There were 37 percent fewer casualties from mines in Cambodia in the first six months of 2017 than the corresponding period last year, according to data released by the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA).
And in a major milestone for the country, there were no casualties at all in March, making it the first month since 1979 that no-one has been killed or injured by mines or the explosive remnants of war.
Heng Ratana, director-general of the Cambodian Mine Action Center, the CMAA’s demining body, said the annual figures were much more revealing, but added that he was not aware of another month without a single reported casualty.
Between January and June 2017, the Cambodia Mine/ERW Victim Information System provisionally recorded 23 incidents involving mines and ERW, which represents a 50 percent drop in incidents year on year.
They recorded 32 casualties, compared to 51 in the first six months of 2016. Six people were killed, 10 people had limbs amputated, and 16 people sustained other injuries.
Eight of the casualties were under 18 years of age.
Since the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge in 1979, a total of 64,694 casualties have been recorded: 19,754 people have been killed, 9,018 had limbs amputated and 35,922 sustained other injuries from mines.
Landmines and ERW in Cambodia
The CMAC estimated in 2010 that there are between four and six million mines and other pieces of unexploded ordnance remaining in the country.
Starting with the ousting of the Khmer Rouge in 1979 and continuing until its final demise in 1998, millions of landmines were laid across Cambodia.
All sides – the State of Cambodia forces, the Khmer Rouge, monarchist forces and the Thai military – used mines to defend territory and supply lines.
Between 1984 and 1985, the Vietnamese military drove the Khmer Rouge into Thailand, along with 230,000 civilians.
Tens of thousands of people were forcibly conscripted and tasked with constructing a barrier minefield in the northwest of the country along its 750km (466 mile) border with Thailand. These regions remain the most heavily mined areas in the country.
In addition, unexploded ordnance, including from cluster bombs which particularly affect the northeast, are deadly hazards for people in rural Cambodia.
According to the CMAA figures, mines are responsible for 79 percent of all deaths and injuries and ERW for 21 percent.
More than 50 percent of Cambodia’s minefields have been cleared, but it remains one if the most affected countries in the world.
According to the Mines Advisory Group, the type of land containing mines and ERW ranges from roads to farmland to overgrown hills.
Teams equipped with traditional metal detectors and more advanced ground penetrating radar systems carry out the dangerous task of surveying and clearing mines.
Specially trained dogs are also used, particularly in areas where mines are spread across a wide area, while mine-clearing machines are used to survey and clear large flat areas.
Tracking the toll from mines
The Cambodia Mine/ERW Victim Information System (CMVIS) was established in 1994 by the Cambodian Red Cross with support from Handicap International Belgium and UNICEF to systematically collect, analyse, interpret and publish information about casualties from landmines, unexploded ordnance and other explosive remnants of war in Cambodia.
In 2009, responsibility for CMVIS was handed to the CMAA.