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Ukrainian deminers complete training in Cambodia

New skills will boost efforts to combat mining scourge amid Russia’s invasion of its neighbor

A Ukrainian deminer (center left) prepares to detonate mines with a device as a Cambodian deminer (center right) leads a countdown during a technical training session on demining technologies in Battambang province on Jan 19, 2023

A Ukrainian deminer (center left) prepares to detonate mines with a device as a Cambodian deminer (center right) leads a countdown during a technical training session on demining technologies in Battambang province on Jan 19, 2023. (Photo: AFP)

Published: January 23, 2023 05:51 AM GMT

Updated: January 23, 2023 07:58 AM GMT

Ukrainian soldiers have started returning home from Cambodia, after completing a demining training course in the Southeast Asian nation.

Some 15 Ukrainian soldiers will put into use the latest Advanced Landmine Imaging System (ALIS) techniques they learned in Cambodia to remove the scourge amid Russia’s 11-month-long invasion of its East European neighbor.

“Training went smoothly, proceeded as planned, and was completed successfully,” Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) director-general, Heng Ratana, said in a statement.

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Cambodia remains among the world’s most mined nations and is littered with explosive remnants of war (ERW) — the legacy of 30 years of conflict that ended in 1998.

"Between 4 million and 6 million landmines and other munitions were left across Cambodia"

The training course, conducted by the CMAC and backed by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), helped the Ukrainian soldiers locate and destroy mines in the northwest provinces of Battambang and Siem Reap. The northwest region of Cambodia, bordering Thailand, was heavily affected during the internal strife.

In an exhibition to mark 30 years of demining in November last year, the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA) claimed that Cambodia has cleared 2,531 square kilometers of landmines and unexploded ordnance from 1,703 villages and turned them into agricultural and residential properties.

Between 4 million and 6 million landmines and other munitions were left across Cambodia which caused 64,950 casualties, including 19,806 deaths between January 1979 and July 2021. The government has unveiled a plan to clear all mines and ERW in the country by 2025.

Demining in Cambodia is conducted with help from Australia, New Zealand, and the Republic of Korea, along with the United Nations.

The technical training course for the Ukrainian army shares Cambodia's successes in dealing with mines, Ratana added in the statement.

Ukrainian deminer, Stanislav Kulykiusky, told journalists that 64 deminers had been injured and another 13 killed during the war so far, adding, “… It is a very difficult situation.”

"277 civilian casualties caused by mines and ERW were recorded in Ukraine for the first nine months of 2022"

The authorities have said the training for the Ukrainian army would continue with a team of Cambodian deminers expected to base themselves in neighboring Poland.

Landmine Monitor, which monitors progress in eliminating landmines, cluster munitions, and other explosive remnants of war, lists Cambodia and Ukraine among nine countries enduring a “massive” mine contamination problem with more than 100 sq km of uncleared land.

According to the Geneva-based agency, 277 civilian casualties caused by mines and ERW were recorded in Ukraine for the first nine months of 2022, compared with 58 in 2021. Russia started its special military operation in Ukraine on Feb. 24 last year.

For the first six months of 2022, landmines and ERW claimed 40 victims, including 10 deaths, up by 23 percent from the same period a year ago, according to the Cambodian authorities.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has said he will visit Ukraine at “an appropriate time” after reaching an agreement with his counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy to send a team of deminers to the war-torn nation.

Cambodian deminers initially learned their skills from United Nations peacekeepers. Later, they introduced their own initiatives, including advanced training for dogs and rats, to sniff out and locate landmines and ERW.

The Cambodian team has served with the UN missions in the Middle East and Africa over the past decade.

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