2015 To Walk the Earth in Safety: Cambodia

Bureau of Political-Military Affairs

Date: 2015 Description: Deputy Assistant Secretary for Plans, Programs, and Operations in the Department of State's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Samuel Perez, visits demining sites in Cambodia.  © Photo courtesy of Department of State.

During the Indochina wars, the Khmer Rouge, the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), the Vietnamese military, and the Thai army laid vast minefields. Many of these minefields remain in western Cambodia, especially in the dense K-5 mine belt along the border with Thailand. In addition, U.S. military strikes during the Vietnam War and land battles fought along the border with Vietnam heavily polluted the eastern and northeastern areas of Cambodia with UXO. Although the full magnitude of contamination remains unknown, the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor reports that a baseline survey completed in 2013 of Cambodia’s 124 mine-affected districts found a total of more than 1,915 million square meters (739 square miles) of contaminated land. The Cambodian Mine/UXO Victim Information System reported at least 64,314 mine/UXO casualties from 1979 through 2013. Even with casualty rates dropping nearly 37 percent in five years (from 244 casualties in 2009 to 154 in 2014), Cambodia has more than 40,000 amputees and one of the highest amputee ratios in the world, with one per 290 people.

From FY1993 though FY2014, the United States invested more than $106 million to remove and safely dispose of landmines and UXO, provide mine risk education to at-risk populations, and support survivor assistance programs for UXO survivors and their families. In FY2014, the U.S. government contributed more than $8.9 million for CWD in Cambodia.

The Department of State supported the work of the following implementing partners:

• Golden West, in partnership with RCAF, continued to repurpose recovered UXO through its Explosive Harvesting System program in Cambodia. The Explosive Harvesting System program recycles munitions to produce explosive charges in a safe and environmentally acceptable manner. Golden West also continued to mentor, train, and sustain the Cambodia Mine Action Centre (CMAC) Dive Unit by developing CMAC staff’s skills and organizational systems to achieve independent sustainability. In addition, Golden West continued an accountability program for demolition charges in Cambodia and joint research and development with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (U.S.) and Singapore University.

• HALO conducted extensive survey and clearance operations in northwest Cambodia along the border with Thailand, which is heavily contaminated by landmines. Nearly 4 million square meters (1.5 square miles) of land were released through this project.

• Landmine Relief Fund fielded two EOD teams to address small village tasks, clearing approximately 12 villages.

• MAG partnered with CMAC to deploy mine detection dogs and mechanical clearance assets to conduct survey and clearance operations on the minefields along the Thai-Cambodian border.

• NPA collaborated with CMAC to support Demining Unit 5, deployed in eastern Cambodia, and partnered with RCAF to deliver surplus munitions to the Explosive Harvesting Program as well as destroying excess SA/LW.

• Spirit of Soccer continued mine risk education soccer programs for primary age schoolchildren throughout Cambodia.

The Department of Defense funded the following:

• The Department of Defense HD R&D program funded new technology for Cambodia including the Piranha minefield area reduction and technical survey system, Bobcat vegetation clearance system, Quadcopter remote-monitoring system, and the Minefield Management System, a tablet-based application that provides real-time data-logging capabilities for demining managers in the field.

• HD R&D funded HALO and MAG to continue operating and evaluating the dual-sensor Handheld Standoff Mine Detection System in manual mine clearance of densely cluttered minefields. They also evaluated the Badger tracked excavator, the Storm steep-slope excavator, the Nemesis skid-steer, and the Rex small, tracked excavator. Together, the technologies have cleared 1.6 million square meters (395 acres) of vegetation and suspected hazardous soil, finding 2,445 mines and items of UXO.

• HD R&D funded HALO to continue evaluation of a second dual sensor handheld detector, MINEHOUND. To date, MINEHOUND has cleared 714,000 square meters (176 acres) of land and found 529 anti-personnel landmines.

• HD R&D funded MAG to continue a combined evaluation of the Scout and Scorpion UXO detection systems within live battle area clearance sites to provide deminers with accurate, real-time mapping and marking of targets for follow-up clearance. Scout is a vehicle-towed electromagnetic induction (EMI) array for detecting and marking UXO. Scorpion is a cart-mounted dual sensor detector using EMI and magnetometer sensors to detect shallow and deeply buried UXO. The Scout and Scorpion systems assist in conducting technical survey of large suspect areas and allow deminers to focus on high-risk and highly contaminated areas.

• U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) deployed military EOD teams to Cambodia to conduct underwater UXO disposal training in a joint effort with Golden West. This training included survey, marking, and mapping of UXO contaminated areas; landmine and UXO disposal; quality assurance and control; first-responder medical training with emphasis on blast-trauma injuries; and stockpiled conventional munitions assessments. The Department of Defense OHDACA appropriation funded humanitarian mine-action activities, supplies, travel, equipment, and services.

USAID’s Leahy War Victims Fund funded Veteran’s International Cambodia Rehabilitation Project to support physical rehabilitation programs, including prosthetics, orthotics and mobility aids, at centers in Kien Khleang in Phnom Penh, Kratie and Prey Veng.