Feature: China-aided mine clearance project saves lives, provides better livelihoods in Cambodia

(Xinhua) 09:54, January 18, 2024

SIEM REAP, Cambodia, Jan. 17 (Xinhua) -- Farmer Sang Yon and his fellow villagers here in northwest Cambodia no longer live in fear of the danger caused by war-left landmines and unexploded ordnances (UXOs) after a China-aided project has helped get rid of the threats to their lives.

Chhrey village in Chi Kraeng district's Khvav commune, about 90 km northeast of the Siem Reap provincial town, was formerly a battlefield riddled with mines and UXOs. Casualties were frequently reported in the past, and villagers did not dare to farm a large portion of the land.

But the situation has changed after the land was cleared of mines and UXOs by the Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) under the China-Aided Cambodia Landmines Elimination Project.

Sang Yon, the 52-year-old father of four children, said he witnessed his brother-in-law lost one leg after stepping on an anti-personnel landmine while he walked to his rice fields in 2000.

"We were shocked and gravely concerned at that time when CMAC had not yet carried out any mine clearance project here," he told Xinhua on Tuesday.

"But since the China-aided CMAC deminers have searched and cleaned up mines and UXOs here, I have not heard any mine incidents anymore. We're very happy and have no fear or worry when we walk somewhere."

Sang Yon said previously, he grew rice and potatoes on a land of 1 hectare, but after all parts of his land were cleared of mines and UXOs, he has expanded farming to about 20 hectares.

Ry Sareout, a 37-year-old farmer in Khvav village in the same commune, said villagers are now safe to go anywhere and to do the farming.

The mother of three children said she also witnessed her auntie lost both legs after stepping on a landmine near her farm more than a decade ago.

"But now, there are no more landmines in our village. We are now safe to grow rice or other crops, and tractors can be used to plow farmland without fear of mines," she told Xinhua.

Sareout said previously, each family could farm only a land of 1 to 2 hectares due to the threat from landmines, but now some well-off families have farmed a land of 30 to 40 hectares.

"I'd like to thank China for providing assistance to CMAC to get rid of landmines in my village. Now, people are safe to make a good living," she said.

Sang Yon and Sareout are just two of nearly 1 million Cambodians benefiting from the China-Aided Cambodia Landmines Elimination Project, which is planned to be carried out in three phases from 2018 to 2025.

According to CMAC, so far, it has released 10,945 hectares of the remnants of war contaminated areas, and found and destroyed around 78,000 pieces of landmines and unexploded ordinances as remnants of war.

Rath Pottana, director of CMAC's planning and operation unit, said the project has saved many lives, reduced casualties, and help alleviate poverty in Cambodia's rural areas.

"Approximately 210,000 families with nearly 1 million people in those affected communities have benefited from this mine-clearance project," he told Xinhua.

"The Chinese assistance is very helpful to clearing mines and providing a safe land to people, contributing to economic development and livelihood improvement for the people in those communities," he added.

Pottana said the cleared lands have been used for agriculture, infrastructure development, and other purposes such as housing, and the use by villages, schools or healthcare centers.

"Now, they no longer live in fear of danger caused by landmines in their communities," he said.

Ma Shengkun, deputy director general of the Department of Arms Control at China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Tuesday that China-Cambodia mine clearance cooperation has become a crucial part of the comprehensive strategic partnership of cooperation between the two countries, demonstrating their joint commitment to the Global Security Initiative.

"This collaboration shows China's commitment as a responsible major country with a global vision, contributing to the well-being of humanity," he told Xinhua during a trip to a minefield in Siem Reap province.

"China looks forward to helping Cambodian people achieve the goal of a mine-free 2025," Ma said. "The Chinese government will continue to make contributions to assist the Cambodian people to realize this objective."

Cambodia is one of the countries worst affected by landmines and the explosive remnants of war (ERW). 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 Yale University data, between 1965 and 1973, the United States dropped 230,516 bombs on 113,716 sites in Cambodia.

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

The Southeast Asian country is committed to achieving a mine-free goal by 2025.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


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