Cambodia’s Prey Veng province has been declared the second province to be fully de-mined after Kep province was declared earlier this year.
To celebrate the achievement Prey Veng provincial hall and H.E. Ly Thuch, Senior Minister & First Vice President, Cambodian Mine Action & Victim Assistance Authority led a delegation to the province demonstrating the equipment used as well as examples of various mines and munitions that had been discovered during the clearings.
The objects included weapons with clear markings from countries, such as the Soviet Union and the USA, both of which had been heavily involved with the civil war in Cambodia.
The tour was attended by several senior political figures, including the governor of Prey Veng, the military associated with de-mining, media representatives as well as board members from the American Chamber of Commerce among other private donors.
The economic impact of de-mining for Prey Veng
With a population of 1.1 million people, Prey Veng is the third most populous province and is an economy largely driven by agriculture and fishing located in a part of what is called the “great green belt” of Cambodia.
The province’s main crop of rice and has the largest area devoted to rice in the country, contributing about 10% to the national crop and is among those that emerge each year with the largest surplus.
Cambodia has been ravaged by the impacts of unexploded ordinance and uncleared mines since end of its brutal civil war, which in 1996 accounted for 4320 casualties. Fixing this issue over the last 30 years had been of paramount importance to the government according to H.E. Ly Thuch.
In 2020 there were just 65 casualties associated with mines or uncleared ordinance, largely due to the work of the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority.
In the last five years alone Cambodia has cleared 6,975 anti-infant mines, 78 anti-tank mines, as well as 23,132 unexploded ordinances. Cambodia has set a target of being mine-free by 2025.
Despite the drastic improvement in casualties and injuries mines still affect Cambodia greatly, with the government, as well as the Non-Government Organisational (NGO) sector spending millions on support to impacted families.
Mines have left large swathes of land unavailable for either agricultural cultivation or other private uses. The final effort to clear the last two remaining fields in Prey Veng province had cost around $10,000, largely provided by AmCham and its members.
AmCham and de-mining in Cambodia
According to AmCham Executive Director Mr. Travis Mitchell the chamber will hold 10 percent of all membership fees to be redistributed to good causes in Cambodia, with the majority of the $10,000 donation coming from membership fees, as well as private individual donations from members.
AmCham is now the second-largest chamber in Cambodia with membership increasing to over 200 members this year.
Speaking to the tour AmCham President Mr. Anthony Galliano specifically singled out the heroes working on such a difficult job, as well as praising the CMAA, the National Centre for Peacekeeping Forces, as well as H.E. Ly Thuch, before stating AmCham’s reason for the donatiing.
“The American Chamber of Commerce has made corporate social responsibility a core value and pilar of our beliefs,” he said.
“The board and our members want to do what we can to make an impact, facilitate change, help those in need, as well as contribute to the sustainable development and prosperity of the Kingdom of Cambodia,” he added.
Speaking directly to Cambodia Investment Review Mr. Galliano added that as well as helping with de-mining AmCham was also looking to diversify and get involved more in helping the victims and their families suffering from the impacts of mines and unexploded ordinance.
The event was concluded with an official unveiling of a plaque declaring Prey Veng a mine-free zone. It is hoped Kandal, Kampong Cham, Preah Sihanouk, Ratanakkiri and Takeo will be next to follow.