HALO has celebrated 25 years of humanitarian demining in Cambodia at the once-mined, UNESCO-listed Preah Vihear Temples. HALO held a event to recognise long-serving Cambodian HALO staff on its 25th Anniversary in the presence of the British Ambassador and the Vice President of Cambodia’s demining agency.
As part of its 25 years in Cambodia, HALO and the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) cleared over 10,000 landmines in the early 2000s from the Temples. HALO is now clearing the surrounding areas which still claimed casualties as recently as four months ago.
In total, HALO has cleared nearly 500,000 landmines and pieces of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in Cambodia since it was registered in the country in December 1991. HALO began work in Cambodia clearing mines to ensure refugees from the Khmer Rouge could safely return from exile in Thailand.
Cambodia’s long period of civil war from the Seventies to the Nineties left the country one of the most mine-affected in the world - with over 64,000 casualties recorded since 1979 and over 25,000 amputees, the highest ratio per capita in the world.
Over half the minefields have now been cleared and the job can be finished by 2025 in line with Cambodia’s Mine Ban Treaty’s commitments. HALO’s work has benefitted around one million rural poor men, women and children who can now live, work, farm and travel in safety.
James Cowan, HALO’s CEO said: “Whilst HALO’s achievements in Cambodia are amazing, there is still work to do. Cambodia has suffered the world’s highest mine and UXO casualty rate and still contains some of the globe’s highest impact minefields. We are incredibly grateful to dedicated donors such as the UK, US, Finland, Ireland, Germany, Canada, Belgium, Japan, New Zealand and Australia, and private foundations and individuals. Their support has has helped us clear so much, but we need to ensure we finish the job in the shortest possible timeframe. With our partners such as CMAC, Mines Advisory Group (MAG) and Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) we can do this by 2025 with continued funding and focus.”
William Longhurst, British Ambassador to Cambodia and LY Thuch, Vice President of the Cambodian Mine Action Authority (CMAA) attended the anniversary event to recognise the UK Government’s 25th year of funding humanitarian mine action in the country.
The UK overseas development administration (ODA) started funding HALO in 1991 before it became DFID in 1997. DFID has funded both HALO and MAG throughout the last 25 years and currently DFID funding also supports capacity building of the CMAA.
HALO’s work has employed hundreds of Cambodian men and women and in the 1990s significantly contributed to peacebuilding by offering former fighters with the Khmer Rouge, the Royalist movement FUNCINPEC, the Khmer People's National Liberation Front (KPLNF) and Cambodian military jobs working alongside each other.
HALO Cambodia Country Director Matthew Hovell said: “By employing men and women from mine impacted communities DFID’s funding not only removed the deadly legacies of war but also put much-needed money into the local economy through salaries of deminers.”