Clearing Landmines on the Road to Sustainable Development

Photo: UNDP Cambodia

When peace returned to Cambodia after decades of war, people uprooted by the conflict went back to their villages and farms. Moeurng Phan was among them. By 1993, her village of Veal Vong in the north-west of the country had begun to welcome back its former residents.

“Life was very difficult,” said Moeurng Phan. She worked with her nephew on their farm despite the risks: the village was surrounded by 17 minefields with a combined size of over 121 football fields. “We had to reclaim our land, or we would have nothing,” she said.

Her nephew hit an anti-tank mine while driving a tractor and was killed. “I could do nothing for him. I was deeply shocked. I couldn’t eat for weeks,” she said. Forty-nine people have been killed or injured by unexploded mines in the small village.

With support from UNDP, the government, the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority, and the Cambodian Mine Action Centre began to clear the contaminated land. “We started clearing mines in 2004,” said Noum Chhayroum of the Mine Action Planning Unit in Veal Vong. “We found 398 landmines, 32 anti-tank mines and 229 other explosives.”

Free from landmines

The last contaminated field in Veal Vong was cleared in 2019. “There has been a big change in the last few years,” said Morn’Mon, Deputy Village Chief. “Many people now have tractors. There are drying facilities for corn. There is animal farming. We can market our produce.”

UNDP began its work on mine action in Cambodia 30 years ago. Through partnership and the joint effort of the government, the national authority, armed forces, and mine action operators, 2,300 square kilometres of land have been cleared, 4 million unexploded ordnances destroyed and 7.5 million people in the country have benefited.

“Anti-personnel mines and explosive remnants of war have caused widespread fear and suffering to individuals, families and communities, significantly impacting the nation’s development prospects,” said Alissar Chaker, UNDP Resident Representative for Cambodia.

Read the full story HERE.

Source: UNDP