Land mines in Cambodia

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Cambodia is a country located in South East Asia that has a major problem with landmines, especially in rural areas. This is the legacy of three decades of war which has taken a severe toll on the Cambodians; it has some 40,000 amputees, which is one of the highest rates in the world.[1] The Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) estimates that there may be as many as four to six million mines and other pieces of unexploded ordnance in Cambodia.[2]

The landmines in Cambodia were placed by different governments and factions (including the Lon Nol, Khmer Rouge, the Heng Samrin and Hun Sen regimes, as well as the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea who, with international support retained the UN seat throughout much of the 1980s) that clashed during the Civil War in Cambodia in the 1970s and 1980s. They were placed in the whole territory of the country. A common problem that Cambodians faced with the anti-personnel mines is that in many cases even the people who placed the mines do not remember them a couple of years later.[citation needed]

Casualty Rates[edit]

Casualty statistics from the Cambodian Mine Victim Information Service (CMVIS) shows that Cambodia has one of the highest casualty rates in the world.[3] The number of casualties (persons killed and injured) in 2013, the last year for which figures are available, was 111, made of 22 dead and 89 injured.[4] One-third of the casualties are children, and almost all of those are boys, with studies showing that men and boys tend to be more willing than women to play with or examine explosives.[5]

Finding the location of the mines with no witness or map record is a very difficult task that needs very specific tools, and demands a lot of time, and trained staff, and therefore also a lot of investment. Currently, most of the remaining mines are still frequently found in the fields. Nowadays the process of identifying the areas with mines and clearing them is carried in the North West of the country, where most of the remaining mines are found.[6]

The number of people killed in landmine incidents nearly doubled in the first half of the year 2016, with 20 deaths compared to 11 for the same period in 2015, though injuries declined by almost half, from 55 to 29[7]

Social consequences[edit]

The social consequences of the landmines in Cambodia are extremely serious. A high percentage of the population has been killed by mines, which affects entire families. "ICRC statistics claim that only 25% of mine victims arrive at hospital within 6 hours of being injured with 15% having to travel for more than 3 days before they reach a hospital."[1] The state of vulnerability that these incidents cause in the population is very high. For a family with a very low income, to have a member lose a limb and no access to good health care, and no governmental aid makes the dangers of land mines a much heavier burden on the Cambodian community. "Landmines, just by their sheer number alone in a particular area, can influence the population's behaviour. This in turn may result in an overall deterioration of public health and other aspects of social wellbeing. Farmers with mines, or even only "perceive" the presence of landmines on their land will not be able to cultivate the land. This will lead to food scarcity and eventually even malnutrition." [8] "In Cambodia, 87% of surviving landmine victims are males over 15 years old, with a mean age of 28 years. In Afghanistan, 73% are males between ages 16 to 50, and 20% of the victims are male children."[2] The stresses that this issue puts on the society and community are very high. Such high numbers of victims of working age represent a considerable burden on families' capacity for raising income and educating their children. The social consequences of land mines at the high rate that Cambodia experiences poses a considerable social and economic problem. It also shows the vulnerability of the health system and the lack of a support strategy.

Socio-Economic Effects[edit]

The National Level One Survey in Cambodia conducted in 2002 found that 20% (2776 out of 13908) of all villages in Cambodia are still contaminated by minefields and/or cluster bomb areas with reported adverse socio-economic impacts on the community.[9] These adverse impacts included restrictions on access to agricultural land, pasture land, forests, and water resources, with 102,778, 105,707, 172,878 and 84,588 families being affected respectively.[10] A 2004 Cambodia Socio Economic Survey (CSES) noted that households headed by someone with one or more reported disabilities have significantly less wealth than other households. Furthermore, it has been estimated that households headed by a person disabled by war or landmines live in poverty at levels almost three times higher than if the disability was due to other causes.[11]

Current Efforts[edit]

The Cambodian Mine Action Authority (CMAA) was established in late 2000. The CMAA regulates and coordinates all mine action activities, and establishes policies and procedures. Currently, there are four (main) demining organizations working in Cambodia - The Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC), the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), The HALO Trust, and the Mines Advisory Group (MAG).[12] CMAA estimates that the combined cost for demining operations, including technical assistance and in kind contributions for Cambodia are approximately $30 million per year.[13] Experts also estimate that Cambodia will need another 10 to 20 years to clear the mines if the current level of funding is maintained.[14]

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