Excellencies, Members of the Royal Government of Cambodia,
Your Excellencies, Ambassadors and Representatives of Development Partners,
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear All Stakeholders,
Today I have great honor and pleasure to join you all in the closing of this stock-taking conference on mine actions sector in Cambodia, organized by Cambodia Mine Action and Mine Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA). On behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia and as the head of CMAA, I am proud to participate in this closing and meeting you all, Your Excellencies representatives of donor countries and development partners, members of the RGC, NGOs representatives and all the mine operators. Now it is the third time for me to have the chance to follow your discussion on the achievements and respective commitments, through the report made by HE Sam Sutha, who is my personal advisor and the secretary general of Cambodia Mine Action Authority. The report indeed reflects your truly and tireless efforts in freeing the lands of whole Kingdom of Cambodia from mines, and thus enabling the reconstruction and development of our motherland.
Through the reports that I receive regularly and this briefing, it virtually proves our steady commitment in moving forward toward a Cambodia with zero rate of mine casualty, as I raised during the Mines Awareness Day and the 10th Anniversary of the Mines Action Operation on 22 February 2002 in Ratanak Mondul, Battambang.
Thus, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the national and international institutions for your physical and mental efforts devoting to responsibly fulfilling this ample mission. Those are CMAC, Cambodia Red Cross, RCAF, National Police, Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, Hallo Trust, MAC, Handicaps International, NPA, Care International, CCBL, AUSTCARE and many others that we cannot name all. All these organizations perform their duty and mission in clearing mines and unexploded ordnances.
The report to the conference has taken stock of the achievements since 1992 to 2004 that during the period we have cleared a total 28,000 hectares of lands, destroyed half a million of anti-human mines and 15,000 anti- mines and more than one million other weapons and unexploded ordnances.
The report has clearly reflected the concerns and outstanding tasks for the Royal Government of Cambodia in the area of Cambodia mine actions. The Royal Government therefore shall consider and address the following issues:
1. Develop plans and approaches to optimally reduce the danger caused by mines and unexploded ordnances every year. Moreover, mines clearance shall be undertaken to provide productive and safe lands for development.
2. Ensure distribution and use of mines-cleared land to those targeted beneficiaries.
3. Ensure all the mines clearance operations are within an integrated poverty reduction policy agenda in order to contribute to the development of Cambodia.
To address all these issues, we must realize two main tasks:
First, we must comply with the terms accorded in the Ottawa Convention, increasing program of activities on awareness of mines and unexploded ordnances and mines clearance on high risk lands, including the participation of local and concerned authorities together with local people.
Second, we shall accelerate our mines clearance activity, while maintaining high safety measures, in order to reduce the danger to a lower level as well as to increase the cultivated lands for our farmers.
In this context, the Royal Government of Cambodia, through CMAA, has set 4 core objectives into the National Strategic Development Plan 2005-2009, as HE Sok An, Deputy Prime Minister and Vice Chairman of CMAA, has presented at the Summit of Signatories of Ottawa Convention in Nairobi in December 2004. Those objectives are:
First objective: to strengthen the national facilitation framework in which CMAA has to play an important role in the facilitating operational actions in the whole Kingdom of Cambodia. In order to ensure the continuity of national development, the mine clearing operation has to be done with high efficiency and to ensure the proper mobilization of resources according to the need of the operation. In order to implement these principles, we have to:
1. To integrate mine sector to the national priority in every sector. We have to include mine clearing actions into the national development plan in which there is a need to update the plan by monitoring through the data and goals that have been set in the Millennium Development Goals.
2. To further strengthen facilitation mechanism of mine sector. Indeed, I knew that CMAA has played as a facilitator through different mechanism but we have to continue to work harder.
3. To strengthen the secretariat of CMAA in order to ensure more active process through employing more highly qualified staffs to do the work with high efficiency and to ensure the implementation of the every guideline on national policy on mine clearing at all levels of authority, provinces and cities. At the same time, the secretariat of CMAA has to strengthen the Mine Clearing Committee and working group of the mine clearing activities, which is its etat-major, to be strong for the operation and to ensure the effectiveness in the proper implementation of the sub-decree on “mine clearing operation management” in order to contribute to the socio-economic development. Indeed, the proper implementation means that to strengthen the provincial-municipal committees in the integration of mine clearing priority at national level in the plan of the provinces and cities.
4. The operators and all development partners have to make regular report to CMAA. The secretariat of CMAA has compiled many kinds of documents and forms as well as past achievement. This action will make it easy to follow up the operational progress in order to highlight advantages and disadvantages as well as following up casualties and real result from the mine clearing activities.
5. To continue developing the information management tools. In the present time, the Mine Action Authority has already set up a data center and it is now gradually operational, but it has not yet been strong. In this sense, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the European Union, Germany, England and UNDP for equipping, providing consultants and offering training to officials in using computer, which is an important tool in evaluating local work as well as keeping and analyzing data from operators and all development partners at the provinces and cities.
Second objective: to enhance mine sector by linking to the socio-economic development: we have to remember that the inception of the mine clearing activities had been organized after the end of two decades of civil war, which was in 1992, and the operation was in response to the emergency without any clear plan. All operators worked according to the request from village and commune authorities. After that the shortage of land has emerged, especially the land distribution did not reach the real poor. The shortage of land for the people and land distribution are the primary factors in preparing proper mine clearing plan based on priority, which means to benefit to the socio-economic sector.
In this framework, we have to ensure the responsibility of the provincial and municipal level in linking mine clearing activities to local development, which is the only objective of the government’s policy in poverty reduction. To achieve this objective, the CMAA has to strengthen the decentralized mechanism, which means that the planning of mine clearing must have broad cooperation from the commune-sangkat councils, working groups of mine clearing at district-khan levels, operators and development agencies at the provinces and cities.
At the same time, we have to ensure and to promote within the socio-economic framework, to focus on strengthening the national framework and to enhance priority of the poor. In this sense, the CMAA has to strengthen socio-economic groups by linking with the Provincial Mine Action Committee (PMAC) and Mine Action Planning Unit (MAPU). If these units are fully operational, we will be able to ensure the implementation of provincial, municipal and national plans at the right direction, to ensure the selection of land as priority to have mines cleared, to select the real poor as the beneficiaries and to ensure the transparency of the selection process.
Third objective: to strengthen mine-clearing operation over the present achievement. In this sense, I would like to raise three recommendations for the conference to consider as they are the core activities of mine sector in Cambodia.
1- To completely clear the high-priority mine field by 2012. CMAA has compiled the criteria to generally assess socio-economic impact on the community by using the methodology formulated by technical group searching mine field and the world technical group. For Cambodia, I understand that the implementation of this methodology to give the priorities as 1st, 2nd and 3rd is not applicable. For instance, Battambang’s first priority is to clear mine for farming, SiemReip and Preah Vihear’s first priority is to clear mine around temples and national heritage sites ect. Therefore, CMAA must have its technical team in order to cooperate with international technical team to reexamine the methodology by incorporating the assessment of community impacts to be a basis for prioritization. Moreover, those areas along the border, as far as I know, is still a matter to be discussed in the sense that CMAA, RCAF and local authority have to clearly define by taking the inhabited areas or unresolved border area as the basis. All operators have to strictly implement this policy.
2- The mine clearing achievement is limited, but is on the right target. According to the report of the first round landmine impact survey by specialist team, the area of 446,000 hectares is expected to have mines in which 10% or 42,000 hectares of the area directly affects the livelihood of thousands of rural people. Therefore, if we compare the present operation and the achievement from 12-year work, we need at least 12-15 or 20 years more to clear mines marked as highly prioritized land.
Remarkably, if we examine the achievement of the four large scale operators from 2000 to 2004, we attainted 16,200 hectares or 3,200 hectares on average per year. In that sense we need 13 years more to completely clear mines on the highly prioritized land. Another issue is that how can we assure such outcome? Or should Cambodia operate in more productive to reach the target as early as possible? Clearly, CMAA has to enhance its coordination and cooperation with all players and international mine experts to seek new techniques or methods for more productive operation.
3- We pointed out that only 10% that affects the livelihood of rural people every single month. The reports argued that 90% of the areas that technical team mark as a constantly mine clearing site is excessive. Therefore, the secretariat of CMAA has to organize workshop for discussion with veterans, all-past-fraction commanders and communities in all geographic areas with help of satellite images analyses.
4- The implementation of National Standard. CMAA has finalized a standard that is crucial to manage mine clearing operation and I will examine and put it in use shortly.
Fourth objective: I focus on the prevention for people from mine-related accident. The statistics for the last five years shows that the mine-related accident was 46% and the unexploded ordinance accident was 56%. So, all levels of authorities including operators have to prepare its work plans and programs by allowing the participation of people and community in particular to raise awareness of the accidences.
At the same time, the public services to mine and unexploded ordinance victims should be enhanced, especially the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation has to clearly outline the handicaps caused by mines and unexploded ordinances and to coordinate with other players, NGOs and International Organizations in order to well integrate the livelihood of the victims and their families into the society.
Taking this opportunity, I highly appreciate the management and leaders of the CMAA who exert their utmost efforts, stimulate coordination movement in mine clearing and successfully organize this conference.
Also, as a present for the efforts of the national mine operators as well as CMAA and in order to participate with development partners, I would like to contribute 800,000 US dollar as counterpart budget of the Royal Government to CMAA for the year 2005 in which such the amount has been provided every year.
Finally, I would like to extend my deep gratitude to donor countries which are our development partners in mine clearing business and I would also like to express my appraisal and to highly appreciate to the dedication of all-out efforts of mine clearing operators. I wish your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen who are here as well as those in mine fields with five gems of Buddhist wishes.