Deaths from landmines and other unexploded ordnance (UXO) dropped by nearly half from 43 in 2012 to 22 last year, according to the government’s latest casualty figures, the largest drop in recent years.
Total casualties also dropped 40 percent over the same period, from 186 in 2012 to 111 last year, according to the last monthly casualty report for 2013 from the Cambodian Mine Action Authority (CMAA).
Of the 111 casualties, 21 people had limbs amputated due to mine or UXO explosions, and another 68 were otherwise injured.
Heng Ratana, director-general of the Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC), CMAA’s demining arm and the largest deminer in the country, attributed much of the drop to the completion of a years-long survey of mine and UXO contamination across the country in early 2013. He said the survey has given deminers better data than ever before on where to focus their efforts.
“The drop is due to the fact that demining operations have expanded to many areas, and the communities also…communicate a lot with us,” he said.
Mr. Ratana said the center received about 13,000 calls last year from people calling in mines and UXO for them to clear.
In late January, a fire swept through CMAC’s central repair shop in Battambang City, destroying vehicles and equipment worth an estimated $400,000.
Despite the heavy loss, Mr. Ratana said he did not expect it to significantly affect the center’s work in Battambang, one of the most heavily mined provinces in the country. Battambang, Koh Kong, Oddar Meanchey and Preah Vihear provinces alone accounted for more than half of last year’s casualties.
In addition to the completion of a nationwide baseline survey of contaminated areas, last year also saw the start of underwater demining operations at CMAC and a deal between the government and a Belgian NGO to start testing mine-sniffing African rats here in Cambodia.
© 2014, The Cambodia Daily. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced in print, electronically, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without written permission.