History of Minelaying

Although there was limited minelaying between the late 1960s and mid 1970s, the first significant use of landmines did not occur in Cambodia until the 1979 – 1989 Vietnamese occupation.

In December 1978 Vietnam intervened and the Khmer Rouge retreated to, and fought to defend, base camps along the north-west border. Then, through a series of dry season offensives in 1984-1985, the Vietnamese military drove the Khmer Rouge (and 230,000 civilians) across the border into Thailand. To impede the return of the Khmer Rouge tens of thousands of local people were forcibly conscripted over 18 months into assisting in the construction of a barrier minefield along the entire 750 kilometre length of the Cambodia-Thai border.

This fifth in a series of defensive plans (Kar Korpier pram) has become known infamously as “the K5”. During the decade that culminated in the final collapse of the remaining Khmer Rouge leadership (Anlong Veaeng, December 1998) further landmines were laid by State of Cambodia forces to defend towns and villages, military positions and supply routes from attack by opposition forces. In the same period Khmer Rouge and Monarchist opposition forces used landmines to protect newly won ground or to contaminate the interior of abandoned Vietnamese defensive positions.

The Problem

Over 64,000 landmine and ERW casualties have been recorded in Cambodia since 1979, and with over 25,000 amputees Cambodia has the highest ratio per capita in the world.

Despite a considerable reduction in casualty numbers over recent years, down from 875 in 2005 to 211 in 2011, Cambodia’s mine and ERW problem still represents a major impediment to the social and economic development of the country. However, given more than two decades of humanitarian demining, the landmine threat is now largely concentrated in just 21 north-west border districts.

In these rural districts the landmine problem continues to negatively affect much needed development by hindering access to:

· Land for agriculture and resettlement
· Infrastructure and basic social services
· Irrigation and safe drinking water
· Secondary and tertiary roads
· Land for cattle raising and foraging for forest products, as well as
· Placing financial and emotional hardship on families needing to care for a landmine survivor
· Causing psychological trauma for those forced to live alongside such a threat

The Solution

Given that the majority of the interior minefields have now been cleared, it is HALO’s view that the fastest way to reduce the number of landmine accidents in Cambodia is to target those areas in the 21 districts where most accidents occur.

In doing so, HALO believes support will be given to the most vulnerable border communities, thus making significant contributions towards the development of some of the most poverty stricken communities in Cambodia.

HALO Cambodia currently has over 1,000 national staff working in the provinces of Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Otdar Meanchey and Pailin. Recruiting, training and then deploying female and male deminers from the mine affected districts means that the landmine contaminated communities remain an integral component in the clearance process. Living and working in these communities HALO’s deminers are methodically ridding Cambodia of the landmine menace.

HALO is fully supportive of the official Mine Action Planning Unit (MAPU) task selection process. This begins with District Workshops as early as April/May in the preceding year. Senior HALO representatives attend all planning meetings (commune/district/province) and are in regular contact with MAPU and Provincial Mine Action Committee (PMAC) representatives from all provinces. HALO teams visit and survey all MAPU-selected sites (i.e. all sites put forward by the village, commune and district committees) and MAPU staff do likewise for additional sites identified by HALO (for example through analysis and investigation of accident trends). This ensures that all clearance tasks comply with MAPU criteria (intended land use, beneficiary selection, land ownership etc.). A decision is then made with the MAPUs on the final selection of tasks for the following year’s Provincial Work Plan(s). The process is intensive and thorough and requires the active participation of demining operators. In recent years HALO has been unique amongst operators by completing in excess of 90% of its MAPU approved annual workplans.

Alongside our clearance work HALO’s survey teams have continued to systematically clarify the nature and magnitude of landmine contamination in Cambodia. Currently our survey assets are an integral component of the Baseline Survey of Cambodia, a Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA) led process to quantify the true nature of the remaining mine threat in Cambodia. The CMAA has stated in its 2010-2019 National Mine Action Strategy that it expects the findings of the Baseline Survey to compliment the MAPU system by enhancing planning and prioritisation so that clearance assets are targeted where the need is greatest. The inclusion of the Baseline Survey formed a major part of Cambodia’s Mine Ban Treaty extension request; which was granted.

Between 1991 and September 2012, HALO Cambodia has cleared over 8,400 hectares (20,800 acres) of landmine contaminated land whilst destroying over 256,000 landmines, 155,000 items of large calibre ammunition and 1.32 million bullets. Since 2000 HALO has undertaken over 2,300 mineclearance tasks in over 400 villages. Our Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams have reached another 1,450 villages conducting over 9,500 emergency ‘call-outs’ (spot tasks).

Nationally, after a decade of relative stability, Cambodia has entered into a prolonged phase of economic development. Progress has been significant, but nevertheless poverty and food insecurity are still prevalent, in particular in the rural parts of the country. More than 80% of the total population live in rural areas, with more than 90% of them depending on agriculture for their livelihoods. Northwest Cambodia has seen a 35% population increase since hostilities ceased – this rapid population growth in the border areas has meant that these areas constitute a very high relative percentage of the national total of mine accidents even as the absolute total has declined. It is not insignificant that post-clearance land use on HALO cleared tasks, from the last ten years, includes over 3,600 hectares (8,900 acres) for agriculture, over 600 hectares (1,500 acres) for resettlement and 90 hectares (225 acres) for water projects; also 800 kilometres of rural roads have been cleared connecting communities to markets, and 42 sites cleared around schools.

Requirement for Continued Clearance

The results of Cambodia’s Baseline Survey are due to be published in early 2013. Findings to date have confirmed that there are many hundreds of km that require mineclearance in order that communities can live in safety.

As well as the continued requirement for accurate survey there is a requirement for more deminers in order to speed up clearance.

HALO Cambodia and the mine impacted communities we serve are grateful for current funding from the governments of Belgium, Finland, Ireland, New Zealand, The Netherlands and The United States of America and the multi-donor Clearing For Results project implemented by the Cambodia Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA). Significant donations are also provided by private groups and foundations including Freedom Fields USA, Rotary International, the Gould Family Foundation and the Hurvis Charitable Foundation.

We would like to thank current donors for their ongoing support and encourage new donors to support HALO’s life saving work.

Programme management - Senior staff

Adam Jasinski

HALO Cambodia Programme Manager

Adam joined the HALO Trust in 2008 and worked in Mozambique, Afghanistan, Georgia, Sri Lanka and Myanmar before moving to Cambodia in 2013.

Leng Saren

HALO Cambodia Programme Operations Manager

Leng has worked for HALO since 1992. After starting as an interpreter Leng worked his way up to the position of Location Manager before taking on the Operations Manager position in 1999. Having had primary responsibility for mineclearance operations for over a decade, Leng remains one of our most experienced senior managers. Masters in Commerce.

Colin Watson

HALO Cambodia Expatriate Operations Officer

Colin joined HALO in 2011 training in Mozambique, Afghanistan and Somaliland.  He moved on to the Angola programme as a field officer and is currently Expatriate Operations Officer in Cambodia.  Prior to joining HALO he was involved in the agricultural and diving industries.  He has a degree in communications. 

Smann Makara

HALO Cambodia Survey & EOD Manager

Makara has worked for HALO since 1994. Makara began his HALO career as a deminer. After three years demining he was promoted to a Section Commander. Three years later, after a period as the programme's Training Officer, he started as a Location Manager. Since 2001 Makara has controlled HALO's Banteay Meanchey provincial operations.

Camilla Thurlow

HALO Cambodia Projects Officer

Camilla joined HALO in 2013. After completing familiarisation training in Sri Lanka, she joined the HALO Cambodia programme as Projects Officer in July 2013. Camilla has a BSc Hons in Sport and Exercise Science.

Keo Dane

HALO Cambodia Support Manager

Dane joined HALO in 2003 as Siem Reap Office Manager. In 2003, he was promoted to Senior Finance Assistant and then to Finance Manager in April 2011. In November 2013 he was promoted to Support Manager. Prior to joining HALO, Dane worked with the EU project as a Human Resource Assistant for three years. Dane holds two bachelor degrees, one in Private Law and one in Finance and Accounting. 

Nhong Bona

HALO Cambodia GIS and Data Manager

Bona joined HALO in 2006 as a location Office Manager. In August 2008, Bona was promoted to Head of Survey & Data Management. Between 2009 and 2012, Bona managed 12 HALO Baseline Survey teams conducting survey across Cambodia to assist the Royal Government of Cambodia in an effort to quantify and define the true extent of the remaining landmine and Explosive Remnants of War contamination in Cambodia. He is currently Head of GIS and Data Management. He has a degree in General Management and a certificate of Database Management and Advanced MapInfo.