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Landmine Removal in Cambodia [2008/04/16]

Unexploded bombs being buried in a pit

This past February, Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of the Nippon Foundation, lead a fact-finding mission in Cambodia to observe the removal of landmines and unexploded ordnance by the nonprofit Japan Mine Action Service (JMAS).

During the 30-year civil war that started in 1970, some 6 million landmines were planted throughout the country, resulting in the world’s highest landmine density. In addition, the nation’s seemingly idyllic landscape hides large numbers of unexploded ordnance, left behind following the US bombing of the Ho Chi Minh trail during the Vietnam War. Even since 2000, some 700 to 800 of these bombs have exploded each year.

JMAS is a nonprofit organization established in 2002, composed mainly by retirees from the Japanese Self-Defense Force who provide their technical expertise and experience in the field of unexploded ordnance. Since members began removing landmines in Laos and Cambodia in 2006, they have disposed of approximately 40,000 landmines and unexploded bombs. The Sasakawa Peace Foundation has supported this clearing of landmines in Laos and the preparation of technical materials on their disposal. (Photo: Site where unexploded bombs are disposed of)

The disposal site is located in a rural area, about one-and-a-half-hours west of Phnom Penh, in a region featuring elevated houses surrounded by tall sugar palm trees. After arriving at the site before noon, the JMAS party buried about 20 landmines and unexploded bombs, including an anti-tank landmine, which had been collected from the surrounding area. JMAS members then evacuated spectators and cattle to a location 450 meters away and ignited a detonator by remote control. The explosion sent up a cloud of dust nearly 20 meters high and gave off a thunderous roar, creating a crater measuring 8 meters in diameter and 2 meters deep.(Photo: The explosion could be heard from 500 meters away.)

According to Mr. Tadamasa Yamamoto, representative of the JMAS Cambodia Office, since unexploded bombs have value as scrap metal, countless children continue to be injured by explosions. In addition to disposal of unexploded bombs, the JMAS also provides safety-training programs for residents, with a strong focus on children. (Photo: Children listening attentively to warnings)

People maimed by the civil war, landmines, and unexploded bombs account for nearly 5% of Cambodia’s population. The Nippon Foundation has helped train prosthetists and donated artificial limbs as part of relief efforts in this area, and plans to continue developing these efforts.

*Click here for the movie(1:28)

Posted by TNF at 10:03 | Basic Human Needs | URL