Partnerships to tackle complex challenges

Cambodia’'s complex landmine problem requires new and collaborative efforts to quantify its scope and develop credible plans to address the issues, and this is where APOPO steps in. In 2009, a Baseline Non-Technical Survey commenced with the aim to define the remaining contamination. Parts of Cambodia have since been re-surveyed but major parts of the border areas toward Thailand still remain un-surveyed.

The National Mine Action Strategy (NMAS) consists of four goals: (1) reduce Mine/ERW casualties and other negative impacts; (2) contribute to economic growth and poverty reduction; (3) ensure sustainable national capacities to adequately address the residual contamination; (4) promote stability and regional and international disarmament. To achieve those, a number of implementing measures have been defined.

  • Complete a baseline survey for 122 districts by 2012;
  • Reduce suspected land based on the baseline survey data;
  • Mainstream mine action plan with the sub-national planning process;
  • Strengthen capacities and coordination in the preparation of mine action coordination plan, gender mainstreaming, information management and quality assurance;
  • Participate in the efforts to maintain international and regional stability through partaking in enforcement of international conventions and treaties where Cambodia is a State Party;
  • Mitigate casualty and provide assistance to victims of mine/ERW;
  • Maintain sustainable national capacities to address residual threats.

Cambodia has achieved major progress since 1992. While the number of casualties has been drastically reduced from 4,320 in 1996 to 107 in 2011, this still continues to hinder national reconstruction and development. Cambodia’'s landmine and ERW problem is huge and too complex for the country to burden alone. International support and assistance will be required for many years to come until the country is able to cope with the problem.

The Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) has developed an ambitious five-year strategy starting from 2010. It recognises that if Cambodia is to rid itself of landmines by the 2019 treaty deadline, CMAC, as the biggest mine action service provider in addition to the army, should undergo several structural improvements and increase concepts of land release and land release rates. The five-year strategy outlines 17 principles goals. One of these goals, also shared with Cambodian Mine Action Authority (CMAA), HALO Trust and Mines Advisory Group (MAG), is to complete the Baseline Non-Technical Survey by 2012. A major survey effort is thus required on the Cambodian side of the Thai border. A second goal for CMAC is to improve through introducing updated technologies and methodologies.

APOPO is partnering with CMAC in 2012 with the deployment of 2 Survey Teams within the framework of the National BLS. A greater partnership effort is anticipated in 2013, once funding has been confirmed.

The structure of the mine action sector in Cambodia is fairly well defined. CMAA was established with the Prime Minister as the President, a Vice-President, and a Secretary General who is responsible for daily management. CMAA is mandated to coordinate, monitor and regulate mine action activities as well as to formulate strategies and plans to achieve strategies of the government. CMAA has established a number of policies, standards and guidelines for the management of the mine action sector. Demining activities are principally undertaken by the national mine action organisation CMAC and the two international organisations HALO Trust and MAG. CMAC is by far the largest Mine Action service provider.

Cambodia'’s mine history

The nature of landmine and ERW contamination in Cambodia is highly complex. The antipersonnel mine problem has its highest concentration in 21 districts of north-western Cambodia along the border with Thailand, which has accounted for more than 90% of casualties in the past years. Contamination includes the 1,046km-long K5 mine belt installed by the Vietnamese-backed government in the mid-1980s to block insurgent infiltration, which constitutes Cambodia's densest contamination with, reportedly, up to 2,400 mines per linear km.

The Landmine Impact Survey (LIS) identified in 2002 that 6,416 communities (around 46% of all communities) had their access to critical livelihoods affected by the suspicion of mines. Projects for the reconstruction of roads and other essential infrastructure and, the resettlement of people were all slowed down or affected to some extent by the presence of mines/ERW. Private and/or public investments were also affected by mines/ERW, from mineral exploration, to tourism and protection of the environment. Despite significant mine action achievements over the past 20 years, mines/ERW remain a challenge in people’s lives and for national development. Annual casualty rates from landmines remain high, placing Cambodia among the countries with the highest share of casualties in the world. Demands on the mine action sector remain considerable, with pressing local, provincial and national demands for demining based on the baseline survey and the extension request document.

Boonlom Tangmun, APOPO-PRO Surveyor

Boonlom Tangmun, APOPO-PRO Surveyor

When I know that I am helping people lead safe and happy lives without the fear of landmines it reassures me that even though there are so many problems in the world, there is still hope and that I am a part of the solution.

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