Your Venerable Buddhist Monks,
Your Excellency Fumiaki TAKAHASHI, Japanese Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia,
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today, it is my great pleasure and honor to join in this ceremony, the donation of mine clearing equipments from the Government of Japan through His Excellency Royal Ambassador Fumiaki TAKAHASHI and inauguration of the new headquarter of Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC). This is a good opportunity for me to meet our dear compatriots again at this event.
The donated equipment is worth of 16 million US dollars, including mine searching equipments, de-mining suits, maintenance warehouse, transportation vehicles, trailers, motorcycles and many other mine clearing tools. Together with this donation, the Royal Government has decided to build a center for CMAC as an encouragement and contribution together with development partners, in particular to support CMAC in its capacity to perform its respective responsibilities. All these donations, indeed, are important to move CMAC forward at this present circumstance where we vitally need the continuity of mine and unexploded ordnances clearing process.
This support clearly highlights a firm position of the People and Government of Japan to contribute in addressing mine issues. Mines still cover thousand of square kilometers of land, thousands of families and almost half of the whole Cambodian population is directly or indirectly threatened by it as result of decades of prolonged civil war. Mine clearance is a central commitment of the Royal Government and its development partners to ensure complete security of Cambodia and people as a whole after Cambodia has achieved full peace and reconciliation.
Even Cambodia has achieved full peace, but many mines and unexploded ordnances still remain that result in mine accidences, in particular, those who live in rural areas have been affected the most. They have become handicaps or lost their lives as a result of mines and unexploded ordnances. According to the Cambodian Red Cross’s report in 2004 around 891 persons were victims of mines and unexploded ordnances. In the first five months of 2005, 546 persons have become victims and this statistic is the highest in the world excluding those countries that are still at war such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Due to this, the Royal Government considers the mine clearance action as one of the highest priorities among activities for rehabilitation and development of a nation, especially to achieve the objective of the national strategy for poverty reduction of our population. At the same time, we have observed that many poor people that are per se vulnerable have no any other options except to work on those uncleared land. This factor has emphasized that the issues regarding mine clearance is not only the social security matter, but an issue, which is related to economic and development relations in general, especially related to the provision of a safe environment for farmer families in rural areas to go about their daily work.
Through report presented by His Excellency Director General, I would like to express my great appreciation to the management, officials and all stuff of CMAC for their utmost efforts to fulfill their responsibilities and to successfully achieve this proud results in clearing around 1.2 millions of mines and unexploded ordinances and to clear needed land for farming and to contribute to rehabilitation of rural infrastructures. At the same time, I would like to convey my condolence and well wishes to de-miners, who has lost their lives on duties and to those under treatment respectively.
Taking this opportunity, on behalf of the Royal Government and people of Cambodia, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the government and people of Japan through H.E. Royal Ambassador who has paid attention and supported mine clearing operation in Cambodia.
No matter how much effort has been made in searching and clearing mine from CMAC, military engineering unit, HALO Trustand MAG, mine accident has not been declined. The number of mine accidents is much less that traffic accident and HIV causality, but it has different nature. Mine has direct threat to daily life, economic development, family and society because even it has not yet caused any casualty to life, but it still threatens and impedes development process.
In the spirit of showing great concern on mine issue, the Royal Government of Cambodia includes it as the ninth goal of Millennium Development Goals which only exists in Cambodia because there are only eight goals for all other countries. To achieve this objective, the Royal Government also includes the mine issue in its Rectangular Strategy and prepares the long, medium and short term policies.
Notably, the recognition and active participation of the Royal Government to push the implementation of OTTAWA Treatyhas highlighted our commitment in enforcing the treaty. In this regard, the Japanese Government has also actively participated and played a leading role in the enforcement of the treaty in the international arena. Moreover, Japan has also strengthened the partnership with Cambodia to achieve what has been stipulated in the treaty “Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and the Destruction of all kinds of Mines”
In the stock-taking workshop on mine clearing achievement for the last 12 years on 28th April 2000 at the Council of Ministers, I pointed out the position of the Royal Government that there must be a target to clear all mines at the highly prioritized areas by 2012.
Under the responsibility of the Royal Government and to achieve the above objective, the Mine Authority must focus on coordinating the national, provincial and local plan; so that the plans in all three levels have been harmonized. Indeed, due to our limited resources, it is important for the Mine Authority to efficiently use all means and mechanisms to make sure that the selection of the highly prioritized areas has been transparent and efficient in order to respond to the needs of local people and development partners.
Base on technical aspects, tactics and available resources, we expect to clear 430 square Kilometres of mine field marked as highly prioritized areas by 2012. Within this framework, on 24th February 2002 at Ratanak Mondul District, Battambang province, I also set the target to reduce mine accident to zero by 2012. So, the two perspectives are parallel. I knew that we will have a lot of challenges ahead to address the above setting targets, but we should not hesitate to address it.
At the same time, I would like to reaffirm that it does not mean that Cambodia will free of mine and unexploded ordinance by 2012, but we must have a clear position on the steps of our priority work. By doing so, development partners and donors can set their plans to support us. We clearly understand that none can assist us forever, thus, as a perspective we must set priorities that are needed help while we have to also seek out the way to help ourself.
With the object to attain above perspectives, the Royal Government has determined the criteria to analyse socio-economic impacts in order to prepare plan for mine clearing in conformity with priority as well as preparing and putting into use the national standard to assure high quality and efficiency.
In the past, the issues of land mine and unexploded ordinance which can have an impact on the foreign tourists had been raised. Some asserted that the number of land mine or left-over mine according to some reports is much more than the actual mines etc.
However, it is remarkably that none of tourist has suffered from the mind accident even though number of tourist arrival has gone up. This is an indicator to justify the good coordination between tourism sector and mine clearing sector because we took timely measure to clear mine at all tourist destination sites. Therefore, mine is not tourist concern, even though there are a lot of land mines in Cambodia. The reported number of mine compared to actual is not important since we can estimate the threat from mine according to the size of land.
Taking this opportunity, I would like to inform that the Royal Government decided to contribute 800,000 US dollars as counterpart fund for mine clearing in 2005 which reaffirms decisive position of the Royal Government to participate with development partners and donor countries. But the more interesting point is that the Royal Government exerts utmost effort not only on the above amount, but also in some other forms such as the contribution of 2 million US dollars as counterpart fund of the Royal Government and ADB in a north-west development project on rehabilitation and construction rural infrastructure in Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Uddor Meanchey and Siem Reap provinces while that budget directly targeted for mine clearance and. There are also other counterpart funds under cooperation of multilateral programs targeted for mine clearing. Moreover, the tasks of military engineering unit to build roads, bridges and canals, etc also involved mines and unexploded ordinances clearing under the government fund.
In this regard, I would like development partners and donor communities to bold these points since there has been criticism about the small budget contribution from the government. In fact, it is true if we just look at a specific angle. But if we look at the overall picture, we can realize how much effort the government has made to tackle these issues.
With strong believe of obtaining supports from development partners and donor communities especially the equipments that we received today will be efficiently used to speed up the mine clearing activities. Indeed, the receiving of the equipments today is the new evidence to show the expanded cooperation between Cambodia and Japan, which is the special development partner in every sector with fruitful result. These equipments will not be used for only mine clearing but also for construction rural infrastructure such digging pond and building rural roads in the mine areas, etc.
At the same time, I strongly believe that the new headquarter will smooth the work and management of CMAC to be more efficient and superior particularly for the coordination between CMAC and donor agencies.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude for the evolvement of CMAC, which has made strong effort to fulfil its role as a national implementation agency to ensure the sustainability of its work by well coordinating and communicating with development partners and donor communities.
In deed, the past reform provides significant result, but the management and staff of CMAC should keep putting more efforts. A lot of challenges still remain while the budget flow and fund management mechanism through multilateral and bilateral donors should be adjusted according to the new circumstances. In this regard, CMAC must enhance its capacity and to be ready for the competition both at the domestic and international levels in mine clearing activities.
Once again, I would take this great opportunity of this gathering to extend my profound thank to donor partners that have supported mine clearing projects in Cambodia such Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, European Union, Finland, France, Germany, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, the Great Britain, the United States, UNDP and UNICEF as well as other international organizations such as NPA, HI, CARE and YEMAS.
At the same time and with the great hope of strong cooperation from donor countries to provide support in mine clearing, on behalf of the Royal Government and people of Cambodia, I would like to appeal to the international communities to continue supporting mine clearing activities in Cambodia, which is considered as a successful historical mission as well as responding to the needs of people.
Finally, on behalf of the Royal government and people of Cambodia, I would like to wish Excellencies, H.E. Royal Ambassador,Fumiaki TAKAHASHI, Ladies and Gentlemen, representatives of donor countries, all mine clearing staff with five gems of Buddhist blessing…