which has been carried out in three phases from 2018 and 2025, has helped find and destroy about 78,000 pieces of landmines and unexploded ordinances.
"We had cleared more than 107 square km land with the support from China, a huge achievement, and there are 1.5 million beneficiaries," he said at a press conference after receiving a new batch of mine clearance equipment from China.
He said the government and people of Cambodia highly valued the compassion, kindness, and generosity of the Chinese people extending to the Cambodian people, in particular for the mine clearance sector in the Southeast Asian country.
"Over the years, China has provided financial support for our deminers to clear silent killers, the landmines," Thuch said. "One landmine can destroy a whole family, so the support from China has saved our lives in Cambodia."
He said the mine-cleared land has become permanently safe for farmers, children and households to build houses, schools, playgrounds, and temples, among others.
The senior minister said the mine clearance equipment received from China at this time included mine detectors, demining toolkits, demining protective equipment, laptop computers, tablet computers, and tents.
"This is very important because it will improve our efficiency," he said. "We need good equipment and technology to support mine clearance on the ground."
Thuch also thanked China for having provided training to Cambodian deminers, saying that the assistance is essential to increase their skills and expertise.
"The training that we've received every year from China, in China, is a very important contribution to mine action here to achieve our mine-free goal by 2025," he said. "On behalf of our people and our government, we would like to express our gratitude to the Chinese people and government for their contribution."
Speaking at the handover ceremony of the mine clearance equipment, Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Wang Wentian said since 1998, China has provided mine clearance assistance to Cambodia multiple times by providing mine clearance training, donating mine clearance equipment, and sending experts for on-site guidance.
"Today, China handed over a batch of mine detection and clearance equipment as well as humanitarian supplies to Cambodia, and signed a new memorandum of understanding on mine-clearance cooperation," he said.
"This not only represents China's support for Cambodia in achieving the mine-free goal by 2025, but also demonstrates China's commitment to the global security initiative through actions," he added.
Wang said China's long-standing mine clearance assistance to Cambodia has been of significant importance in helping Cambodia maintain national security, uphold social stability, promote economic development, and improve the well-being of its people.
At the event, the memorandum of understanding (MoU) on continued mine clearance cooperation was signed between CMAA's vice president Suy Chi Heang and Ma Shengkun, deputy director general of the Department of Arms Control at China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Under the MoU, China will continue to support Cambodia's efforts to achieve its mine-free goal by 2025.
Cambodia is one of the countries worst affected by landmines and eras. 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.
According to the Yale University, between 1965 and 1973, the United States had dropped some 230,516 bombs on 113,716 sites in Cambodia.
From 1979 to October 2023, landmine and ERW explosions had killed 19,822 people and either injured or amputated 45,212 others, said a government report.