Leading de-mining figure H.E. Ly Thuch, Senior Minister and First Vice-President of the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA) has co-chaired the High-Level Dialogue on Mine Action in Siem Reap province with H.E. Pablo Kang, the Australian Ambassador to Cambodia.
The two-day event started with a pre-event dinner at Sofitel’s in Siem Reap followed by an early morning visit to the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) museum and training facilities. Here guests were shown not only how de-miners work in the field, but also the famous dogs and rats that have been trained to find mines.
This was followed by the main event, the High-Level Dialogue on Mine Action, which aside from the two main hosts included several other keynote speakers, such as His Royal Highness Raad Zeid Al-Hussein, Special Envoy of the Anti-Personal Mine Convention, Ms. Angela Hoyos Iborra Advisor for the Geneva International Convention for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD).
As well as Phil O’Hara Programme Manager for the newly renamed UK Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (UKFCDO).
The event was also attended by many members of the diplomatic community, as well as most importantly key stakeholders from the private sector, with which H.E. Ly Thuch was particularly keen to engage.
Will Cambodia be de-mined by 2025?
During the meeting, the various successes of the Cambodian government and its partners were shared.
In the last 30 years 2,379 square kilometers of land have been cleared and released, on which over 1.1 million antipersonnel mines, more than 26,000 anti-tank mines, and almost 3 million ERW were found and destroyed, thus freeing up the areas for commercial, and or government use.
There were though still about 2,000 square kilometers of land still to be cleared as of April 2022, which Cambodia as a State Party to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention (APMBC) is legally committed to clearing all known landmines by the end of 2025.
As previously reported in Cambodia Investment Review this was a deadline that has already not been met on two previous occasions (2010 and 2020), with H.R.H
Raad Zeid Al-Hussein stated that even if the target was not met, so long as a large amount of progress had been made it could still be viewed as a success.
This was a consensus generally agreed upon by all delegates, that while the target was unlikely to be met, the most important point was that progress was still being made during the period.
To read our interview with H.E. Ly Thuch click here.
Over-reliance on donors, long-term sustainability, as well as donor fatigue, and the war in Ukraine were also brought up as potential issues concerning meeting the target, which proved another catalyst for the government now reaching out to the private sector.
De-mining in Cambodia and the private sector
Another key tenet of the meeting was to encourage the private sector to become more involved in the de-mining efforts in Cambodia, although whether this was to be achieved through donations, or incentivization was largely unclear.
Some different ideas put to the panel came from Phil O’Hara, Policy and Programme Director for the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and, Development Office who suggested some possible ways in which the international private sector could become more involved.
Models suggested included Private-Public Partnerships (PPP), where land could potentially be privatized and leased out, with the contracting party being the ones needing to pay for the de-mining.
Impact Bonds were also touted as a possible way to raise funds, whereby the government issues bonds at a certain rate of return while profiting by placing the money in a higher paying scheme, the key factor being that both the state and the bond purchaser would both see returns on the bonds.
Most importantly though he reiterated that incentivizing the private sector to become involved in de-mining would have to be profitable. He pointed out an existing water and sanitation model currently being done as a PPP between the UK and Cambodia as a potential model, to which H.E. Ly Thuch agreed to a feasibility study, with a potential pilot project being launched dependent on the budget of the UKFCDO.
The Indian ambassador to Cambodia H.E Dr. Devyani Khobragade later added her nation’s interest in being part of the pilot, potentially setting up a trilateral partnership between the three countries.
Increased local involvement not just for de-mining, but also for victim support.
While several private sector entities were represented, such as the American and European chambers of commerce, as well as large companies, such as Prince Holding Group, it was also pointed out that big players in the garment and casino industries for example were not present.
It was thus suggested that these were the kind of companies that should be reached out to for funding with regards to corporate responsibility in Cambodia. It was also suggested that some kind of foundation be set up for those involved in de-mining and their families.
Local de-miners are paid around $268-500 per month, which although twice the average salary in the country came with obvious risks to life, as well as injuries that could affect their ability to work. It was suggested that such a foundation could be set up and run independently and held to international standards, thus removing the need for victims and their families to rely on charities or the NGO sector.
The biggest success though perhaps came at the end of the night when AmCham announced the formation of a committee, which would seek to coordinate with the private sector in the country on how to further de-mining efforts within the Kingdom to reach a mine-free Cambodia by 2025.
To read more about the AmCham efforts to de-mine Cambodia click here.