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Landmines, unexploded ordnance, and explosive remnants of war still scar much of the world’s landscape, killing and maiming several thousands each year.
The United States remains committed to helping other countries clear their landmines and destroy their excess conventional weapons in order to save lives. In 2008, the U.S. State Department’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement provided $123.3 million in mine clearance and weapons destruction to thirty-five countries. Among the success stories is Cambodia, where U.S. humanitarian mine action has contributed to a 72 percent decline in explosives-related casualties.
Cambodia is still severely affected by landmines and other explosive-remnants-of-war. Heavy mine contamination started during the 1960s when civil war broke out between the government and the Communist Khmer Rouge, which ended with the latter’s victory in 1975. In 1978, Vietnam invaded Cambodia and drove Khmer Rouge forces back to the Thai-Cambodian border.
Following the invasion by Vietnam, the new Cambodian government created the K-5 mine belt, a densely mined barrier along the Thai border, to prevent the Khmer Rouge from returning.
In 2008, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement provided more than $4 million for humanitarian mine action in Cambodia. It worked with the private sector to manage, disburse, and monitor financial support for the operations of Demining Unit No. 3 of the Cambodian Mine Action Center.
The U.S. Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement also provides grants to non-governmental organizations to clear land mines and destroy weapons and ammunition. These organizations, in turn, hire local workers thus providing employment and economic stimulus.
In Cambodia, one of those non-governmental organizations is The HALO Trust, which received a grant for $850,000 to use the new American-made advanced Handheld Standoff Mine Detection System detectors in their efforts to clear the K-5 mine belt. These detectors enable deminers to discriminate between mine and other metal clutter, which reduces the time and cost to manually excavate the ground.
It is impossible to clear every landmine in every affected country. That’s why the United States is focused on clearing landmines, in Cambodia and elsewhere, that have the highest humanitarian impact. Funds are devoted to clearing areas where landmines and unexploded ordnance pose a grave threat to civilian populations, rather than on clearing mines or remnants of war that are in remote, unpopulated areas.
The United States is proud to work in concert with the United Nations and other countries and organizations, not only in Cambodia, but elsewhere to rid the world of these hidden killers.
The reduction in Cambodian victims proves that this approach is making a positive difference in Cambodia and around the world.