World

Cambodian Deaths: A Cruel Reminder of the Need to Accelerate Mine Clearance

Landmines claim victims around the globe every day and continue to threaten civilians long after the end of conflicts. An anti-tank mine explosion that killed 13 Cambodian civilians on 16 November comes as a cruel reminder of the need to accelerate life-saving mine clearance work in all contaminated areas.

According to reports, 14 people from 6 families were returning home from harvesting chilies in the fields at Knach Sangke in Cambodia's Battambang province,when they drove over a powerful anti-tank mine while crossing a field as a shortcut. Eight women, three men, a seven-month-old girl, and a four-year-old boy were killed, and the driver was badly injured. The mine was likely planted decades ago.

"Members of the Cambodia Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Munitions are deeply saddened by this tragic incident," said campaign coordinator Denise Coghlan, who attended the mass funeral alongside colleagues from the Mines Advisory Group and the Cambodia Mine Action Center. "The Arrupe Centre outreach team and Jesuit Refugee Service will return next week to talk again with the villagers and see what form of assistance they would think appropriate."

This incident underlines the importance of mine clearance in areas where people are trying to earn a daily living, and the importance of the decisions and commitments that will be made at the Eleventh Meeting of the States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, scheduled to be held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in November 2011.

"This is a truly awful incident and our hearts go out to all the families who have lost loved ones," said Lou McGrath, Chief Executive at the Mines Advisory Group. "Every time I come to Cambodia I am struck by how landmines - vicious and indiscriminate weapons - continue to pose a daily risk of death to people here, despite the hard work of all the clearance agencies in the last two decades."