Your Excellency Co-Chair of the Conference,
Your Royal Prince Mi Al-Hussein, the Appointed President of the Eighth Conference of the State Parties to Ottawa Convention,
Your Excellencies, Ladies, Gentlemen, Delegates, Development Partners
International Organizations, Distinguished National and International Guests,
Today, I have a great pleasure to participate with you all in the opening of the International Conference at the Regional Level of Countries with Landmine and Unexploded Ordinances which is being held in Phnom Penh. As the outset, on behalf of the people and the Royal Government of Cambodia, I am very proud and honored to host this very important International Conference at the regional level.
I would like to warmly welcome and express my deep gratitude for the presence of Your Royal Prince, your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, national and international guests in the three-day conference. Indeed, your presence manifests our attentions to resolve the issue relating to mines and unexploded ordinances left over from the prolonged war and continue to address the future issues through joint demining cooperation, reducing mine related incidences and providing rescuing services for victims toward building a world without the use and production of mines. This conference gives us the opportunity to come up with policies and practical measures to eradicate mines and unexploded ordinances related incidences aiming at contribution to the safety, life saving and harmonious living of millions of people all around the world.
Taking this auspicious occasion, I would like to honestly thank Your Royal Prince, your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, development partners and friend countries, especially, H.E. Donica Pottie, Ambassador of Canadian to Cambodia, who agreed with the Cambodia Mine Authority (CMA) to choose and support Cambodia to hold this conference.
Allow me to take this time to tell your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen some brief experiences of Cambodia in addressing millions of mines and unexploded ordinances left over from almost three decades of war. According to the report of Cambodia Red Cross, mines and unexploded ordinances related accidents killed and injured approximately 60,000 people, of which 70% lost their body parts and the ability to work, and 30% lost their lives. Even though, the war was over, during the last ten years, mines and unexploded ordinances still remained a major threat to security and lives of the people, particularly, to the growth and development of the nation.
The study by the United Nation on the impacts of mines and unexploded ordinances in Cambodia in 2004 found that mines and unexploded ordinances affected the lives and livelihood of Cambodian people, especially, in the remote rural areas. The study found that 22 percent of farmers lost their agriculture land, 19% lost their lives, 18% lost their harvesting, 15% lost their shelters, 14% lost their fishing and cattle raising professions and 12% lost the sources of drinking water. Even with the efforts made by the Cambodia’s Mine Authority, Cambodia De-mining Institutions, Royal Cambodia Armed Forces, de-mining operators and development partners, over the past 13 years, mines and unexploded ordinances still remain the major threat to the lives of the people and the development of Cambodia.
In this spirit, the Royal Government of Cambodia clearly understand that clearing mine is not only a security issue but it is also the economic and development issue, especially, the issues relating to land distribution and safety of the people living in the remote rural areas to make their livings. In this sense, the Royal Government has been carrying out the work as prepared to make de-mining activity in Cambodia safe, precisely planned and coordinated to the national and international standards. The efforts of the Royal Government in the past shed many experiences and good lessons with a prideful results if compared to the targets that we have set in mines and unexploded ordinances clearing operation in Cambodia. At the same time, we have identified the strengths and weakness as well as challenges in the de-mine operation in our country. Base on this foundation, the Royal Government will take additional new measures to push the mine and unexploded ordinances clearing action in Cambodia forward.
The Royal Government of Cambodia has always considered the de-mining action in Cambodia as one of the priority issue among the others to restore and develop the country, especially in poverty reduction and upgrading the livelihood of the people away from hunger and difficulties. I have a great ambition to turn our great land of Angkor that suffered from countless tragedies and grievances of war and that isnow being threatened by mines and unexploded ordinances into a country full of peace, progresses, prosperity and safety and away from mines and unexploded ordinances across the country.
In this regard, on December the 3rd, 1997, the Royal Government of Cambodia without any hesitation, joined with many other countries in the world in the “prohibition of the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines and the destruction of all types of mines” in Ottawa. Also, by late 2003, the Royal Government has included the de-mining issue into the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations and the Cambodia’s Rectangular Strategy during the third legislative of National Assembly.
Meanwhile, on behalf of a nation that suffered from war and mines and a peace loving country, Cambodia is proud and honored to dispatch 135 mine-clearing forces of the RCAF for peace keeping mission and de-mining action in Sudan under the umbrella of United Nation Peace Keeping Forces. Besides, with the objective of mines and unexploded ordinances clearing in Cambodia, the Royal Government has established the Cambodia’s Mine Authority to manage de-mining and save victims of mines, a mechanism which ensures the sustainability of close cooperation and coordination with all de-mining operators across Cambodia. For instance, in implementing the Royal Government’s policy, the CMA has prepared a 5-year long-term strategy and short term action plan for de-mining in Cambodia. The CMA has closely cooperated with development partners and relevant institutions to ensure the efficiency of mines and unexploded ordinances clearing through saving on all forms of expenditure and promoting work efficiency and productivity.
Moreover, the Cambodian Mine Authority has established a database management system to enhance land management before and after the clearance, especially to collect the information from all mine clearing operators throughout the country. The database management plays the important role in land management in the future. In addition, the Cambodia Mine Authority has closely cooperated with the International Center for Mines Clearing and Humanity in Geneva, hence, I believe that Cambodia not only has the ability to manage the information on mines and unexploded ordinances which post a great threat to the people and affect the follow up on the result of mines clearing operation, but through this database Cambodia can disseminate the information on de-mining action in Cambodia to development partners and other countries in the world.
In fact, all the major achievements that Cambodia attained from mines and unexploded ordinances clearances could not be solely done without the efforts of the management and staffs of the Cambodian Mine Authority, Cambodia De-mining Institutions, Royal Cambodia Armed Forces and the profound grant from development partners that actively participated in this course of action. Taking this opportunity, I would like to express my gratitude to national and international organizations, development partners that are currently continuing to provide full supports on de-mining operation in the Kingdom of Cambodia, especially, Canada, Australia, Japan, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Norway, Netherland, New Zealand, United States, and Belgium as well as many other development partners such as the UNDP, UNICEF, NPA, Handicap International (HI), Austcare etc,. Through this cooperation, development partners have manifested their enormous role in helping the Royal Government to clear mines in Cambodia in order to eradicate the suffering resulted from mines and other unexploded ordinances.
Along with the de-mining activities, we still have many other primary duties that need to be done including the education and dissemination of information to the people regarding the danger of mines and unexploded ordinances in all scenarios, especially, those people living in the remote rural areas. Within this framework, the Royal Government would like to praise all concerned ministries and institutions that have exerted their utmost efforts in educating and disseminating the information regarding the danger of mines and rescuing services for the victims of mines, and cooperating with the Cambodia’s Mine Authority and the Cambodia’s De-mining Institutions such as the Ministry of Education Youth and Sport, National Police Commission, the Ministry of Social Work, Veteran, and Youth Rehabilitation, Cambodia Red Cross, UNICEF, NPA, Handicap International Belgium, DAC, and World Vision and other direct de-mining operators such as HALO Trust and MAG and the people and authority at all levels, who have been working very closely together to keep the danger rate of mine and unexploded ordinances low during the last few years.
The implementation of Ottawa Convention will reach its 10th year by December 2007. Cambodia, is a country among many other countries that suffered from mines and unexploded ordinances, which is similar to those aids providing countries of the international community and NGOs in terms of it’s efforts in achieving what have been laid out in the Convention including the ban of use, and production of mines against humanity, prevention of danger for the vulnerable people, as well as the efforts to destroy these destructive weapons on their respective land.
The conference which takes place in Cambodia today clearly reflected the participation from countries that are the 153 state parties of the Ottawa Convention in promoting the 10th year of commitment to adhere to all the agreements as stated in theConvention on December 3rd 1997 that wanted a world without mines.
Today, Cambodia would like to congratulate the Ottawa Convention, and will be prepared to cooperate with those countries who are partners and have mine related problems, as well as those development partners and NGOs in eradicating mines and unexploded ordinances from the Kingdom of Cambodia and the world.
Cambodia like many other nations in the world, always wanted a world without mines and unexploded ordinances, so that the people can live and make their living without fear from these vicious and mysterious killers.
I hope that this conference will help to determine more measures to reduce the dangers of mines and unexploded ordinances, provides rescuing services for mines’ victims and to make progress toward a world without the use and production of mines in order to bring the Cambodian people and the people around the world from all walks of life with progress, and harmony. On behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia, I would like to thank the development partners, national and international organizations who have provided the supports for the country and the people of Cambodia in time of crisis so far, and are continuing to provide this profound support for the bright future of our people.
Finally, I would like to whish this conference with fruitful and bright success, and I would like to whish all of the participants with good health, success and happiness. I would like to announce the official opening of this conference!