Friday, March 5, 2010

Keynote Address at the Ceremonial Delivery of Mine Clearance Equipments

Keynote Address at the Ceremonial Delivery of Mine Clearance Equipments from the Government of Japan and Stocktaking Conference on 10-Year Achievement (2000 – 2010) of the Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC)

Phnom Penh, February 17, 2010

Your Excellency Mr. MASAFUMI KUROKI, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to the Kingdom of Cambodia,

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

All officials of CMAC

Today, it is my privilege and pleasure to be here once again in the ceremonial delivery of mine clearance equipments and stocktaking conference on CMAC’s 10-year achievement in clearing mines and UXOs. This is my 5th presence in the ceremonial delivery of mine clearance equipments from the Government of Japan. List of equipments to be delivered include 488 mine detectors, 44 deep mine detectors, spare parts, mine destruction vehicles and mobile maintenance warehouse which are totally worth USD 5.5 million. These equipments are crucial in supporting and boosting CMAC’s operation to effectively clear land for crop cultivation and more robust socio-economic growth.

Taking this opportunity, on behalf of the people and Royal Government of Cambodia, I would like to convey our deepest gratitude, through H.E. MASAFUMI KUROKI, Ambassador of Japan to the Kingdom of Cambodia, to the people and Government of Japan for these important equipments. I highly value this humanitarian act. The delivery of these equipments also attests to the firm commitment of the people and Government of Japan to help Cambodia overcome mines and UXOs that are threatening people’s security, safety and livelihoods. Thanks to the “Win-Win” policy, Cambodia has managed to end the chronic 2-decade civil war by completely putting an end to political and organizational structure of the Khmer Rouge in late 1998 and bringing back the most-needed unification and peace to the people. However, mines remain a major threat to people living or travelling in or around ex-battlefields. In this context, the Royal Government is left with a long list of priorities, including the clearance of mines and UXOs that must be dealt with urgently to pave the way for broad and cross-sectoral internal integration, especially for human and infrastructure development effort.

Over the last 10 years, the Royal Government of Cambodia and development partners have cooperated closely to deal with mines and UXOs and a significant achievement has been made. However, mines and UXOs have not been completely cleared from villages and farms, and are endangering lives of those living in ex-battlefields. Mines and UXOs usually cause death or permanent disability. Moreover, mines and UXOs threaten crop cultivation and infrastructure development. However, through our concerted effort, accident rate caused by mines and UXOs declined significantly over the past few years. According to the report of the Cambodia Red Cross, the accident rate declined from around 800 in 2004-2005 to 200 in 2008-2009. The figure indicates our proud achievement in the clearance of mines and UXOs. In spite of this decline, the rate is relatively high compared to other peaceful countries left with mines and UXOs. Moreover, the remaining casualty rate is the indicator to show the threat to security, safety in using land for livelihood of our people, especially those who are living in the former frontline.

In this regard, the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) still considers the mine and unexploded ordnances clearing process in the kingdom of Cambodia as one of its significant priorities, which is to jointly tackle in order to renovate and develop the country. The mine and unexploded ordnance sector has been included in the Cambodia Millennium Development Goal (CMDG) since 2000 and during the 4th legislature of the National Assembly, this sector was still considered as priority and is included into the Rectangular Strategy-Phase II of the Royal Government. At the same time, I would like to stress that only Cambodia has its CMDG of 9 points, in which the 9th point states about the mine and unexploded ordnance sector.

This clearly reflects the commitment made by the RGC in solving the mine and unexploded issues, by realizing that, this issue is not only the social security and safety matter but also the goals related to the development of our economy because Cambodia is an agricultural country and in this circumstance the world is in need of agricultural products. This is additional opportunity for Cambodia to promote the maximum and effective use of land together with ensuring security, improving safety for the people in doing farming in order to fulfill the domestic and export need.

During the last 10 years, the Royal Government has been tremendously successful in all sectors, especially the socio-economic development. All these successes result from the joint effort made by all institutions in public and private sectors, civil society and all development partners combined with the right leadership of the RGC, in which there was an active participation of the Cambodia Mine Action Center (CMAC).

Taking this opportunity, I would like to appreciate the management and all officials and staff of CMAC, who have put greatest effort in fulfilling their duties with development partners, achieving proud results. CMAC has been closely cooperating with various development partners, especially fully participating with the RGC in the mine and unexploded ordnances clearing process, clearing the land of 27, 000 hectares, and found and destroyed the land mine and unexploded ordnances of nearly 2 million landmines. These achievements have significantly contributed to the allocation of land to people for cultivation and farming in order to support their respective living. This action also actively contributes to the RGC in rebuilding rural infrastructures.

The RGC through the Mine Authority and all Operators including the CMAC, RCAF, and International Mine Clearance Organizations such as Halo Trust, MAG and JMAS, truly have tried to demine tirelessly for more than 10 years. Along with this, we do have recognized that the mine and unexploded ordnances issue is still a threat to the lives of our people and is the obstacle for development process of the whole nation. In this regard, we have to continue to liberate the land from landmines in order to make sure that our people can actually use that land at the utmost for cultivation and farming without fear. At the same time, we have to boost the mine clearance in a number of other prioritized areas such as the historical temples areas and other important tourism sites in order to accelerate our socio-economic development. We will never forget that achievements we have achieved today cannot be separated from the efforts made by our demining forces, in which there are some, who have sacrificed their lives bravely and others have been injured and disabled during the operation of mine and unexploded ordnance process. Taking this opportunity, on behalf of the Royal Government and people of Cambodia and on my own behalf, I would like to share my condolence and hardship for all demining forces who have been injured, disabled and dead. The people of Cambodia would like to appreciate and always remember the gratitude and heroic model of all and their families.

In this regard, in a name as a country that has suffered greatly from the landmines in the world and in its capacity as a signatory of the Ottawa Convention on the Prohibition of Use, Stock-take, Produce, and the Trafficking of Land Mines against Humankind, Cambodia is strictly firm and righteous in abiding by the content and spirit of this international convention. The RGC has already created laws and working legal procedures to implement the convention to be more transparent and highly effective. At the same time, Cambodia has been participating with the international community in sharing experiences and resources to make sure this convention can be realized successfully. However, Cambodia so far has received the accusation of using and planting new landmines along the border. Taking this opportunity, I would like to reiterate that Cambodia has never planted or planned to plant landmines at all. The landmines locations are the landmines covered areas and old landmines farms left by the war. There is no doubt that those who intruded into Cambodian territory that has not been demined, will truly be dangerous, not just only the foreign soldiers who do not know the location but also the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces who are stationing to protect the border as well as the people living along the border, because some landmines are still scattered and un-cleared yet.

In fact, we have been implementing the Ottawa Convention for 10 years (2000-2009) already but the scope of landmines in Cambodia is tremendous and we can have this work completed in 10 years. In this connection, the RGC through the Mine Authorities have requested for the 10 years extension (2010-2020) and it was approved and agreed upon by the international and partners already. Taking this opportunity, I would like to re-emphasize that in early December 2009, H.E. Prak Sokhon, Vice-Chairman of the Mine Authority and Representative of the RGC, led the delegation to participate in the international conference on the 10 Years Implementation of Ottawa Convention in KATAGENA of Columbia. That conference not just approved to support Cambodia’s request for the 10 years extension of mine clearance in Cambodia but also adopted to allow Cambodia to be a host country in organizing the 11th Annual Conference, which will be held in November or early December 2011, which is primarily estimated that the participants will be about 900 coming from more 150 countries and a number of international organizations. Furthermore, Cambodia will become the Chair of the Signatories of one year mandate in 2012 as well.

Along with that, Cambodia is also proud in participating in the international campaign in which the RGC has sent the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces specializing in mine and unexploded ordnance clearance to be on mission for clearing and helping people in Sudan within the framework of UN Peace Keeping Forces. At the same time, the Royal Government also sent royal Cambodian armed forces to some countries as Chad and Central Africa for the same kind of mission. In the spirit, CMAC also share experience and know-how with some countries in the region and in some part of the world such as Lao, Vietnam, Colombia, Sri Lanka; and other 15 African countries had come to exchange experience and learned with CMAC. Obviously, in 2010 the Government of Japan through JICA has supported CMAC to receive 30 mine clearers and mine officials from Colombia to train together with CMAC, and the project will continue for the next few years.

All of tasks are evidences that clearly reflect, generally speaking, the government’s effort, and specifically speaking achievements accomplished by CMAG in clearance activities of landmine and unexploded ordnance (UXO) for the last 17 years, by cooperating closely with royal Cambodian armed forces and international mine organizations such as Halo Trust, MAG, JMAS, As a result we have cleared 520 kilometer squared of land, found and destroyed 2.7 millions of mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO). According to assessment by mine authority and all demining operators, we know that there remains 670 kilometer squared of land mine have to be completely cleared. Moreover, some land areas suspicious of having landmine needs to be clarified and to be readjusted clearly in order to ensure safety and reduce fear of our people. Based on this foundation, I am of the view that Cambodia needs more resource to successfully continue our clearance activities of mine and unexploded ordnance (UXO) for the next 10 years as scheduled.

Along with, I would like to reiterate that the Royal Government will continue to accept all development partners who provide support and assistance for mine clearance activities in any form through the Royal Government, NGOs and private sectors in order to destroy the so-call hidden murderers namely mine and unexploded ordnance (UXO) at earliest possible to ensure happiness and safety to our people.

Taking this opportunity, I would like to convey my compliment and congratulation to CMAC for fulfilling role and duty successfully as national executing agency in ensuring efficiency of operation by coordinating and achieve good relationship with all development partners and gaining trust and good partnership aiming at achieving activities objectives, especially we have succeeded deepened reforms until achieving implementation with professional standard.

Indeed, reform thus far has made remarkable result, however all the management, officers and staff of CMAC should make further effort. There are definitely many challenges, budget current and management mechanism of multilateral and bilateral aid can change due to circumstance. In this sense, CMAC should further bolster institutional capacity in order to compete in national and international framework in context of market economy of clearance of mine and unexploded ordnance (UXO).

Once again, I would like to thanks all development partners for supporting demining activities in the Royal Kingdom of Cambodia including Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, European Union, Ireland, German, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States, UNDP and UNICEF and other international organizations such as NPA, HIB, CARE, JMAS, Action-Aid, JICS and JICA...etc... I firmly believe that all development partners will continue good cooperation and support in terms of spirit, material and finance for clearance activities of mine and unexploded ordnance (UXO) in Cambodia in order to make success and answer timely demand of our people.

At the end, I would like to with Japanese Ambassador, MASAFUMI KUROKI, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, representatives of development partners, officials and demining staff all over Cambodia as well as dear compatriots 4 gems of Buddhist blessings: Longevity, Nobility, Happiness and Strength.

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