Saturday, August the 31st, marks the 22nd anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. The much-admired member of the British royal family touched many lives and we are reminded of the work she did to bring world attention to the scourge of land mines. The “Ottawa Treaty”, a convention on the prohibition of mines, was championed by the Princess and it was signed in December of 1997 – three months after her death. While the legacy of Diana lives on, so does the destruction that is brought upon by these hidden killers.
More than 20 years after decades of hostilities came to an end in Cambodia, our country remains riddled with buried explosives. In the first half of 2019 alone, land mines have killed 62 people in Cambodia. This is twice the number of deaths that were recorded during the same period in 2018. More than 20,000 men, women and children have lost their lives to mines and other undetonated ordnance since 1979. More than 45,000 others have been injured.
Land mines can remain active for more than 50 years. Scanning and clearing thousands of kilometres of land is a daunting task, but the government of Cambodia is committed to removing all buried explosives in known areas by 2025. Men and women risk their lives every day to accomplish this task, as do other mammals like dogs and Gambian pouched rats. On the high-tech side of things, drones are being deployed thanks to assistance from the UK’s University of Central Lancashire. It is estimated that demining efforts will cost more than 100 million USD by no later than 2023.
An internet search for “land mines Cambodia” brings up more than 2.8 million references to the history of the weapons, the devastation they have caused and the state of the continuing hunt for these death traps. Many governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) contribute to demining efforts. You can help by making a donation, by volunteering, by contacting your elected officials.
“We are most grateful for the contributions of technology, of labor and of financial assistance from the international community, but these weapons of war still bring death to Cambodians. In the spirit of Princess Diana, we remind you that the struggle continues in our quest to rid our land of this scourge” says Heng Ratana, Director General of the CMAC.
About CMAC: The Cambodian Mine Action Centre is Cambodia’s leading demining organization. It provides services and support in the areas of Survey and Land Release, Mine and UXO Clearance, Mine and UXO Risk Education and Training, Research and Development. The CMAC employs more than 1,700 people. Our mission is to save lives and to support sustainable development in Cambodia.