Home World News China China assists Cambodia in achieving mine-free country by 2025

China assists Cambodia in achieving mine-free country by 2025

Photo shows metals signal sources detected by China. (Photo by Zhao Wenhuan)
Photo shows metals signal sources detected by China. (Photo by Zhao Wenhuan)

By Liu Hui

Cambodia is one of the countries with the most severe landmine problem in the world. The decades-long conflicts in the past century have left an estimated 4 to 6 million landmines and other unexploded ordnance in the country, mainly distributed in the border provinces near Thailand and Laos. 

The landmine issue poses challenges to farming, accessing water sources, and road construction, hindering Cambodia’s economic and social development. The impoverished population in rural areas, in particular, suffers the most from the dangers of landmines.

Over the past more than 30 years, the Cambodian government has been dedicated to clearing minefields and providing its people with a safe and healthy living environment. It has set a goal to achieve a mine-free country by 2025. 

Over the years, Cambodia has made significant progress in mine clearance and assistance to victims. The total area cleared of mines has continuously expanded, and the capacity and expertise in mine clearance have also improved.

To support Cambodia in achieving its goal of becoming mine-free, China has engaged in comprehensive and extensive cooperation with Cambodia in the field of mine clearance. 

Since 1999, China has provided mine clearance assistance to Cambodia through various means, including training courses, donation, providing mine detection equipment, and dispatching experts for on-site guidance.

The minefield near the Training School for Multinational Peacekeeping Forces of Royal Cambodian Armed Force in Cambodia is covered by dense vegetation and sprawling bushes. This place, a legacy of the Cambodian civil war dating back several decades, is a complex and highly dangerous minefield.

Chinese demining soldier Lin Rongchang, after clearing away the bushes, discovered a live artillery shell buried beneath the roots. He immediately reported the finding to his team leader, Wu Gaojian, and under Wu’s command, he marked the unexploded ordnance. 

This scene took place during the “Pure Homeland-2023” multinational joint demining operation in Cambodia in September last year. During this operation, the Chinese task force successfully cleared over 3,000 pieces of explosive remnants and destroyed 13 unexploded ordnances.

Last year, a three-month humanitarian demining training program sponsored by China was held at the Army Engineering University of PLA in Nanjing, east China’s Jiangsu province, joined by 40 trainees from Cambodia and Laos. 

The trainees received comprehensive instruction, ranging from theoretical knowledge to specialized skills, and from practical operations to simulated minefield drills. 

Additionally, they learned to utilize new technological methods such as unmanned aerial vehicles for surveying minefields, robotic demining, and laser-based mine clearance. 

They greatly benefited from this training program, saying the Chinese instructors demonstrated solid expertise in demining and left a deep impression on them. 

It is learned that the Army Engineering University of PLA has launched eight demining training programs for Cambodia and Laos so far, cultivating over 300 professional technicians in this field.

China and Cambodia have contributed to the international demining efforts through their cooperation. From 2021 to 2023, as the co-chairs of the Experts’ Working Group on Demining of the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting-Plus, China and Cambodia collaborated with more than ten countries in various forms. 

During the “Pure Homeland-2023” joint demining operation, in particular, field joint demining and multinational joint demining were conducted. Discussions were held to revise the draft version of an ASEAN standard operating procedure for demining and the draft version of a standard operating procedure for joint command centers. Activities such as a demining forum were organized as well.

According to reports, China has helped Cambodia clear more than 100 square kilometers of minefields, discovering nearly 78,000 landmines. This has benefited over 1.5 million local people.

A man in a village in Siem Reap Province, Cambodia noted, “I want to thank China for its assistance. The landmines in our village have been mostly cleared, and people can live their lives safely now!” 

Nowadays, except for a small forest area, it is safe to cultivate rice and drive tractors in other parts of the village. It is expected that the demining work in the village will be completed within this year.

Rath Pottana, director of Cambodian Mine Action Center’s planning and operation unit, said that China’s assistance in mine clearance holds significant importance to Cambodia. The cleared land has been utilized for agricultural production, residential purposes, and infrastructure development. 

Ly Thuch, senior minister and first vice president of Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority, said that China has provided substantial support and assistance in Cambodia’s efforts to achieve its demining goals, playing an indispensable role.

Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Wang Wentian noted that mine clearance cooperation is an important part of the China-Cambodia comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership. It is also a vivid embodiment of both sides’ efforts in implementing the Global Security Initiative, he added.

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