Today, It is my great pleasure to be here with Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, representatives of financing agencies, development partners, national and international non-governmental organizations, and mine clearance operators in the closing of the National Conference for Mine Action Sector.
On behalf of the Royal Government and the Cambodian Mine Action and victim Assistance Authority (CMAA), I would like to commend and highly value the management, officials, personnel of CMAA, demining operators and all relevant stakeholders for having supported and closely collaborated in resolving challenges and preventing disasters caused by mines and unexploded ordinances which are threatening the lives, security, safety and careers of our people. In parallel, I would also like to thank and commend the management, officials, and personnel of CMAA and relevant stakeholders for the initiative and cooperation to organize this important national conference.
I remember that 15 months ago, in the same place here I presided over the opening of the 11th Meeting of the State Parties of the Ottawa Treaty, which is recognized as a successful meeting in the history of anti-mining movement. As the host and chair of the meeting, Cambodia reminded the world about the birth of anti-mining movement and showed the actual and real pictures of the actions and achievements resulted from the implementations of this Treaty. Also, we are proud to see great achievements and positive progressions made during the time that Cambodia was the Chair of the meeting; four new state parties became members of the Ottawa Convention and four new state parties declared that they are free of mines; and at the same time, there was also increasing interest of the world in the implementation of the Ottawa Treaty. All the achievements made in clearance of mines and unexploded ordnances reflect the important involvement of the Royal Government in implementing the Ottawa Treaty. This was started from the concept of the Royal Government in turning former battle fields to development areas; Cambodia has turned tens of thousands hectares of mine fields to rubber farms, cassava farms, sugar farms, and many kinds of agricultural plantation, which have been contributed to promoting the livelihoods of the people and are the basis for the national socio-economic development.
The “Win-Win” policy of the Royal of Government had made Cambodia successfully end more than two-decade chronic war by completely putting an end to political and military organizations of the Pol Pot genocidal regime in late 1998. Though this historical success has truly brought territorial unity and complete peace for the nation and the people, the presence of mines and unexploded ordnances remains the impediment and the responsibility for our nation and people. In this sense, the Royal Government has clearly set the clearance of mines and unexploded ordnances as urgent tasks that we need to work jointly to resolve with a view to promoting wider and comprehensive internal integration for all sectors, especially the development of physical infrastructure network which is the fundamental basis for supporting and developing our socio-economy.
In this spirit, the Royal Government has closely cooperated with relevant development partners to resolve challenges related to mines and unexploded ordnances and has made many remarkable achievements. Nevertheless, we still have mines and unexploded ordinances especially in villages, rice fields, farms and some important locations, which have always destroyed lives and properties of our people especially the people living in the former battle fields. In addition as mines and unexploded ordnances are buried beneath the land, it always causes worries to our people when they are working on the fields to increase their production. However, in the past 20 years we have worked hard and persisted against all difficulties to resolve challenges related mines and unexploded ordnances, and have made proud achievements until being commended and highly valued by international communities.
While a number of affected countries searching for means to resolve challenges and prevent the dangers to lives of our people caused by mines and unexploded ordnances, the Royal Government have already moved one step ahead; in short we have used a new and innovative method combined with modern techniques to clear land area from mines for people to cultivate. In parallel, we have enhanced cost-effectiveness in mines clearance; we have strengthened the institutions and legal framework for mine action sector as well as good management of the resources for mine clearance. In fact, after the enhancement and improvement of the whole mine action sector together with the increase in mine clearance activities and the efforts to provide education and guidance to people on the dangers of mines and unexploded ordnances, we have made proud achievements: in short the annual number of mine accident cases dropped from 4320 people in 1996 to only 800 people on average between 2000-2004. Furthermore, we cleared land for people living in communities with the area of 68 kilometers square in 2010, about 71 kilometers square in 2011 and nearly 83 kilometers square in 2012 and actively involved with physical infrastructure development projects such as transportations; in the last few years we cleared additional area of about 182 kilometers square. These data have has certainly reflected the success that the CMAA has worked hard to achieve, aiming to make contribution to the national socio-economic development toward the progress, prosperity and reduction of poverty of our people. At the same time, Cambodia’s knowledge and experience in mine action sector has been shared in the international arena as well. For instance, in the last few years many delegations from countries affected by mines and unexploded ordnances such as Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal, Afghanistan, Libya, Angola, Columbia, and Sudan as such, travelled to Cambodia to study and share our experience.
The above achievements and successes result from the joint efforts made by all the institutions in public and private sectors, civil society, and all development partners combined with the right leadership of the Royal Government of Cambodia. All these achievements have also actively contributed to providing land to people who need it for farming and agriculture production to enhance their living standards. Taking this opportunity, I would like to commend and highly value the management, officials, and personnel of the CMAA as well as all relevant institutions and stakeholders for working hard to fulfill your duties until achieving such proud outcomes.
At the same time, as a country most heavily affected by mines in the world and a signatory of the Ottawa Treaty on the “Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines”, Cambodia firmly and always adheres to implementing and practicing the essence and spirit of this Treaty. In this sense, the Royal Government has passed many laws and work processes for the transparency and high effectiveness of these implementations. The Royal Government has created laws and legal procedures to implement with transparency and high efficiency. At the same time, Cambodia has been actively participating with the international community in sharing experiences and resources to promote the implementation of this treaty more successfully as planned. Cambodia has also been sending her demining team to Sudan and Libya in the framework of peace keeping mission of the United Nations in order to reduce danger and liberate the land for the people in those countries. Moreover, the Royal Government of Cambodia today has been implementing a number of initiatives in order to support the mine victims, ordnance and enhance their rights. Practically, we have ratified the treaty on “rights of the disabled”, which came to effect since the beginning of this year. The service delivery program for the disabled has been paid attention and created nationwide through the program of community rehabilitation.
According to the report by H.E Prak Sokhon, Vice-Chairman of the Cambodian Mines Action Authority, although we have been more successful so far, we still have a long way to go by having to move on the way to achieve the ultimate goal of landmines clearance and unexploded ordnance and to save the vulnerable people in Cambodia. In fact, we are now facing the shortage of financial resources to finance the implementation of activities in this sector because the financing source has been declining remarkably. Moreover, the recently completed primary research of the Cambodia Mines Action Authority (CMAA) revealed the clear picture of the scope of the issue that need to be solved in which the land of 1700 square kilometers have been threatened by unexploded ordnance and need to be further cleared. This number has not included the land located in the 20 districts in the eastern part of the Mekong River suspected of receiving the threat from the mines and unexploded ordnance that is the legacy of the grenade bombs on Cambodia during the war in Indochina that we have not carried out the research.
Taking this opportunity, in order to be used as inputs to speed up the progress and achieve the better results in implementing the landmine clearance activity and unexploded ordnance in Cambodia, I would like to provide a number of recommendations as follows:
First: the Ministry-institution, authorities, units and related agencies of the Royal Government must continue close cooperation with CMAA in order to promote the implementation of action plan of landmine clearance and unexploded ordnance in all targeted areas more successfully as scheduled of the Cambodia Development Goal as planned. The Ministry of Economy and Finance must cooperate and allocate the national budget of the CMAA appropriately and timely according to each stage in order to support every action of implementation of landmine clearance and unexploded ordnance to be more efficient and sustainable.
Second: all Ministries and institutions, all physical infrastructures and development projects that are required to clear the landmines and unexploded ordnance must cooperate and consult with CMAA in order to set the necessary measures and best method to solve and mitigate the risk that may occur due to the landmines and unexploded ordnance. The singing of contract must be done only with the landmine clearance operators that have been authorized by the CMAA only in order to ensure that all landmine clearance operation in their projects are really conforming to the legal instrument, quality, safety and standard of the landmine clearance and unexploded ordnance. At the same time, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Ex-soldiers and Youth Rehabilitation must cooperate closely with CMAA in order to separate the data on the support and service delivery to the landmine victims and unexploded ordnance from the general record of the whole disability sector.
Third: the CMAA must continue strengthening its capacity in order to accelerate the progress in leading the implementation of the CMAA National Strategy to be more successful according to Cambodia Development Goal and must put out monitoring mechanism to ensure efficiency of the implementation of CMAA. Along with that, CMAA must continue providing guidance to the landmine clearance operators in order that all those operators can understand and respect the right principles in preparing landmine and ordnance clearance plan as well as ensuring that all strategic goals can be implemented successfully.
Fourth: for the development partners, national and international non-governmental organizations, donors, and the private sector must discuss with CMAA while choosing the operators and location that need to be cleared so that it will not only make their projects move in parallel with the national priority plan but also use the national budget at the right target and efficiency.
Fifth: the investors, corporations and private constructors in which their investment projects are located in the areas that are under the threat or suspicious of having landmines and unexploded ordnance must try to seek cooperation and discuss with CMAA, provincial authority or Mines Action Institutions in the provinces in order to set the identity the locations that are under threat and are necessary to clear the landmines by selecting the landmines clearance operators authorized by CMAA.
At the same time, I would like to appeal to all development partners, national and international non-governmental organizations, donors and all friend countries to continue providing further good cooperation an support in spirit, materials and budget to CMAA and unexploded ordnance in order that we can fully achieve and time response to the our people’s need of sustainable peace, security, and safety.
Before ending, I would like once again appreciate and deeply thank Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen and all participants of the conference who have participated and shared ideas, experiences, and good perspectives to make the conference a fruitful success. At the same time, I would like to appeal Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen to transform all recommendations and experiences gained from today’s conference to become an active and lively implementation in order to fully close the “hidden killers” that are landmines and unexploded ordnance from the land of the Kingdom of Cambodia so that our people will be able to live and make a living in peace, safety, prosperity, and happiness.
At the end, along with the closing of “National Conference for Mine Action Sector” now, I would like to wish Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, national and international distinguished guest the four gems of Buddhist blessing: Longevity, Nobility, Health, and Strength.