Mrs Sngoun was shocked to learn that the land they had moved to in Northwest Cambodia was a minefield. She and her four children had moved to Santepheap village in Malai District so she could help her sister farm her land and make a fresh start. Her children collect bamboo to sell at the local market, so when HALO found a mine under the bamboo tree just behind their house it frightened Mrs Sngoun.
Separately, a 26-year-old HALO deminer was killed in a mine accident in Santepheap village on his day off. He was ploughing his family’s field and decided to extend it in order to grow a few more crops. He drove over an anti-tank mine and was killed just ten days before he was to be married.
With funding from donors to Freedom Fields USA (a non profit dedicated to landmine clearance), HALO cleared the 18 acre minefield. Locally trained deminers took four months to complete clearance. They located and destroyed nine anti-personnel mines and nine other explosives, mostly mortars.
THE IMPACT OF MINE CLEARANCE
Thanks to the clearance Sngoun’s children, the other eight families that owned the land, six monks and all 1,800 of the Cambodians who live in the growing village of Santepheap are no longer in danger.
The positive effects of the safe housing for the nine families was immediate and the safe cultivation of fertile land will support families for years to come. The landowners can now cultivate rice to provide food and income for their families. They estimate it will allow for the production of over ten tons of rice annually, a total value of approximately $2,600.
Since 2002 Freedom Fields USA has raised nearly $1m to clear over 200 acres and remove 6,397 landmines, and other explosives, so that families in Cambodia could live and farm in peace.
This minefield was cleared thanks to a $20,000 donation to Freedom Fields USA by two of its donors, Marta Karpiel and Robert and Aurora Teh.
Mia Hamwey (FFUSA co-founder) said:
I have been to visit former minefields that our funding helped make safe in Cambodia. There is nothing more tangible or satisfying then seeing families going about their daily life in safety. It’s one of the most rewarding experiences and I’d recommend it to anyone wanting to make a difference where it is needed most.
HALO first deployed to Santepheap village in 2009, we have cleared 39 minefields in the community so far -- but hundreds remain in the near vicinity.
As the population grows, so the pressure for land will increase the likelihood that local families, desperate for land, will attempt to cultivate (known or unknown) mined areas.